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In a new report, the Parents Television Council examines the good, the bad and the ugly of MTV’s most-watched reality programming. PTC’s new study, “Reality on MTV: Gender Portrayals on MTV Reality Programming” is based on a content analysis of the most popular primetime cable reality shows among children and teens ages 12 to 17 during the 2011 TV season.

The top four programs all aired on MTV and include: “Jersey Shore,” “Real World,” “Teen Mom 2” and “16 and Pregnant.” To view PTC’s full report, click here.   While women were routinely the recipients of denigrating language, they also were more likely than men to be negative to themselves and to other women.

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“After many years of pursuing equality for women, the findings of today’s study suggest a glamorized, but grossly distorted view of what it means to be feminine. Compared to men, women were far more denigrating to themselves and other females. With so much at stake, teen-targeted reality television is doing little more than ‘empowering’ young girls to be overly negative,” said PTC President Tim Winter.

Here is a snapshot of what they found:


  • Only 24% of what females said about themselves was positive across all shows combined.
  • Overall, women were more disparaging than men when speaking of themselves or someone of their own gender.

Most popular positive words directed at females:

  • Female to Female: Pretty, proud, strong
  • Female Self-Talk: Excited, happy
  • Male to Female: Nice, cool, hot

(For purposes of this study “positive” is defined by the speaker’s intentions. Positive includes dialogue intended to be complimentary, supportive, comforting, and/or encouraging. (Example: If a male said to a female, “You look hot!” The dialogue is coded as positive if , based on the context of the scene, the speaker intended the statement as a compliment).

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Males tended to refer to females as “cool” and view them more favorably when females displayed characteristics that males considered more “male-like” (e.g., not wanting to linger or engage after intercourse, not viewing sex as an indication of a greater commitment, not requiring romance prior to intercourse, not being jealous when males were sexual with other females, etc.)

Females were the recipients of an “f-word” or “s-word” 662 times or once every four minutes and ten seconds.

Females talked about sex acts more than men, talked about sex more graphically than men, mentioned sexual body parts more than men, and talked about intercourse and preliminaries to intercourse more than men.

Fifty-nine percent of the sexual references across all shows came from Jersey Shore. There was no difference in the most popular derogatory terms females used to talk about other females compared to the most popular derogatory terms males used to talk about females.