LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Primetime TV shows that appeal to teenagers are promoting the "sexualization" of girls at an alarming rate, including more portrayals of underage females being objectified than adults, especially for laughs, according to the Parents Television Council.
The watchdog group is calling on producers, advertisers and government regulators to take an honest assessment of the sexually provocative way girls are portrayed on TV and take it down a notch. Or two.
PTC president Tim Winter, armed with a 20-page study the group released Wednesday, hosted a conference call with journalists and others to ask Hollywood to treat sex much as it has smoking: Strip it out where possible, for children's sake.
"They can step up. They can tone it down," he said.
PTC analysts looked at the top 14 scripted shows that Nielsen identified as being popular among children 12-17, including "The Office," "NCIS," "Two and a Half Men," "The Big Bang Theory" and "The Vampire Diaries."
"Underage female characters are shown participating in a higher percentage of sexual depictions compared to adults," according to the study, called Sexualized Teen Girls: Tinseltown's New Target.
The PTC argues that girls are increasingly shown as having their worth dependent upon their sexuality, a media phenomenon it says leads to passivity, depression, eating disorders and low self-esteem.
The report notes that 73 percent of televised sexual incidents that involved girls under 18 were designed to be funny, thus using "laughter to desensitize and trivialize topics that might normally be viewed as disturbing."
The study says 98 percent of the portrayals of underage girls acting in a sexual manner occurred with partners with whom they have no committed relationship, and 75 percent of such shows don't include the "S" descriptor beforehand to warn parents what's coming.
To bolster the PTC's case, the group put several experts on its conference call Wednesday, including former model Nicole Clark, who made the 2008 documentary film "Cover Girl Culture: Awakening the Media Generation."
"Our girls are being sexually objectified as young as 6," said Clark, who is pregnant and broke down into tears several times during her presentation. "How did things get so crazy?"
Television executives are robbing children of their innocence -- "preying on them" -- she said, and their victims aren't strong enough to reject the destructive messages.
"Why can't the media be on our side?" she said.