Stacey J.T. Hust has spent the last decade helping us understand how the media can be used to reduce sexual assault and promote healthy sexual relationships. She and her coauthors recently published a study in the Journal of Health Communication that reveals how viewers of crime dramas have differing opinions on sexual consent, depending on which shows they watch.
Viewers of “Law and Order” have a better grasp of sexual consent than viewers of other crime dramas such as “CSI” or “NCIS,” according to their study. This suggests that individuals who watch programs in which sexual predators are punished may avoid sexual predatory behavior in real life, Hust said.
Hust’s research shows that the way crime dramas handle sexual consent can dramatically affect people’s perceptions. When dramas focus on the consequences, people are more likely to recognize expressions of sexual consent and to refuse unwanted sexual activity.
Soon, after the study was released, a number of news stories were generated, giving the research widespread coverage. Media outlets such as The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Toronto Star, and The Atlantic published news stories about the study.
“I think our research resonates with people,” said Hust, associate professor at The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication and associate director of the Murrow Center for Media and Health Promotion Research. “People enjoy watching crime dramas, and so they are interested in how these programs may affect them.”
In previous work, Hust and her team found that viewers of prime-time crime dramas may be more likely to intervene on behalf of a victim of sexual assault, as compared to people who don’t watch those types of shows.
The team hopes to keep the momentum of its work going with several research projects set to be released in the next 24 months.
The study is available at the Journal of Health Communication
In the Media
Interviews with Hust and references to her study appear in the following publications.