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Viewers look to TV characters to advise how to talk about sexual health
Date:6/1/2011

That's what viewers of the past HBO series Sex and the City may ask themselves when faced with the prospect of uncomfortable discussions about sexual health with partners, friends and doctors.

Researchers found that college students were more than twice as likely to talk about sexual health issues with their partners after watching a Sex and the City episode featuring the characters Samantha and Miranda having similar conversations, compared to students who saw different episodes.

"One of the powerful things about entertainment programming is that it can get people talking about important issues that they might not otherwise talk about," said Emily Moyer-Gus, assistant professor of communication at Ohio State University and lead author of the study.

But the key is that the TV show can't just raise the topic of sexual health -- the characters in the TV show have to be shown having frank discussions with their friends, partners and doctors.

"Viewers will model their behavior after the TV characters, and have these conversations in their own lives," she said.

Moyer-Gus conducted the research with Adrienne Chung and Parul Jain, both graduate students at Ohio State. The study appears in the June 2011 issue of the Journal of Communication.

The study involved 243 college students with an average age of about 20. They were shown one of three versions of an episode from Sex and the City, all of which were edited for purposes of the study.

In one version, Samantha and Miranda have discussions with friends, doctors and sexual partners related to the sexually transmitted diseases chlamydia and HIV.

Other participants saw a version of the same episode that included content about HIV and chlamydia, but did not include any scenes in which the characters extensively discussed with others their issues with these diseases.

A third group of participants saw a completely different episode of
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Contact: Emily Moyer-Gus
moyer-guse.1@osu.edu
614-247-7724
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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