The study found a connection between how sexual violence is portrayed and how people view sexual consent. The researchers surveyed 313 college freshmen to explore the influence of watching the three most popular crime drama franchises in US - 'Law and Order','CSI' and 'NCIS'.
"Viewers of 'Law and Order' not only see the criminal act taking place, but they typically see the criminal punished for the crime. This judicial sentencing is rarely seen in other crime dramas," said Hust.
Watching 'Law and Order' was associated with viewers' increased intentions to adhere to expressions of sexual consent and to refuse unwanted sexual activity.
In contrast, watching 'CSI' was associated with decreased intentions to both ask a partner for consent and to adhere to a partner's consent decisions.
"The legal aspects of 'Law and Order' present opportunities to better address topics that other crime dramas might omit," said study co-author Emily Garrigues Marett, instructor at Mississippi State University.
"For example, the process of preparing a case for prosecution frequently requires establishing whether consent was present. This provides a valuable opportunity to clarify misperceptions around this issue," said Marett.
Researchers said that the findings could make a significant contribution to the field of sexual assault prevention. The study suggests that crime dramas could be a useful tool for practitioners focused on preventing sexual assault.
"The results indicate that simply depicting the issue and its impact on the victim may not be enough to influence attitudes and behaviour," Hust said.
"Instead, sexual assault reduction messages should emphasise the rewards of practicing healthy sexual consent behaviour," Hust said. The study was published in the Journal of Health Communication.