I review sex scenes • Checking how pop culture (mis )represents pleasure. 🧐🎥💏 Listen to my podcast here:
I review sex scenes • Checking how pop culture (mis )represents pleasure. 🧐🎥💏 Listen to my podcast here:
Last night I had the pleasure of seeing “This One’s For The Ladies”, a documentary by Gene Graham about — to reduce it to its simplest form — people who strip for women. But if there’s anything I’ve learned since I started this account, it’s that sex is never just about sex; it’s about desire, identity, politics, power, culture, how we’ve all been socialized, and so much more. This film brings all of that to light, and to say it’s simply about strippers would be to miss many far more important points. Set in Newark, New Jersey, our subjects are mostly black and all working class. The strippers are cismen and one cislesbian, some of whom have known each other since high school, and their clients are industrious, community-oriented, church-going women who invite their favorite dancers to perform at informal parties at local rec centers. In this sacred space, regular folks from down the block become erotic gods and goddesses. Everyone has an alter-ego — even the members of the audience have monikers. There’s a reverence between the clients and performers, a palpable sense of pride, and an atmosphere of celebration and liberation. There’s some full-frontal nudity, but the filmmaker’s intention in showing it is more sociological than pornographic: In the context of a culture that often depicts black men as sexually predatory, this film exists to humanize naked black men at the height of their potency, and to memorialize the women who are rooting for them. One of many discussions this film might inspire is the importance of diversity amongst film reviewers. I was disappointed but not surprised by the shallow reviews from Ben Kenigsberg of the NY Times and Frank Scheck of the Hollywood Reporter, but was thrilled to read K. Austin Collins’s thorough, well researched analysis in Vanity Fair (see the link in my bio ) and Beatrice Loayza’s smart breakdown in AV Club. We all have a lot to gain from unpacking this movie, and it’s important for cultural critics to know how to guide us there. If you’re in New York, you can see it now at the AMC Magic Johnson Harlem 9. It expands to Los Angeles and other major markets on June 14th. Bring friends who like dick.🕺🏾
“45 Years” is a little indie movie about a couple who have been married for— you guessed it— forty-five years. They’re in their seventies, and the film depicts that stage of life with zero pretense, affectation or cutesiness. At one point, we see the couple having sex. It’s pretty standard for a movie sex scene — kissing and missionary intercourse — except for the extremely unusual fact that it involves two legit senior citizens. I’m trying to think of another sexually-themed movie or show about elderly people where the mere existence of their sexuality wasn’t played for laughs; nothing comes to mind. Can you think of any? This lack of representation implies that, after a certain age, the existence of desire and the pursuit of pleasure are anomalous. Yet when I polled my followers, 94% of respondents said they planned to have healthy sex lives in their later years. So perhaps it’s time to aggressively challenge that implication. * For that reason, this scene feels important; unfortunately, the sex is awful. Both characters fret over his erection, and not long after he gets one, he caves under pressure and loses it. He feels defeated, and the encounter fails miserably. She tries to console him, but he’s not having it. His body doesn’t work the way it used to, and he’s pissed. Bummer. * I think this type of scenario is what some people might envision happens a lot during senior sex, which might explain why so many younger people think older folks don’t do it. But this way of thinking about intimacy — sex = intercourse — is really narrow-minded, not to mention maddeningly heteronormative. For people with penises and their partners: A mutually pleasurable encounter doesn’t have to revolve around an erection. If only the fictional couple in this scene had gotten the memo! * Sex therapists suggest that the key to a fulfilling sex life as we age is subscribing to a different way of thinking about sex altogether: What if it isn’t just about coming? What if erotic love is a larger, greater sensory exploration? What if this couple hadn’t completely given up on an important opportunity to bond simply because he lost his boner? Share your thoughts.
