Bren’s Team Pick: Filmmaker Tests Theory That Hot Girls Really Have It Easy

Hello, all. I’m Intern Bren. I’ve been entrusted to write about things on the internet, which is scary. Let me start by saying I love you all and your hair smells incredible. On to the good stuff…

Jezebel has uncovered this interesting little mini-documentary originally published by Current TV entitled “Sexy Girls Have It Easy.” In it Carolyn tries to get random things, like ice cream and bus rides, for free – once as her regular self and then again as a short-dress-clad, high-heeled, big-haired version of herself. Not that there is anything wrong with high heels or big hair. It’s just not Carolyn’s usual deal.

Guess which look gets more free stuff. If you guessed the conventionally-attractive-by-societal-standards one, you’d be right. She walks away with £23.70 of free stuff. I think that’s like $5,798.34 in American money. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

I’m guessing she got hassled a lot by some of these guys after said “free” stuff exchanged hands. Is it worth it to make yourself into something you’re not just to be treated better? Should you have to?

Also, if you pay attention to the details, you just might fall in love with England. She went to pubs with names like “Dog and Duck” and “Pillars of Hercules No.7.” You won’t find any generic Margaritavilles there!

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


Bren has written 80 articles for us.


  1. i saw this and thought it was really interesting but was also struck by how differently she framed her requests when she was dressed different ways.

    • Good point. Especially when “fancy” Carolyn got on the bus and didn’t even ask for a free ride, just walked right past the guy. That’s some balls.

      Maybe it’s the attitude more than the physical aspect.

    • agreed. I do certainly think there’s a lot of truth behind this but she wasn’t flirty with her requests as her plain self… I mean, she actually asked for a free bus ride instead of just walking on/framing it like she forgot her wallet/oyster card (yes that’s what the London version of a metrocard is called, lol). I totally snuck on public transport all over Europe by just being inconspicuous, lol

      also, I love British Pubs. The Duke of York, The Camden Eye, The World’s End…

      (also why doesn’t my computer internet know the word snuck?? o_o)

    • I think theres also something to the fact that the bus driver couldn’t just offer her the free ride when she openly asked, as that’d be really obviously unfair vs. not caring when she ducked in behind someone else. Other passengers are a lot less likely to call the driver out on that, I would think.

    • Thank you, Im so glad that the first comment on this pointed out the lack of equality in her actions! Although there is definitely truth to the “sexy girls get more shit” theory, this was obviously not a well run experiment. Interesting though none the less!

  2. i feel like this has more to do with how she felt about herself when she was dolled up than when she wasn’t. She seemed more comfortable and at ease when she was dressed up… Interesting…

  3. Some of the comments under this video on the vimeo page harbored a seemingly misplaced resentment for her. One commenter even called her a “bitch”. =/

    Anyway, it makes sense that her confidence would be impacted by how she dresses, but not because mini dresses, heels and red lip stick hold some magical, transcontinental power that bestows confidence on the wearer.

    After all there are cultures around the world where a woman would be judged harshly for setting to the streets in the “sexy” outfit. I sincerely doubt a woman belonging to such a culture would feel empowered by that outfit. She’d probably be way more comfortable and confident in the “dowdy” outfit (because it’s less likely to stir a negative reaction).

    My point is that the filmmaker acted more confident in the “sexy” clothing because she belongs to a western society where women are in fact rewarded for presenting themselves that way. She was confident because she knew that she was going to be treated better. She expects it. The whole opening of the video stated that “plain women earn significantly less than attractive ones”. This was sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Saying, “It’s not the clothes, it’s the attitude” is right. But the attitude comes from the context of the culture.

  4. I think the fact that she asks the questions differently speaks to the point: when she’s dolled up, people see her as sexually available therefore try to ‘woo her’ whereas her plain self isn’t sexually charged, therefore they treat her as anyone else.
    Flirting just adds to the ‘sexually available/interesting’ persona.

  5. This is definitely interesting, thanks for sharing. But I agree her demeanor is different when she is dolled up. She’s more flirty, more inviting, friendlier, happier seeming. I look much more like the plain Carolyn and I’ve gotten free rides in D.C. by framing it the right way. I’ve never actually tried to get free food, hah. Pretty gutsy. I hope I’m never that desperate.

  6. Do you guys think it’s morally wrong to do stuff like this (obviously not for the purpose of a documentary, but actually flirting/looking sexy to get free shit)?

    Like, what about the ethics behind this?

    Personally I feel getting by in life due to a genetic gift of beauty is no more morally questionable than getting through life on a genetic gift of intelligence.

