By Brent Lang
LOS ANGELES (TheWrap.com) - Exploitation of underage girls is rampant on primetime, a new study by the Parents Television Council concludes.
The advocacy group's research monitored more than 200 episodes of broadcast television shows during two-week network sweeps periods in 2011 and in 2012 and found that 63 percent of those episodes contained sexual content involving women.
The group claims that 33 percent of that content involved sexual exploitation. The PTC said it used the United Nations Security General's definition of "sexual exploitation" to determine what content was objectionable. A 2003 report cites abuses of power and position in which someone profits "monetarily, socially or politically" from sexually exploiting another person.
The PTC maintains that scenes of exploitation were more likely to be humorous in nature when they involved underage girls (43 percent) compared to adult women (33 percent). The group said that child molestation, sex trafficking, sexual harassment, pornography and stripping were among the topics that served as fodder for jokes.
"When is it appropriate to laugh at the sexual exploitation of a child?" PTC President Tim Winter said on a conference call with reporters. "We hope this report stirs an urgent dialogue on this question."
The examples the group cites as evidence of a jokey approach to exploitation range in shock value from a strip poker scene in "Glee" to a sex-slave auction involving the teenage daughter on "Family Guy." Serious material that the PTC claims puts young adult characters in compromising positions could be found on programs like "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" and now-canceled shows like "Private Practice" and "Gossip Girls."
Obviously, shows like "Law & Order" feature characters trying to stop sexual exploitation, not condoning it.
Winter said the group intended to release its findings last winter, but shelved those plans after the mass killings in Newtown, Conn. The PTC chief said the organization chose to focus on the issue of violence in the media in the aftermath of the shootings.
The PTC said it is hoping to educate parents and viewers about the level of sexually exploitative material on the small screen because it believes that television can have a deleterious impact on younger audience members.
"The very premise of broadcasting as a business is influencing the behavior of a viewer," Winter said.