I’ve noticed that in sex scenes, men are almost always taller than women. That height difference seems far more consistent in entertainment than in reality. I wondered if you’d ever made the same observation, so last week, I asked you to think of an onscreen romance in which the woman was taller than the man. The one caveat was they couldn’t be in a comedy, because their height difference might be part of a joke. About half of the respondents named the same two couples — Peeta and Katniss in The Hunger Games, and Alice and Dr. Bill in Eyes Wide Shut. A few people said The Hobbit, but I felt like that was a stretch — aren’t they a different species? I wasn’t surprised that everyone named the same few people; the list of qualifying couples is super short, no pun intended. So I guess it’s true: Another unspoken rule of heteronormative sex scenes is that the woman can never be taller than the man. You might see a couple who are the same height, like Pepper Potts and Tony Stark, but that’s as tall as most women are allowed to get onscreen. Is this rooted in the patriarchal notion that men should take up at least as much space as women, and women should take up at most as much space as men? * “Game of Thrones” has made a low-key effort to break that rule with the love story of Tyrion and Shae. (If you watch the show, pretend for a moment you don’t know how their relationship ends. 💀😭 ) Tyrion is little over four feet tall, and his love interest, a sex worker who becomes his actual girlfriend, is a woman of average height. It’s a very passionate relationship; over the course of the show’s first four seasons, we see them in several sex scenes. The scenes are kinda bro-y and mildly kinky, which is very on-brand for this show. His shorter stature doesn’t slow him down sexually, and she never brings it up. I re-watched a few of their sex scenes to see if he was ever made to seem taller, or her shorter, but the difference in height is always pretty clear. It’s easy to forget about, which is huge. * What do you think of height differences in sex scenes? Are taller women consistently written out of the script, and if yes, why?
My butt sex review got deleted! 😑 Let’s try again without the video: * Season 4 of HBO’s “Girls” started with a bang. More specifically, it started with butt sex. How’s that for an opening? (In case you didn’t catch that, I just made a butt pun. ) In this infamous scene, a straight girl gets rimmed (i.e. licked in the anus ) by her bf while bent over a kitchen sink — a highly uncommon sex act on TV, but not uncommon irl. Anal play — licking, fisting, poking, plugging, pegging and/or penetration — is taboo in polite society, but the truth is, the back door has always been open for business. This televised rimjob was disruptive for two reasons: 1 ) The characters are straight yuppies, and this sex act flies in the face of heteronormativity; 2 ) The woman is the dominant partner in a gratuitously one-way sex act. Look at their body language: He’s submissive, on his knees, and she’s not even looking at him. There’s zero shame here. The shame-o-meter has flown out the window. And while his head movements are crazy (he’s motorboating dat ass ), maybe that’s intentional. After all “Girls” is a feminist dark comedy, famous for being empowering and ridiculous (and so much more ) simultaneously. * Here’s some science: A 2009 study by the National Survey of Sexual Health (link in bio ) found only a teeny fraction of people — 25 men and 31 women out of 2,000 🤔— said they had anal sex during an average encounter, but 94% of those women and 100% of the men said it helped/made them come. *Needle scratch!* For women, that’s way above average. As someone who’s never been a fan of buttfucking, that blows my jealous mind. I wonder if by anal sex they meant 🤟🏿✊🏽👆🏼👅, or just 🍆? The researchers didn’t specify. Schmucks. * I polled y’all this week, and 65% of respondents said yes to butt stuff. That figure represents folks from across the gender & sexual orientation spectrum, though most were women. For straight men in particular (a minority of my followers ), receiving anal is still taboo, cuz homophobia. Butt sex isn’t a gay thing, bro — it’s a human thing! As one follower so eloquently put it: “Everybody’s got an asshole.” On that note, up next: The pegging scene from “Broad City”.
In the season 1 finale of Netflix’s “Sex Education”, there’s a scene where a young black gay man hooks up with the homophobic white bro who’s been bullying him at school. The sex is ambiguously consensual; the grabbing, shoving and wrestling leading up to it definitely isn’t. But when the bully pins his victim down, they look into each other’s eyes and a sexy pop song begins to play over the scene, and what started as a hate crime is neatly spun into a steamy sexual escapade. Afterwards, the bully threatens to “end” the gay man if he tells anyone (see that part + more in my Highlights. ) I’ve been thinking about this scene all week, mulling over how fucked-up it is that the beating-turned-bj is made to look hot. Purely as a fantasy, this scenario is empowering: The bully sexually submits to his target, and the victim dominates his abuser. But this scene isn’t a fantasy — it’s a pivotal plot point in a coming-of-age story marketed to teens. Do the creators of this show have any intention of unpacking all the baggage they dragged into this fictional relationship? I’m not sure they do, which seems irresponsible. So let’s unpack it ourselves. Up until this moment, the straight white cisboy has been nothing but physically and verbally abusive to his gay classmate, and his implicitly racist and homophobic behavior is ignored by the school. But instead of calling out these abuses of power for what they are, the show skirts the subject and characterizes the bully as a misunderstood bad boy. Make no mistake, the intention of this sex scene is to make him sympathetic — to elevate the white man’s pain and downplay the black man’s pain. He’s suddenly a tragic figure because he’s in the closet. The music cue, the dramatic pauses and the sad eyes are supposed to make you forget what this really is: an abusive relationship. When pop culture romanticizes intimate partner violence, like in this scene, it exacerbates an already huge problem. Most young people don’t know how to identify abuse because the signs are so easy to overlook. Here we are, watching a gay man being seduced by his abuser — and the show seems to want us to root for them. Wtf kind of “Sex Education” is that?