    • Except that the “genetic gift of beauty” is not a thing. As this video shows, beauty is something we have to perform in this culture, after we’ve learned the rules for what’s beautiful.

      If you haven’t already read it, Julia wrote a nice primer on Judith Butler, who talks about this idea in terms of gender ( Broadly recognized ideas of female beauty in this culture (the kinds that get you free shit) are just another part of how we articulate gender.

  7. ok so i just . . . think this is dumb! why does she keep saying “hi can i have ___ for free?” ?!??!

    who would ever do that?

    the “plain” her is purposefully awkward and is asking a totally socially unacceptable question (whether or not it should be acceptable is a different discussion) straight out, while the “pretty” her is friendly and asks (or doesn’t ask at all!) in a more casual and indirect way. i think this is more a test of “can i get things just by asking rather than by using my social skills.” i do see that there is alot of truth to the idea that she would be treated better, no matter what she said, when she’s “pretty,” but there are so many other variables being thrown in.

    also, there is just something that bothers me about the implied idea that being pretty (OR FEMININE OR SEXUAL IN GENERAL) is NECCESARILY “being something you’re not” or that pretty people don’t deserve what they have, or are getting it by “selling out.” kind of slut-shaming-ish.

    i find in myself that when i am feeling happy and comfortable with myself i feel and actually am more attractive and others respond to me better. it’s silly to expect attraction, physicality, bodies, connection etc to be left out of social interaction. obviously there are lots of shallow jerks who DO judge very superficially and according to very specific beauty standards but do we really need that proved?

    • “also, there is just something that bothers me about the implied idea that being pretty (OR FEMININE OR SEXUAL IN GENERAL) is NECCESARILY “being something you’re not” or that pretty people don’t deserve what they have, or are getting it by “selling out.” kind of slut-shaming-ish.”

      -I was curious and looked up the girl in this video, Carolyn Owlett, and it’s safe to say the dolled-up version was NOT her being something she’s not. She’s modeled and the dolled-up version is much closer to how she normally looks. I bet she felt really uncomfortable as the plain version. (It also seems they chose a particularly heinous shirt for Plain Carolyn to wear.)

      • yeah, like she didn’t just look casual or un-madeup or simply or conservatively dressed, she looked silly.

        • and uncomfortable! people might not have known that’s not how she usually dressed but i’m sure they were reacting partially to something being “off.”

  8. Last time I got a free bus ride, I was in Manchester. The bus fare was £2 and I only had a twenty pound note, no small change. Also the bus driver could hear I was from London. The moral of the story is, if you go to Manchester, try not to get stabbed.

    • A similar story happened to me (though I’m from London, Ontario :p) Bus fare here is $2.75 and I walked on the bus with a $5 bill. The driver asked who I was paying for, I said “Just myself,” and he said “Not with a $5 bill” and let me on. What a nice guy. And I’m no looker so it’s not like it was that, ahaha.

  9. This reminds me of the time two of my friends and I were on a train to a music venue with standard tickets but we decided to sit in first class as it was massive and empty, and the ticket inspector came along and my friends were all OSHIT and we just tried batting our eyelids and saying that we were only going two stops and we didn’t know it was first class – we totally knew – and the guy was all, “Well okay, I’ll let you off just this once,” then he got to this other group heading the same way who’d had the same idea, only it was two dudes and a girl dressed more like a tomboy than me, and they got kicked out.

    We didn’t just go one stop. WE WENT TWO. Rebels without a cause, I tell ya.

  10. I know my sister gets more free bus rides than me. I like to call it the blond effect.

  11. I did something like this myself once, but not to get free stuff, it was really just to see if I would be treated differently/better if I were wearing makeup.

    At the time I worked at Walmart and was generally miserable. I was, however, smiley and friendly with the customers. I made jokes and tried to help them by being as cheerful as I could. People sometimes reacted accordingly but for the most part I was ignored.

    Then on the days that I did dress up for work (as much as one can dress up in a uniform). I did up my makeup and my hair and then as a twist I was NOT as congenial as I typically was at work. For the purposes of the experiment I was kind of surly and grumpy.

    And the difference in how I was treated, not only by men but also by women, was profound. People were so much more engaging and tried to interact with me on a more personal level than they did typically.

    So I tried again, this time acting as reserved and surly without any makeup, and with my normal clothing on. My GOD the amount of complaints to the manager that day about my being rude. It was insanity.

    The moral of the story is: pretty people get perks. Even from people who aren’t terribly pretty themselves.

