The Hollywood Effect: How Movies Damagingly Influence A Girl’s Idea of Sex


By Abigail Mason

The Study

While at UCLA I wanted to investigate something that had an underwhelming amount of data whirling around it. (Because after all, data does whirl)

It came as a HUGE surprise when I learned that there was virtually zero research on the potential effects of sexuality/nudity in Hollywood films on women. So, I embarked on an official (ish) year long research project with the IRB. (IRB = the big guys that tell you what you can and can’t do with human participants.)

Here is a less formal report of what I learned. So keep reading, it gets juicy!

I found that there had been research conducted on the affects of sexuality in TV on males and females. Interestingly enough the data pointed to an interested conclusion, females seemed to be affected more than males. Why? I had no idea.

However there is this fun little ditty called the cultivation theory which helps explain how the media, especially television, can potentially influence thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors.

Cultivation theory

Cultivation theory suggests that exposure to television, over time, can subtly change viewers perception of reality; their perceptions can come to reflect the content of the shows they are watching as opposed to the real world. If someone is a high consumer of feature films, the cultivation theory would suggest that his or her perceptions of reality would become more consistent with the content of the films that they are watching.


(Remember that sexual attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors are influenced by many other factors as well, including family, friends, educational institution, peer groups, and religious institutions.)

So I developed a survey of eight questions that measured girl’s thoughts and attitudes about sex. I also compiled a list of films that were rated R for sexual content and nudity that were listed at the end of the survey. The girls checked which movies they had seen.

The findings

The strongest findings came from:

Item 3, “It’s OK for a women to have numerous sexual partners”

Item 4, “Women need to be promiscuous in order to obtain a mate”

Item 5, “Everyone has sex before marriage”

and Item 8 which asked the number of sexual partners the participants had.

Girls that had watched more of the films with sexuality and nudity rated the statements above as more true than those who had not and had more sexual partners. There was a very significant difference.

Why does it matter?

Data is empowerment. It gives us information that can help inform our research, voice, actions, and life. The time is now for more research to be conducted about women. You can see the full research document by clicking here. So share this if you are shocked that this is the first study to investigate this.



Abigail Mason is an actress and the founder of Hey Abigail , a positive community for young women. You can follow her on twitter @heyabigailgals.


  1. Hi, You so correct. I have the same concerns. I run a nonprofit at Our goal is to show women that its not to their advantage to be sexually promiscuous – but to their disadvantage. Please email me at I have been applying for grants and communicating with others who have the same concerns to get funding for our studies. I would love to talk with you.

  2. I used your study, along with other studies I found on the Parents Television Council website to create a 5 minute video on YouTube showing how misleading and damaging Hollywood is to women. Thanks for your work.

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