Is “American Pie” about incels? Check Urban Dictionary for the definition and then give this movie a watch. Released in 1999 — two decades before the term ‘incel’ was coined — this hugely successful comedy follows a familiar plot in which 4 Caucasian high-school boys make a pact to lose their Vs before they graduate. “It has to be valid, consensual sex,” says one of the boys, which is a weird thing to have to say out loud. (Was he worried his friends thought rape was an option? ) Their desperation is painful, but no matter how toxic their behavior gets, the boys are portrayed as hapless goofballs whose antics shouldn’t be taken seriously. Like when they secretly film a girl undressing and broadcast it to their school — they’re just being silly! Their immunity is rooted in their privilege as white, college-bound, Lacrosse-playing suburban kids. To learn more about this type, google “young Brett Kavanaugh.” . Halfway through the movie, one of the incels decides to use cunnilingus as a tactic to convince his girlfriend to have sex. He calls his brother for advice, and his brother passes him a notebook of sex tips written by other boys at his high school. On page 1, there are illustrations of vibrators with the words “THE ENEMY” scrawled in the margin; next is a section devoted to an oral sex technique called “The Tongue Tornado”, which the incel uses on his girlfriend. As he goes down on her, he stops to look down at the instructions in the book; he never asks her what she’s feeling, and she never offers her own instructions. Relying exclusively on sex tips from other incels, he masters the technique the first time he tries it, and she comes. Is it good that there’s a cunnilingus scene in “American Pie”? Yes and no. It’s important to place equal significance on women’s pleasure in sex scenes. But his motivations are shady — he only gives to get. And why won’t he just talk to his girlfriend about her pleasure? He has no problem repeatedly asking her for sex, but the subject of her orgasm is taboo. He makes her come, but he’s still a misogynist. At the end of the movie, all the incels “get lucky”, which Hollywood considers a happy ending. Tragic.
No caption necessary. 🙌🏼
Last week, I posted a review of “Blue Is The Warmest Color”, not realizing there was already a debate about these sex scenes in the lesbian community. Many of you were kind enough to educate me about it. Thank you. With that in mind, I’d like to revisit this movie, and hopefully add something to the conversation this time. Let’s start with some stats. In 2014, researchers Garcia, Lloyd, Wallen & Fisher asked 1,353 American women how often they came during sex. The average was 61.6% for straight women, 58% for bi women (?! ), and 74.4% for gay women. Why are lesbians having better sex than other women? According to research: 1 ) Lesbian encounters tend to last longer; 2 ) More oral sex is involved; 3 ) Unlike lesbians, straight women don’t expect to have orgasms with their partners. Womp, womp. Have fun unpacking that. So here we have “Blue Is The Warmest Color”, an award-winning, three-hour film adaptation of a classic graphic novel that falls into the queer lit category. The movie was directed by a straight man who cast straight women to play lesbians, and the sex scenes are unusually long and graphic. Are straight men qualified to direct lesbian sex scenes? Keep in mind they don’t even get straight sex right — see my other reviews. So then, is this appropriation? As some of you mentioned in the comments of my last post, many gay women, including the book’s author, called out these sex scenes for looking like heterolesbian jackrabbit fantasy sequences. The film’s depiction of scissoring was deemed especially problematic: It’s a sex act often found in porn made mostly by and for straight men, but less often (maybe never? ) experienced in actual lesbian encounters. Tribbing, which is often confused with scissoring, seems more common in reality and more likely to feel pleasurable, but I couldn’t find any data on this subject (aside from your responses to the poll in my story last week. ) What do you think: Is scissoring the Loch Ness Monster of sex acts? 🦕 In conclusion, gay women seem to be #woke in a way that straight women aren’t. So heteros, if you’re ever wondering where the sometimes vague footprint of male gaze begins and ends, ask a lesbian.