  12. I think that it really does have to do with a combination of sexiness and attitude. But mostly the sexiness. While it’s unfair for those of us who aren’t conventionally attractive, I don’t blame them for doing it. I use my intelligence to get what I want, others use beauty.
    I have a friend who is absolutely gorgeous and has the attitude to go with it. I’m still shocked when she insists we go out drinking even when we’re broke, because she “knows” she can get guys and girls to buy us drinks…But I’m not complaining, I love free drinks =)

  13. One thing I noticed is that when I look nicer, it’s easier to get through crowds.

    A moment that stuck out for me from past experience was when I needed to get past this group of college-age guys with my then-boyfriend on a flight of stairs.

    He couldn’t get past them, but when I tried, one of the guys actually made all of his friends move out of the way for me.

    Might not be free stuff, but I certainly got down the stairs a whole lot faster :P

    • Totally, I find it easy in general when i look nicer, I got a free bus ride and a tall starbucks regular coffee for cheap one time but that was it.

  14. Honestly, the trick to getting free things/getting away with stuff are these simple pieces of presentation:

    – Be white is number 1. As an addition, if you are of the same racial/cultural make-up of the person you are dealing with, that helps a lot. If you are immigrants from the same country that is golden, but more rare.

    -Look like you could pay for anything anyway. People will think if you look “poor” you are more likely to do this on a regular basis. This has no basis in fact, but it helps to look done up.

    – Be female/feminine presenting. Especially if you are dealing with man. Anywhere with a “chivalric” culture this is even more important (e.g. the south).

    – Act as if there were no other way for the situation to go. Confidence and assurance are key to getting what you want because it requires less thinking assessing on the other person’s part. Think Obi Wan in Star Wars: A New Hope.

    These are what have gotten me 1. Out of PE class, 2. A free ride on MetroNorth (I don’t do this habitually, i just realized I didn’t have any money), 3. Out of handing papers in on time, 4. Out of trouble with airport security, 5. free stuff, etc. I wouldn’t say I was proud of this stuff, but it’s a pretty clear assessment of the way in which one can take advantage of white, female privilege.

  15. I’ve often gotten way cheaper tickets on buses and at movies because of the way I look. It’s never been presented in a sleazy way, but I know damn well it’d never happen if I showed up makeup-less and feeling less than charming.
    This video was pretty interesting. I agree with the comments re: the way she presented her questions when in different personas. That would’ve made a difference certainly.

    Also, the clothes the “less attractive” Caroline was wearing seemed a bit too far in that direction.

  16. The lack of scientific rigor here bothers me. Even discounting that their experimental group isn’t actually a group, they’re changing too many variables at once! >:(

    This video bothers me on a less nerdy level too. It feels like the filmmaker went in with their mind made up. Confirmation bias at its worst.

    • I thought the same thing! There’s too much scientist in me for these sort of videos. I just kept thinking the sample size was too small, there was too much conformation bias and no control group!

  17. I think it’s sadder for the male rase than for us really…
    I’d be sad to realize that I’m that easy to be missguided…

  18. On the subject of her phrasing her requests differently when she was dressed up, I kind of saw that flirting as part of her ‘dressed up’ persona. You could tell that she was pretty even when she was ‘plain Carolyn,’ – big hair, high heels, make up and a tight dress don’t make you prettier but you do convey a different image of yourself when you’re dressed up like that.
    So instead of ‘does someone pretty get treated better than someone who is plain does?’ the question actually might be better phrased as ‘is it easier to get free stuff if present yourself in a certain way’, with a persona which flirting is a part of – and the answer would be a yes.
    If you’re more conservative in the way you dress and wouldn’t want to flirt with some guy just to get a chocolate flake, then no free things for you. So it’s more a critique of how society will typically react to certain types of women, of which clothes and behaviour both play a part.
    Having said that, it would also be interesting to see what sort of reaction she got if she tried being ‘plain’ and flirty, and then ‘dressed up’ and more forthright.

  19. I thought this was a pretty obvious test. Like most of you have already said, her approach was completely different for her two versions. What kind of dolt directly asks for free things?

    Also, I’d be curious to see what difference it would make if she targeted women rather than men in the service interesting. It’d really bring forth the cultural expectation of how women should present themselves instead of just pandering to the sexual desires of men (note that most of them were around her age, so she went for the weakest target).

  20. When I don’t wear makeup to shops, not only do I not score free ice creams, I get my bags checked. This has never happened when I’m in my work gear (hair straightened, full face of makeup, smart clothing etc).
    When I used to waitress I also noticed my tips increased when I started wearing makeup. I was also encouraged to show as much cleavage as possible, and was scolded when I didn’t abide by the ‘unofficial rule’ of having your top button undone.
    I think pretty girls do have a lot of assumptions made about them too though, like that they’re not smart or hard working and just rely on looks. 2 cents.

Comments are closed.