(CNSNews.com) – Ninety-one percent of the sexually violent “jokes” during the 2014-2015 season of Fox Broadcast Network’s animated Family Guy were about abusing children, up from 75 percent in 2012-2013, according to a research study by the Parents Television Council (PTC), a TV watchdog group.
Comedic references to child sex abuse on the show have increased 16 percent since 2012, researchers found.
The study identified 58 scenes over the past three years in which there was a humorous treatment of rape, statutory rape, molestation, or pedophilia. In 79 percent of these scenes, children are the victim.
In one example, the character Quagmire is asked if he recently had sex with an underage high school girl. “I don’t want to go to jail, but I really want to take credit,” he replies.
The PTC, a nonpartisan organization which works to protect children from graphic sex, violence, and profanity in the media, conducted the study of first-run Family Guy episodes from 2012-2015 that aired between 7:30 pm and 9:00 pm, when children were most likely to be watching.
Family Guy is rated as appropriate for a typical 14-year-old viewer. It is one of the highest-rated TV shows for children ages 12-17 and also attracts younger viewers, according to the research brief.
“At a time when nearly one in three women in America is sexually abused, why would a television network air a primetime program that routinely asks us to laugh at sexual violence? Why would we ever want to be in the position to laugh at humanity’s wors[t] offenses against children?” PTC president Tim Winter asked.
Melissa Henson, PTC’s director of communications and public education, commented on what she said is a “very disturbing pattern” in the way child sex abuse is treated on Family Guy. Not only has there been a marked increase in sexually violent “jokes”, but children are more frequently the subject of such jokes, she said.
“The more kids are exposed to sexualized content, the higher [their] risk of sexual action” and “real-world consequences,” such as sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs), unexpected pregnancies, and non-consensual sex, Henson told CNSNews.com.
She pointed out that the sexually violent content in Family Guy might also nourish “permission-giving beliefs” among viewers who are inclined towards sexually violent action, enabling them to interpret such behavior as more socially and morally acceptable.
“Parents need to know what’s on this program so they can limit kids’” viewing, Henson continued.
Mary Anne Layden, a psychotherapist and director of education at the Center for Cognitive Therapy at the University of Pennsylvania, described the negative effects that sexually violent media content can have on a young audience.
“Media makers may call what they make ‘entertainment’, but everything a child sees is actually ‘education.’ For better or for worse. If they [children] hear jokes about sexual violence, they ‘learn’ that sexual violence is not much of a problem, not much of a crime, and doesn’t really hurt anyone,” Layden said.
The PTC is calling on viewers to “push back at Hollywood” by urging advertisers on Family Guy to “think twice on whether this reflects well on their brand,” Henson added.