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The History and Mystery of the Hollywood Casting Couch

Updated on October 2, 2010

The so-called "casting couch" is something that everyone at least vaguely knows about, especially if they have an interest in breaking into Hollywood films or Broadway theatre. It's general knowledge that there are some people in high positions in these industries who are not afraid to demand sexual favors from people seeking to move up the ladder of success. However, the truth behind the casting couch has rarely been revealed so the extent of how much this happens and the reality of what has occurred is not known. While we can guess that the casting couch phenomenon does occur, it's impossible to say for sure whether it's a common situation (and whether or not it works for the people who try it out!)

The history of the casting couch

There was once a time when all of the people in powerful positions in Hollywood were men and most of the people who were trying to get into Hollywood were young women. This created a situation in which men were giving favored roles to those women who would provide sexual favors in exchange for the right to move up in Hollywood. Initially, this was not talked about due to the general silence about sex in the nation at this time.

Changes in the nature of the casting couch

These days, we talk about sex all of the time, especially about celebrity sex. That's changed the nature of the casting couch. Without the same secrecy surrounding the phenomenon, the way that it happens today probably differs significantly from how it occurred in previous times. Additionally, changes in the climate of the nation have certainly shifted the rules of the casting couch.

Gender and the casting couch

One of the major differences that has occurred over time is that women have entered higher positions in the work place. This has meant several things for the casting couch, including that there are now men who are asked for sexual favors by their female superiors. Additionally, more widespread acceptance of homosexuality has caused the casting couch to take on a more fluid nature.

The casting couch and legalities

There are no statistics on the use of the casting couch in Hollywood but it's highly likely that it's not as common today as it was in previous times. This is due to a number of factors but is specifically linked to the fact that the legal climate for such behavior is now highly unfavorable to the casting couch. People in positions of power are taking huge risks with their careers and their finances if they try to benefit from the casting couch today.

The mystery of the casting couch

The reason that we don't have any statistics or specific information about the prevalence of the casting couch is that the entire situation is shrouded in secrecy. The people involved are typically not interested in spreading the word about their actions. Additionally, there is a fine line between consensual intimate relationships and those engaged in specifically because of the power differential in the relationship. The very nature of humans makes it difficult to determine what takes place when a couple engages in a sexual act despite being in a business relationship. This murkiness makes it impossible to really know the story behind the casting couch.

The casting couch and common sense

Common sense suggests that the casting couch phenomenon almost definitely takes place in Hollywood to this day. Much of Hollywood is based on the sexualization of women (including young women) which results in a situation where women are inclined to use their bodies to get what they want. However, common sense also suggests that this probably does not occur to a large degree in highly legitimate parts of the industry. Think about it; is it a good idea to engage in a sexually questionable relationship with someone who can ruin your career and then to get involved in a business relationship that requires you to be together a large amount of the time? Not really. Of course, it does happen. But the reality is that most people realize that it's not the best approach to doing business and they opt for other methods of moving forward in Hollywood.

The casting couch around the world

It is possible that the casting couch is more widely used today in parts of the world that are not as open about discussing sexuality as the United States now seems to be. For example, there was an instance in 2006 of a Chinese actress who used Internet videos to spread the word that there was a casting couch trend taking place there. The year before that, there was a scandal involving Indian Idol in which Bollywood power-holders were found to be implementing the casting couch.


Submit a Comment
  • profile image


    7 years ago

    casting couches will never go away.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    good hub

  • webismine profile image


    11 years ago from INDIA

    Good, I think it would look better if you can make sub-headings look bolder


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