Gen Z Teens Want Less Sex on Screen, According to New UCLA Study

News flash for Hollywood executives: Young people aged 13-24 are looking for less sex scenes in television and in movies, according to a new study out of UCLA.

From the school’s Center for Scholars and Storytellers comes the “Teens and Screens” report, which reports that 51.5% of adolescents would like to see more content depicting friendships and platonic relationships. While 1,500 young people were surveyed for the full report, with 100 participants from each age bracket between 10-24, only 13-24 year olds were asked about topics related to sex and romance. (The National Academy of Sciences defines adolescents between this 10-24 age bracket, which also coincides with the “Gen Z” generational distinction.)

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Also per the survey, 44.3% of youth felt that “romance in media is overused.” Around 39% would like to see more depictions of aromantic and/or asexual characters, and 47.5% reported that sex is not necessary to the majority of TV show and movie plots.

Recent shows focused on young people have been known for their frequent sex scenes, like HBO’s “Euphoria” and “The Idol.” But the “Teens and Screens” report quoted Olivia Rodrigo, who spoke to NME on whether or not she’s seen the latter series: “I don’t have the desire to. I remember walking out of ‘Barbie’ and being like, ‘Wow, it’s so long since I’ve seen a movie that is female-centered in a way that isn’t sexual or about her pain or her being traumatized.'”

Young people who participated in the study spoke on media stereotypes and expressed a similar desire for sex and romance to be de-centered. A 17-year-old Black male from Georgia said, “I don’t like [that] every time a male and female character are together on screen, studios feel the need to make them fall [in] love. There’s a complete lack of platonic relationships in American cinema.”

A 23-year-old Asian female from New York spoke on another relationship stereotype: “The guy would be a jerk to the woman but she would end up falling in love with him.”

The founder and director of CSS and co-author of the study, Yalda T. Uhls, commented: “While it’s true that adolescents want less sex on TV and in movies, what the survey is really saying is that they want more and different kinds of relationships reflected in the media they watch.”

Uhls, who is also an adjunct professor in UCLA’s psychology department, continued, “We know that young people are suffering an epidemic of loneliness and they’re seeking modeling in the art they consume. While some storytellers use sex and romance as a shortcut to character connection, it’s important for Hollywood to recognize that adolescents want stories that reflect the full spectrum of relationships.”

Additionally, Uhls added that recent studies indicate that young people are having less sex than their parents did at their age and many prefer to stay single.

Among other key takeaways, per the report:

  • 56% of adolescents 10-24 prefer original content over franchises and remakes

  • Twice as many adolescents prefer binge releases over weekly drops

  • Adolescents want to see “lives like (their) own” depicted on screen – note that last year they wanted to see “lives unlike (their) own”

  • This year, the most respondents would cast a White man as the hero of the episode or movie, while last year’s respondents favored a Black man as the hero

  • Respondents love authenticity, and the larger group of 10-24-year-olds ranked MrBeast the #1 most authentic media

Read the full “Teens and Screens” report here.

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