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Trash TV' Takes Its Toll

Sexual stereotypes still

Good news and bad news: a study suggests that while negative stereotypes about black women's sexuality are on the wane, biases about white women are becoming harsher.

Debbie Davis, Ph.D., a psychologist, and her colleagues at the University of Nevada-Reno, asked 248 people to describe the sexuality of women of different races and classes: how casual or conservative they are about sex, how they treat and are treated by men, the extent of their sexual experience, skill and availability.

Looking first at economic class, they found that lower-class women are perceived as morally more loose than middle-class women and more likely to use their sexuality to attract men. They are also viewed as being more likely to be treated badly by men and to have children out of wedlock.

Looking at race, the sexuality of Asian women is perceived most positively, followed by Latina women, African-American women and, at the bottom, white women. Davis attributes these attitudes in part to the popularity of so-called "trash talk" shows. Calling it the "Jerry Springer effect," she speculates that such programs, which often depict lower-class white women in degrading or disrespectful ways, may be influencing the general population's perception of their sexuality.