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Safe sex messages absent from films
Irishhealth.com 03/10/05

By Deborah Condon

The most popular movies of the last 20 years have failed to provide safe sex messages, a new study has found. Furthermore the depiction of illicit drug use in the same movies has tended to be positive.

A team of Australian researchers analysed the portrayal of sex and drug use in the most popular movies of the last two decades. This was based on the Internet Movie Database list of the top 200 movies of all time.

Films released or set prior to the era of HIV (pre-1983) were not included. Animated films, PG films and films not about humans were also excluded. This left 87 movies to be reviewed. The films were observed based on sexual activity, sexually transmitted disease (STD) prevention, birth control measures and drug use. And consequences that were discussed or depicted were also recorded.

Of the movies reviewed, the researchers recorded 53 sex episodes. However only one film - Pretty Woman (1990) - made any suggestion of condom use. In fact, this was the only reference to any form of birth control in all 87 movies. The researchers observed no depictions of important consequences of unprotected sex, such as unwanted pregnancies, HIV or others STDs.

Films with high amounts of sex included American Pie 2 (2001), which included seven episodes of sex with new partners, but with no references to birth control or potential consequences. While the use of cannabis and other non-injected illicit drugs were depicted less often than alcohol intoxication, the portrayal of these drugs tended to be positive 'and without negative consequences'. There were no episodes of injected drug use recorded.

"Sex depictions in popular movies of the last two decades lacked safe sex messages. Drug use, though infrequent, tended to be depicted positively. The social norm being presented is concerning, given the HIV and illicit drug pandemics", the researchers said. Details of this study are published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.