🚨⚠️ TRIGGER WARNING ⚠️🚨 Last week, we watched a cringey but important sex scene from “Insecure” and discussed (among other things ) how not to compromise the basic dignity of your sexual partner(s ). (That should always be the priority, even more than coming, and even in kinky/BDSM scenarios. ) This week, let’s take a look at another sadly relatable, cringey-but-important sex scene from the series “Girls.” We open on a couple having missionary sex. He’s thrusting fast, and she’s waiting for it to start feeling good, but he’s too focused on himself to care about her comfort or pleasure. To her surprise, he gets freaky. Here’s a list of shit he then does to her without asking: -Roleplays a child rape fantasy -Tosses her legs around like she’s a mannequin -Squeezes her throat in a chokehold -Acts like a dom -Cockblocks her clit -Smashes her face into the bed -Takes off the condom so he can ejaculate on her skin -Asks her where she wants him to ejaculate as he’s ejaculating, which isn’t actually a choice He makes every single decision without her, leaving no space for her desire — but she never complains. And when it’s over she meekly whispers, as if to convince herself, “That was so good. I almost came.” Is that supposed to be a punchline? So he should rot in hell, obviously. But dammit, why doesn’t she speak up for herself? Has she, like so many of us, been brainwashed by a culture that puts men’s pleasure before women’s dignity? Is that why she says the sex was good when it plainly wasn’t: to please the man who came without her? In the book “Faking It”, former Fleshbot CEO Lux Alptraum studies how, when and why people lie about sex. According to her research, people fake orgasms in order to live up to both their partner’s and society’s expectations. (In other words, to please The Man. 🤔 ) And in the absence of comprehensive sex ed, expectations often go unchecked — and then we find ourselves in bed with people who think good sex is what they’ve seen in porn. Like the guy in this scene who thinks he’s James Deen. We need to do better, people. What would you call this: bad sex or assault? Is that question a matter of opinion? Please share your POV. 🙏🏼
In season 2 of HBO’s award-winning series “Insecure”, one of the show’s central characters, Lawrence, has a threesome with two women he meets at a grocery store. He’s black; they’re not. During sex, one of them moans, “Your black cock feels so good in my white pussy.” After he orgasms, the other woman criticizes him for losing his erection, saying, “We’ve been with a bunch of black guys who could come and keep going.” Oblivious to his humiliation, the women fondly reminisce about a former lover named LaMarcus as they get dressed. End of scene, and YIKES. Where do we begin unpacking? To be clear: It’s not okay to bring up your BBC fetish (etc ) mid-coitis. Whether or not your partner checks you — in this case he doesn’t because he’s blindsided by their comments — is beside the point. To eroticize your partner’s race in any context, be it hardcore effin’ or mild flirtation, is to objectify them and to stress a sense of otherness. Operate on the assumption that no one likes to feel objectified, especially during sex. This should be taught in sex ed. 🗣🗣🗣 Unless explicit plans are laid out and permission is granted beforehand —“This is the fucked-up fantasy we’re agreeing to act out, and this is the fucked-up shit we’re gonna say to each other” — don’t go there. These ladies knew exactly what they were doing when they picked him up at the market (a loaded analogy ), but he had no idea. Their behavior was predatory. Why did they think it was okay? Are these loosely fictional ladies taking cues from racially themed porn? If, like these ladies, you have a taboo or otherwise problematic sexual fantasy that you want to act out, what do you do? Same thing as always: Find a consenting adult. Author and speaker Mollena Williams has written extensively about her own experiences as a woman of color in the BDSM community, and her book “Playing With Taboo” details how one might engage in what’s called “race play” in an ethical manner. It can be an uncomfortable read, so consume with caution, but it exists for a reason. On a totally separate note, if you’re having sex and your partner loses their erection, just use digits or a dildo instead. Don’t be a dick about it.
Yesterday I posted my review of a sex scene from Oliver Stone’s “Savages”, a movie about the misadventures of a polyamorous woman named “O” and her two naughty drug-dealing boyfriends. That scene, featuring O and boyfriend number 1 (aka Bae 1 ), was so bananas that Instagram deleted it. (I re-posted the review without the video, so you can still read it. ) Hopefully I’ll have better luck with the second sex scene from “Savages”, which features O and Bae 2. These two scenes are supposed to emphasize the differences between her lovers, but they bear telling similarities. Intercourse is the only sex act in both encounters. Again, we see him push himself inside her — but Bae 2 penetrates her gently whereas Bae 1 was an angry grumblethruster. Again, she narrates the scene in a disembodied voiceover but is wordless during the sex, as if she’s more of a passive observer than an active participant. They seem to climax simultaneously, and then they breathlessly collapse, landing smack-dab in the good lighting. Love it when that happens. The takeaway: Bae 2 is way nicer, but both boyfriends are ten-pump Charlies. Again I ask, did O have an O? To recap: Studies show that plain old intercourse is not the most pleasurable sex act for most people with vulvas. Some love it; some act like they love it out of a sense of duty; and some are like, “Meh, next.” So either O genuinely loves cockinpuss, or she genuinely loves to fake it. Both are plausible. Her bean goes untouched and unacknowledged, which is an unsurprising yet significant oversight — but it’s possible she’s part of the relative minority of women who don’t like or need clit stimulation. And as for that sudden simultaneous orgasm: Some couples can do it, though to make it happen consistently takes practice and intense compatibility. So while this is basically unicorn sex, I feel more optimistic about the odds of O’s O in this scene. But the problem remains: Sex scenes glorify intercourse alone, as if that one act defines pleasure. The question isn’t whether or not there’s a woman out there somewhere who’d come from the limited action we’re shown; it’s why a formula that fails most of us has become the standard.
