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Looking for 'nomance': Study finds teens want less sex in their TV and movies

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

TV shows and movies for and about lovestruck teenagers have long been a mainstay of the entertainment business. According to a new UCLA study, though, Gen Z is way more interested in seeing screen stories about platonic relationships than those featuring sex and romance. NPR's Chloe Veltman reports.

CHLOE VELTMAN, BYLINE: UCLA asked more than a thousand 13- to 24-year-olds to participate in its Romance or Nomance study. In an online video accompanying the findings, Ana, age 16, and 20-year-old Joseph say they're over watching people get hot and heavy on screen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANA: When there's media that has too much sex, me and my friends often feel uncomfortable.

JOSEPH: My friends and I maybe awkwardly bear through it.

VELTMAN: More than half of the study participants, including Ana, say they'd much rather see content focused on platonic attachments.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANA: I'd love to see some great love stories on friendships and the trials and tribulations of that.

VELTMAN: And nearly 40% of respondents say they'd like more stories featuring asexual characters.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANA: Because their stories deserve to be told as well.

YALDA UHLS: It's not that young people aren't interested in TV or movies and other media with sexual content.

VELTMAN: That's Yalda Uhls. She's the founder of UCLA's Center for Scholars and Storytellers, which conducted the study.

UHLS: It's that they actually want to see more and different kinds of relationships.

VELTMAN: Uhls says the study didn't include questions about whether the kids look beyond TV, movies and social media for sexual content, for example, by visiting porn sites on the internet.

UHLS: Perhaps the prevalence of porn could be a reason why they feel that they want to see less sexual content in more traditional media.

VELTMAN: In the study, Uhls and her team say Gen Z's chaste entertainment preferences might also be a reaction to the isolation of the pandemic years, making them crave feel-good character relationships, like, for example, the sweetly celibate nomance at the heart of this summer's biggest blockbuster.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BARBIE")

RYAN GOSLING: (As Ken) Hi, Barbie.

MARGOT ROBBIE: (As Barbie) Hi, Ken.

VELTMAN: It could be that Hollywood is already starting to grasp young people's aversion to all of that onscreen bumping and grinding. The highest-grossing films of the year so far - "Barbie," "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" and "Oppenheimer" - can hardly be classified as hotbeds of sex and romance.

Chloe Veltman, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF DUA LIPA SONG, "DANCE THE NIGHT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Chloe Veltman
Chloe Veltman is a correspondent on NPR's Culture Desk.