Study: People Are Getting Desensitized to Sex and Violence in Movies

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A new study suggests that people can be desensitized to seeing sex and violence in films.

Movies that were rated R a few years ago are actually less violent than movies that are rated PG-13 today. Typically, parents use the MPAA ratings to determine what movies they should let their child see. But, according to a study, people are desensitized to sex and violence in movies the more they are exposed to such scenes.

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The study examined Casino Royale, Collateral, Taken 2, Die Hard, Live Free or Die Hard, The Terminator, and Terminator Salvation to determine how people would react to seeing sex and violence in movies. The researchers chose those movies because “They include sexual encounters that leave little to the imagination, executions that come by surprise, and battles between humans and robots that end in the graphic ‘death’ of the robot.”

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This is what the researchers determined:

The study indicates that when parents first see a scene involving graphic sex, their first instinct is that the movie isn’t suitable for children under, on average, 17.2 years of age. For a scene with violence, the initial reaction is children under 16.9 years of age shouldn’t watch.

But as they watched more and more sex and violence on the screen, their opinions changed significantly — down to 13.9 years for violence and 14 for sex, according to the study from the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. [The Hollywood Reporter]

This study also explains what is commonly referred to as the “ratings creep” where PG-13 movies are more violent than rated R movies of a few years ago.

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“People who rate movies for the MPAA, who are themselves parents, could be subject to the same desensitization and thus more likely to be lenient when it comes to evaluating the appropriateness of such content for children,” the authors said.

Researchers argue that children are affected by what they see and hear and this research demonstrates the correlation between violence and aggression in children. Researchers suggest that MPAA officials undergo “interventions to prevent desensitization”.

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In the last 20 years movie ratings have changed dramatically, a PG movie would feature nudity, sexual contact and violent movie scenes. Flash forward 30 years, many movies have watered down PG-13 and it is ruining movies.

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