About a month ago, I posted a review of the sex scene from “Snowden”, a movie by writer/director Oliver Stone. I said that it was an especially dumb and gratuitous depiction of intercourse-only sex, and that it made my clit shrivel with sadness. Mr. Stone is a repeat sex scene offender: Watch the opening scene from his movie “Savages.” We see the main character, a young polyamorous woman named “O”, in the midst of intercourse with one of her boyfriends. They’re in a missionary-ish position, and we watch his peachy ass bounce as he pounds her vulva. She narrates the scene in a vivid voiceover but is utterly passive as he punishfucks her. She seems like more of an observer than an active participant; it’s as if her voice is disconnected from her body, and she’s watching the sex more than she’s feeling it. (Many feminist writers, most notably Peggy Ornstein, have explored the disconnect between looking sexy and feeling sexy — this is that. ) The pounding goes on and on, shown to us from several angles, like in porn. They never change positions, and they never say a word to each other — it’s 100% grumblethrusting. He seems to have a “wargasm” (listen to the VO ) — though it’s hard to tell, because he just stops and rolls off of her — and then the sex is over. Alrighty then. Did O have an O? Let’s dissect. Studies show that plain old intercourse is not the most pleasurable sex act for most people with vulvas. Some love it, and some act like they love it out of a sense of obligation. Some are like, “Meh, next.” This one position doesn’t seem conducive to g-spot stimulation, but it’s foolish to make generalizations about the g-spot because vaginas are quite random. Her poor clit, smushed beneath his pelvis, appears to get no direct stimulation. And after he wargasms (? ), he doesn’t ask her if she’s finished, and she just kinda peels herself off on the couch. I feel like she wasn’t done, right? “O” is for oversight! Or, more likely, Oliver Stone (like most directors ) simply doesn’t care about whether or not women would O from the sex in his sex scene, because it’s his fucking fantasy. I’ll post another silly romp from this shitshow of a movie tomorrow.
This is the last sex scene I’ll post from “Superbad.” A sex-obsessed nerd charms the pants off of a girl he meets at a house party, and they end up in a bedroom together. He lays there passively as she grinds on him and sucks on his fingers. She stops as soon as he announces he has a boner, which suggests the sole purpose of foreplay was to make his penis hard. She asks him if he has a condom, never requesting he kiss, touch, rub or otherwise stimulate her in return. The young stud 😑 makes no effort to reciprocate; instead, he offers her K-Y, because it’s the quickest and easiest way to make her vagina wet. I suppose this scene deserves credit for the shout-out to lube and safe sex — most sex scenes seem to exist in an alternate reality where neither of those things need to be considered. But that’s about the only good thing I can say. Like almost every other straight sex scene, this reinforces the belief that intercourse is the Holy Grail of sex acts. For people with penises (like the writers, producers and director of this movie ), that may be true; but according to Dr. Sheryl A. Kingsberg, Chief of Behavioral Medicine at University Hospitals of Cleveland: “The majority of people with vulvas — 70% — are not reliably orgasmic from penetrative sex, especially when the man is positioned on top.” Translation: Missionary sex = super bad! From Psychology Today: “Only one-quarter of women reliably experience orgasm during intercourse, no matter how long it lasts, no matter what size the man's penis, and no matter how the woman feels about the man or the relationship. This statistic comes not from just one study, but from a comprehensive analysis of 33 studies over the past 80 years by Elisabeth Lloyd in her fascinating book The Case of the Female Orgasm.” And from FiveThirtyEight’s excellent study of sex (link in bio ): “The more sex acts that were performed during their last encounter, the higher the probability that respondents had climaxed. By the time they experienced five sex acts in one session, both men and women said they’d orgasmed more than 89% of the time.” That last statistic is super. This sex scene is not. 🤓💩
Menstruation is stigmatized all over the world. In some places, people with vulvas are forced to leave school, forbidden to work and even shut out of their homes when they get their periods. Those are extreme examples. For many of us, period stigmatization looks more like this scene from “Superbad.” Because we’re taught menstruation is nasty, this situation is every person with a vulva’s worst nightmare. Yes it’s bad that this young man came into contact with another person’s blood, but that’s not why these guys are so disgusted; their repulsion is due to the outdated, ignorant, misogynistic superstition that associates menstruation with being “unclean.” Meanwhile, the entire plot of this movie is driven by this dude’s obsession with pussy. A note to straight people with penises: This is literally what you get for being attracted to