Young people's gendered identities and television portrayals of drinking and sexual relationships
In a PhD study Jane Hartley investigated how young people interpret media representations of sexual relationships and drinking in constructing their own gendered identities. This is important since the impact of exposure to the media depends on how it is interpreted. The study was based primarily on group discussions and in-depth interviews with 13 – 16 year olds and explored how they received those television programmes and films most popular with them.
The study found that media are indeed influential, especially in relation to teenagers’ expectations of gender-appropriate sexual/romantic ways of interacting. However, and importantly, teenagers’ relationships with peers play an integral part in this media-influence process. As Milkie set out in her ‘Influence of presumed media influence’ theory, the media were influential in a circuitous way by teenagers assuming that a friend or potential sexual/romantic partner had been influenced by the media, and so they acted on that assumption.
Hartley J. Do media portrayals of drinking and sexual/romantic relationships shape constructions of gendered identities among teenagers? [PhD], MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow 2011.open access