Social groups: Sexuality

ellenHow is sexuality portrayed?

Are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) characters realistically portrayed on television?

Are today’s TV shows a reflection of society?


Homosexuality:queer as folk

  • —Homosexuality stereotypes include being camp, effeminate, sensitive etc. (Dyer)
  • Gay men have been stereotyped as being over-exaggerate with their words as well as their fashion sense.
  • Lesbians have been commonly viewed as very manly, usually portrayed with having short hair.
  • —Homosexual characters are rarely realistic portrayals – many gay people are unhappy with the representations.(Gerbner)


  • Before 1970, almost no gay characters could be found on television
  • Content analysis research has found that although the numbers of gay portrayals represent an increase compared with the past, they are still quite small.
  • Portrayals of gay people have often been rare and negative.
  • This is important because gay teenagers often struggled to find information relevant regarding their sexual orientation from friends and family and may use the media as a source of information about gay issues.
  • Encouragingly, more gay characters are present on television today.
  • Despite this, some people still complain about how sexuality is portrayed e.g. Eastenders kiss. This might suggest some people are still disapproving and hold homophobic views.



  • Some studies show that the frequency of sexual references have increased in TV over the past decade and are increasingly explicit.
  • Particularly common in popular culture music videos and soaps.
  • Millwood Hargreave found that children think TV is too sexualised.
  • The pressure put on women through most forms of media to be both sexually attractive and sexually active is widescale.
  • Research has found that women’s representation in popular media has steadily become  more sexualized over the last forty years.
  • New media e.g. websites have a lack of censorship regarding sexuality- this can be seen in violent pornography available on the internet.
  • Why is the representation of sexualiy an issue? Consider the image it sends to young people, consequences involving attitudes toward and knowledge of sex etc.

Some evaluation hints:

  • —Prime time TV has changed- more homosexual characters and actors.
  • —Reflects growing tolerance in society
  • —Gill argues that TV still ignores sex in homosexual relationships
  • —Some forms of media are more accommodating than others- e.g. magazine industry whereas advertising is not.
  • —9pm watershed/censoring no longer relevant with on demand TV

 Extra reading:

Stonewall research: Unseen on screen

BBC told to put more gay people on childrens TV

Critical media project

No. of gay characters growing


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