Date Presented

Spring 4-28-2023

Document Type



Communication Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Kicklighter


Sexual assault has affected countless people, whether that be directly or indirectly. The view and narrative around sexual assault is greatly influenced by television and popular culture, including shows with subliminal messaging such as young adult television. The significance of this project is examining the degree of influence of how sexual assault is portrayed in young adult television. By examining how potentially harmful or helpful the discourse on the matter can be in respective shows, conclusions can be drawn about how these narratives affect how individuals, as well as a collective society view sexual assault. In this explorative study, the portrayal of sexual assault will be examined in relation to popular television with three young adult case studies. This paper will deconstruct Degrassi, The Sex Lives of College Girls, and She’s Gotta Have It to observe how sexual assault portrayals have changed from 2000 to present day. It will also consider illustrations of sexual assault in highschool, college, and post-graduate settings. This project will look at the the implications of how narrative is used to portray sexual assault in young adult television. By paying particular intererst to how the three series either add or detract to the normalization of sexual assault, we are able to see a common thread of narratives including raising awareness, the exploration of the psychological impact of sexual assault, rape culture and rape myth acceptance, promotion of prevention and consent, and addressing how sexual assault can intersect with other forms of oppression, such as race, gender, sexuality, and socio-economic status. In examining these case studies, research and observation will be done on the role of sexual objectification of women within young adult television and how that could perpetuate rape culture in a broader setting than television. These observations will be analyzed through the lens of narrative theory.