vulvas. Menstruation is part of the deal. Grow the fuck up. It should come as no surprise when a person with a vulva gets a period, because that’s what vaginas do — they expel junk from our uteruses, like endometrium, expired placentas and squishy little babies. They’re not Tenga Eggs, bro — they’re part of an intricate system of vital organs that serves a much higher purpose than gripping your basic, curly-haired boner. In addition to that, they also secrete untold amounts of ooey, gooey, sometimes chunky cervical mucus, often for reasons that have nothing to do with being aroused. Our panties are splatter-painted and crudely stained with all kinds of awesomely freaky bodily fluids. It’s as if Jackson Pollock lives in my underwear drawer! The moral of the story: If your knowledge of human genitals is exclusively erotic, you’re literally an idiot. End of rant! Phew. One more reason to destigmatize menstruation: period sex! It’s normal, can be satisfying for both partners and doesn’t have to be messy at all. The only time menstruation should freak anyone out is when someone 𝙙𝙤𝙚𝙨𝙣’𝙩 get their period — only then is one entitled to call all their friends and/or run around screaming.
“Superbad” is a classic teen comedy about two young straight guys chasing girls and sex. One of the most memorable quotes from the film is, “You know when a girl's like 'Oh God, I got so shitfaced last night. I shouldn't have fucked that guy!' We can be that mistake!” 😐 As the guys pursue 🐈 over the course of a debaucherous weekend, they find themselves in some cringey sexual situations. Though they’re immature, they’re not awful, so nobody gets assaulted; in fact some of the cringey scenarios are surprisingly nuanced. This is the first of three I’ll post. Here we see one of the guys hooking up with his crush at a party. They’re both really drunk, especially her. She says “I’m wet” (the existence of vaginial fluids is usually never acknowledged in sex scenes, so this movie gets five points just for that mention ) and she offers him a beej. At no point does she talk about her own pleasure — she just offers him the usual, not unlike a waitress. He’s clearly uncomfortable, because he knows she’s shitfaced. She explicitly and enthusiastically consents to intercourse, but he’s not into it. She emasculates him for rejecting her, calling him “a little bitch,” which is painfully sexist and insulting to both of them. I see three important ideas here: 1 ) Young women are conditioned to believe that sex is about what dudes want, which can be confusing to young men who aren’t entitled assholes; 2 ) It’s immoral to have sex with a person who’s really drunk, even if they say they want it; 3 ) The adage “men think with their penises” is total bullshit. That second idea is the most in need of further discussion. I read about a study (link in bio ) where college students were asked if an intoxicated person should be considered capable of consenting to sex; the consensus was yes. Then they were asked, if a shitfaced person gives away their car, should the sale be considered legit? The consensus was no. Not a perfect analogy, but it gets the gears turning! If this couple had sex, and one or both of them felt terrible about it upon sobering up, would it be assault? What if the roles were reversed, and he called her a bitch for saying no? When is drunk sex objectively wrong?
In the episode “Chapter 47” of the popular sitcom “Jane the Virgin”, there are four smart and funny sex scenes, plus lots of great dialogue about virginity, orgasms, porn and more. This is the second sex scene I want to share (I posted the other one yesterday. ) Here we see Jane confront her husband while he watches porn alone in their bedroom. She notices the sexy video he’s watching is one they made, and he tells her he’s reviewing it to figure out what went wrong, because he knows she faked her O. The sexy video prompts a dialogue between them, and they watch it together, talking about every moment. They both get really aroused as they watch themselves having sex, so they have sex again, and this time it’s great for both of them. For a one-minute scene, this checks A LOT of boxes. ✅ Let’s start with the biggest topic it tackles: porn. According to a 2013 study published in “The Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy”, couples who are honest with each other about their porn-viewing habits are statistically significantly happier. And sexy visual aides — whether homemade or outsourced from places like Pornhub or XConfessions — can help couples connect, as long as both people are open to it. Newsflash: X-rated videos aren’t just for single dudes — even though that’s the only demographic the cockamamie mainstream porn industry wants to serve. Pendejo! And then there’s the very interesting fact that Jane and her husband feel pleasure from watching their own homemade sex tape. This is straight-up kinky, and very relatable for the large percentage of adults who get off on voyeurism and exhibitionism. (Like me. Hi. 🤸♀️ ) I don’t know how this show made a sex tape seem innocent, but I. Am. Here. For. It. 💯 Now excuse me while I take some nude selfies and post them on Reddit.
