Think about how men have sex on TV. The dude gets laid, the dude feels awesome, and then one of two things happens: He's treated like a champion or he's embarrassed about being bad in bed (or, God forbid, sleeping with an ugly chick). But for women, sex is terrifying. As many critics have pointed out, the idea that it's normal and healthy for women to enjoy sex is still a foreign concept to many TV writers. For example, look at the oft-discussed boob-to-man-butt (B:MB) ratio on Game Of Thrones. Scenes of dudes banging ye olde hookers are commonplace, but women getting dudes naked, enjoying themselves, or even consenting to sex are much rarer. This seems to be slowly changing, but TV is still treating women like a nervous junior on prom night.
Look at those tense kids!
How pervasive is this? Well, a study looked at 238 episodes of a variety of TV shows and found that a third of them contained scenes that portrayed women being sexually exploited in some way (violence, harassment, sex trafficking, etc.). Sometimes it's played for laughs ("I bet our weird friend Steve has a dead hooker in his basement!"), and sometimes it's dramatic ("I bet our weird suspect Steve has a dead hooker in his basement"). Either way, the message is the same: Women (or girls) getting sexually exploited is either hilarious or kind of their own fault. Consider, well, any crime show ever. If the episode is about a sexual assault, odds are the victim was a naive young woman (or teen) who made the mistake of stepping out into the hinterland of rape that is the fictional universe of shows like Law & Order. TV sends a message that guys are free to have fun exploring their sexuality and make wacky mistakes, while women who try to do the same will find themselves chopped up in a dumpster.
NBCUniversal Television Distribution