Butler Journal of Undergraduate Research


Most research on sexual content in the media has focused on visual media such as television and film, often overlooking novels. Likewise, research studies on sexual content have not studied the role of authorship. The pattern of accepted sexual scripts in novels, particularly those written by male authors, and the impact that these scripts have on the reader’s understanding of sexuality and sexual behaviors merits further research. This study analyzed sexual content in eight female-authored literary fiction novels from Time’s “100 Must-Read Novels of 2019.” Results found that fiction novels depict a plethora of sexual behaviors. Across the eight books, there were 642 instances of sexual behaviors, including sexual intercourse (15%), sexual affection (28%), verbal references (46%), and sexual ideation (11%). Of the 99 instances of sexual intercourse, 44% of initiation of intercourse was unknown, 15% was mutually initiated, 23% male-initiated, and 18% female-initiated.