Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 185–206 | Cite as

Sex and the media: Three decades of best-selling books and major motion pictures

  • Paul R. Abramson
  • Mindy B. Mechanic


The expression of sexuality in best-selling novels and major motion pictures was examined. There are two reasons that such stimuli merit systematic analysis. First and foremost is the finding that best-selling novels and major motion pictures exist as a primary source of sexual information. Of equal importance, however, is the need to examine such stimuli for myths and fallacies. The novels and films analyzed in the present study were selected from the last years of three consecutive decades: 1959, 1969, and 1979. Inclusion in this study was based on ranking in either a best-seller list (i.e., books) or a rental-receipts list (i.e., movies). The use of such criteria serves the dual purpose of allowing for the examination of stimuli that are accessible to large masses of people and at the same time allowing for the examination of sexually relevant stimuli. The results are discussed in terms of historical changes (over the three decades) and manifest themes (i.e., general characteristics or consistent themes). An additional section was included to address the broader implications of the present findings and to suggest alternatives.

Key words

media major motion pictures best-selling novels sexual myths content analysis 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul R. Abramson
    • 1
  • Mindy B. Mechanic
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of IllinoisUrbanaUSA

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