Love 'CSI'? You Might Have a Higher Tolerance for Rape

This is really disturbing.

As if there weren't already enough reasons for sexual assault -- college frat parties "misreading" signals, and horrifyingly, in my town, a woman jogging at dawn at the beach -- a researcher has now found that ratings-buster shows like "NCIS" and "CSI" foster just these open kinds of attitudes toward sexual assault.

Reassuringly, "Law and Order" has brought people to a better understanding of what consent means, according to Emily Garrigues Marett, Mississippi State University instructor of management and information systems, at

But viewers of genre crime shows like "CSI" reported lower intentions to seek consent for sexual activity and a lower intention to respect a partner’s expression of consent, whereas "NCIS" was associated with lower likelihood of refusing unwanted sexual activity, Garrigues Marett says.

She surveyed 313 college freshmen at a large Northwestern university – 39 percent male and 61 percent female – and discovered that positive and negative attitudes were associated with different television shows. Those who reported watching "Law and Order" also reported reduced rape myth acceptance and increased intention to refuse unwanted sexual activity.

Crime dramas are among the most popular TV shows and are prevalent during prime time. "Law and Order" is one of the longest running series, but the show is only one example of the genre that has entertained and captivated audiences.

She says the study accounts for the differences in content between crime drama franchises and expands on research that has established that general crime drama viewing is associated with decreased rape myth acceptance and increased intentions to intervene as a bystander to stop a sexual assault.

“We knew from previous research that these three crime drama franchises portray sexual assault in fundamentally different ways. What we didn’t know was whether these differences had an impact on audience attitudes about sexual assault,” Marett says.

Now we know.  Does this mean adults should stop watching these shows.  But we might think what we're teaching our kids when they do.


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