In the episode “Chapter 47” of the popular sitcom “Jane the Virgin”, there are four smart and funny sex scenes, plus lots of great dialogue about virginity, orgasms, porn and more. I haven’t seen much of this series, but this episode was impressive! This is the first of two sex scenes I want to share. Here we see Jane, who just had intercourse for the first time ever, reveal to her husband that she faked her O. She felt a lot of pressure to act like she liked it; after all, she’d been waiting for that moment for forty-seven episodes. They try having sex again, and this time he goes down on her first. But Jane has performance anxiety, so it doesn’t work. The scene ends with them lying in bed side by side, feeling like shit. Raise your hand if you’ve been there. 🙋🏼♀️ We rarely talk about women having performance anxiety in the bedroom—there’s no obvious sign of it happening, unlike men who can lose their erections—but it’s common. Sometimes it stems from the pressure we put on ourselves and/or put upon us by our partners to enjoy certain sex acts that are perceived to be important, that have more cachet. The pleasure that does or doesn’t result from a particular sex act may be tangled up with WHY we’re doing it: Do we want to, or do we feel like we have to? Do we like it, or do we feel like we have to like it? To Jane’s credit, she tells him she faked it, and they address the issue together. It’s awkward, but they try. This is a great depiction of communication between sexual partners. Now let’s switch gears for a moment and talk about race in sex scenes: Have you ever noticed the guy is usually white? White people in general dominate sex scenes, but white men are particularly prevalent. “Jane The Virgin” is one example. The show is centered on a woman of color and her family and was inspired by Mexican soap operas, but her one and only sexual partner is a blond, blue-eyed cherub. Should this interracial relationship be viewed as a sign of cultural progress in an increasingly tolerant America, or was a white man inserted into the show, specifically in the role of Jane’s deflowerer, to make the series more palatable to the American patriarchy? What do you think?
Why was there a sex scene in “Snowden”, the biopic about the lanky, bespectacled NSA whistleblower? I’m pretty sure this movie was supposed to be about national security, government infringement and the ethics of counterterrorism. What did showing him fuck accomplish? In the sex scene, the main character’s girlfriend beckons him to bed after a long, hard day of treason and, with zero foreplay or additional stimulation of any kind, she mounts him for some good ol’ fashioned intercourse. This is just 👏🏼 so 👏🏼 Hollywood 👏🏼. First of all — as we should all know by now — most people with vulvas don’t come from just cockinpuss. Only from around 30% to under 10% do, depending on which study you read. So though what you see here is very standard for a sex scene, it’s what most vulva-owners would call bad sex. (Again, not all, but most. ) And what about lubrication? And did he really get hard from like 8 seconds of kissing? And most of all, why tf is there even a sex scene in this movie? . Perhaps it’s because real-life Edward Snowden’s girlfriend, Lyndsey Mills, has worked as a pole-dancing instructor; thus in Hollywood’s eyes she’s a sex object. Perhaps it’s also because the director, Oliver Stone, is the kind of guy who’d stick up for Harvey Weinstein. (Google it. ) Stone’s been around for decades, winning Oscars, mentoring bros and making women feel gross. (His movie “Savages” is particularly crazy. I’ll post my review soon. ) He’s a paragon of a culture where cock is king and clit is invisible, where men are heroes and women are helpers at best. The more I type the words “Oliver Stone”, the more my clitoris retracts into my lower abdomen, where it may remain in hiding for weeks, maybe years. For the sake of vulvas everywhere, this AARP member should not be allowed to direct any more sex scenes. My favorite part of this one is when Snowden, naked and bathed in moonlight, gazes at his open laptop, fearing the government is watching through the camera. Personally I’d rather be filmed having sex by the NSA than by Oliver Stone. Shield your bean as you view his movies, lest it shrivel permanently into your nether regions, never to twitch again.
