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Representing young people's sexuality in the youth media

Batchelor, S. and Kitzinger, J. and Burtney, E. (2004) Representing young people's sexuality in the youth media. Health Education Research, 19 (6). pp. 669-676. ISSN 0268-1153

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Abstract

This paper reports findings from a content analysis of the main messages about sexuality in media outlets consumed by young people. It examines how sexuality is represented and the level of sexual health information provided in some UK magazines and TV programmes targeted at young people. Our findings show that such outlets included a vast range of useful discussion including information about health concerns and in-depth exploration of issues such as consent and examples of couples exploring whether or not they were 'ready' for sex. In particular, the right of girls to 'say no' was vividly fore-grounded in several teen dramas and magazines. However, coverage was also characterized by certain limitations. A clear pattern was evident whereby contraception and managing 'how far to go' were depicted as women's responsibility. There was a limited range of representations for young men, a lack of positive images of lesbian and gay teenagers, and a failure to represent diversity. There were also no examples of how people might raise concerns such as safer sex. In this context, health educators need to be aware of both the richness and the limitations of current mainstream representations in order to work with and through the media to improve the quality and range of material for young people.