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Study finds movie industry sexualizing women at earlier ages

Published: Saturday, April 23 2011 12:02 a.m. MDT

Movies objectify women and sexualize girls in striking numbers, according to a new study from USC, home of one of the top-rated film schools in the country.

The study found female teen characters in movies are five times more likely to wear sexy clothing than men, and 25 percent more likely to be provocatively dressed than adult female characters aged 21-39.

In terms of showing skin, female teen characters are equally likely to be partly naked as the adult female characters — 30 percent — while male characters exhibit partial nudity only 8 percent of the time.

"The data speaks to an overemphasis on beauty, thinness and sexualization of women at younger and younger ages," lead researcher and USC professor Stacy Smith told USA Today. "These findings are troubling given that repeated exposure to thin and sexy characters may contribute to negative effects in some female viewers."

The analysis based on the 100 top-grossing fictional movies of 2008 showed that men got 67 percent of the speaking roles in movies to 33 percent for women.

"Women represent roughly half of the U.S. population and buy roughly half of the movie tickets, but they still represent only a third of the speaking roles in film," Smith said. "Females are missing in action when it comes to speaking roles."

For the films studied, women constitute only 8 percent of the directors, 14 percent of the writers and 19 percent of the producers. In the instances where a woman worked as either a director of writer, the percentage of speaking roles allotted to females was 44 percent; in all other films women netted only 30 percent of the speaking roles.

"Our findings reveal that motion picture content is sending two consistent and troubling messages to viewers," the study concludes. "The first is that females are of lesser value than are males. This is evidenced by their on screen presence and the lack of employment opportunities behind-the-camera. The second is that females are more likely than males to be valued for their appearance."

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