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Or rather, the up-and-down

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US TV viewers are currently enjoying 3,783 sex scenes per 1,000 hours of quality programming, compared with a limp 1,930 in 1998, a Kaiser Family Foundation survey has found.

According to the BBC, the KFF discovered that 70 per cent of shows now have sexual content "ranging from a reference to full depiction", with an average of five "sex-related" scenes per hour. Picked out for special mention were "a discussion of sex" on Gilmore Girls and a "depiction of sexual intercourse" on The OC.

Teen shows are the most smut-heavy, it seems. The leading broadcasts for this demographic managed to pack in no less than seven sex-related scenes per hour. The upshot? Collapse of Western civilisation, naturally, with TV-sex-crazed minors going at it like jack-rabbits.

Well, not quite. Lead researcher Dale Kunkel noted it was "generally accepted that TV influenced children's behaviour". He added: "Their sexual knowledge, attitudes and behaviours are all shaped in part by the characters in stories that television conveys."

In fact, the Kaiser study admits "a slight rise in shows promoting a message about contraception and the risks in having sex". Furthermore, 14 per cent of shows with sexual content contained "discussions about waiting to have sex or safe sex" - an improvement on 1998's nine per cent.

Fox Networks Group supremo Tony Vinciquerra weighed in with: "We have debates every minute of every day about what goes on television." He noted that parents have options such as the V-chip to prevent their little ones accessing illicit material.

He might have added that there is always the time-honoured censorship method available to concerned parents: the off switch. ®

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