The mass media do not portray sexuality in a healthy way, and mass media messages supporting healthy sexual behavior are rare. Changes in social norms regarding healthy sexual behaviors will be difficult to achieve unless the content of programming in mass media supports these behaviors. As discussed in Chapter 3, children and adolescents are most influenced by mass media messages. Adolescents spend a large amount of time watching television and participating in other forms of mass media, and they undoubtedly are influenced by the explicit and implicit messages in such media. Many adolescents are not receiving appropriate information regarding STDs and healthy sexual behavior from their parents, peers, public health officials, or family doctors to counter misleading mass media messages. Therefore, the committee believes that mass media companies should incorporate messages regarding STDs and healthy sexual behaviors, including delaying sexual intercourse and using condoms, in television and radio programming and the print media, with a special focus on reaching adolescents and young adults.
In spite of advertisers' use of sexually suggestive advertisements to promote their products, and in spite of polls showing that most Americans support promoting condoms on television, most mass media companies still refuse to allow STD-related public service announcements and condom advertisements on prime-time television or in widely read publications. The committee calls on mass media and advertising executives to recognize the hypocrisy of this practice and to help promote healthy sexual behaviors.
It is important that mass media and other public health messages regarding STDs be clear. The public should be informed that the only sure way to prevent STDs is either not to have sexual intercourse or to have intercourse only with an uninfected partner who is also monogamous. Adolescents should be encouraged to delay sexual intercourse. Despite these messages, however, many individuals