“Love Jones”, a much-loved classic from 1997, is a sexy, smart and culturally significant romance about a casual relationship (they’re more official than a booty call but less official than a couple ) that eventually turns into something very serious. It’s set in Chicago, features an almost all-black cast and has a soulful, jazzy soundtrack. Twenty years after its release, the dating game has changed dramatically, yet this love story is still relatable — and aspirational. According to The National Marriage Project, 32% of recently married straight couples said their relationship started with a hookup, proving that some people are capable of committing incrementally. (The study goes on to say those marriages tend to be “lower quality” without ever defining what that means. I’m so tempted to roll my eyes at this because I suspect this project has a traditionalist agenda, but it’s worth a read. 🤷🏼♀️ ) So now I wanna know: If one-third of modern marriages started as hookups, how often do first-time hookups end in orgasms? That seems to depend on a few different factors: 1 ) what goes down, so to speak, during the hookup, 2 ) anatomy and 3 ) sexism. In 2009, researchers Elizabeth Armstrong, Paula England and Alison Fogarty conducted an online study of 12,000 undergraduates and found that in first-time hookups, 31% of men and 10% of women reached orgasm. Clearly most of those hookups didn’t involve genital stimulation (hence the majority never climaxed ), but when they did, women came one-third as often as men. 32%. An interesting coincidence. Could there be a correlation between first-time hookups that result in orgasms for both people, and hookups that result in marriages? It’s a valid question, I think. 🧐 Now back to this sex scene. These people are not undergraduates. They’re grown. Their chemistry is off the charts. And this looks like good, grown-up sex: No one is pantomiming O-face or growling like an underpaid porn star. Their bodies are in sync, they go slow, they go north, they go south, he’s on top, she’s on top, and then he makes her a cheese omelette in the morning-after scene. For a first date, that’s pretty damn delicious. They’re the 32%. 🧀🍳🖤
“The Golden Girls” is hands down my favorite TV show ever. #🐐 30+ years after it first aired in 1985, it still pushes boundaries in regards to sex. In pop culture, older women are either matrons or MILFs; they’re either invisible to the male gaze, or they’re reduced to objects of Oedipal desire. (Perhaps it’s a re-packaging of the virgin and the whore trope? ) #TheGoldenGirls existed in utter defiance of the male gaze — and on syndicated TV, no less. That’s an alarming feat. The four leads were undeniably matronly, smart, funny, sexually vibrant and sexually active senior citizens — even octogenarian Sophia Petrillo, and especially notoriously horny Blanche Devereaux. If these ladies weren’t talking about sex, they were having sex, and it was unabashedly geriatric in nature. It often seemed like the girls were still discovering themselves as sexual beings — sometimes their capacity for desire took even them by surprise. And though they never dove into too many details, there were moments like this one when they alluded to the complexities of arousal and pleasure in a way that merits further discussion. In this scene (from S1 E22 ), the Golden Girls talk about whether or not they came when they first had sex. One of the girls did, and the other two didn’t. That’s a slightly rosier picture than the one in ten statistic from a survey published by researchers Raboch & Bartak in 1983 (just three years before this episode aired. ) However, if the Golden Girls were nearing their sixties in 1990, their first sexual experiences would’ve presumably been in the late 1940s. Though fiction, this seems to imply that the odds of a ciswoman having an O with her first sexual partner hadn’t improved much over time — specifically a period that included a supposed “sexual revolution.” Each generation credits itself with being less prude and more sexually liberated than the last, yet the Golden Girls and scientific data make me wonder... Are straight cis girls any more sexually satisfied now than they were during the Truman administration? 💀 Poor Blanche Devereaux is rolling in her grave. Are there more studies on pleasure during first sex with a partner? My curiosity is piqued.
(1/2 ) “The Sessions” flew under the radar when it came out a few years ago, so you may have missed it. But man, it has some seriously interesting sex scenes. It’s about the relationship between a sex surrogate — a part sex worker, part occupational therapist serving patients/clients with clinical sexual problems — and a severely physically disabled man who wants to know what pleasure feels like. She offers him six sessions with the goal of educating him so he’s prepared for romantic relationships with able-bodied people. What you see here is session 1, and earlier today I posted session 3. (This movie’s so good, I couldn’t pick just one scene. ) First of all, this is a great representation of yes-means-yes sex. It might seem like she’s over-communicating with him — in a different context, this might be too much talking — but as a first encounter, this sets a great precedent. Imagine if we were all taught to have sex this way; if we could all afford the privilege of learning about sexuality, arousal and pleasure through therapy sessions with a sex worker who’s a licensed sex educator. (If I were queen, I’d make insurance cover the cost. ) This scenario is an ideal way to lose one’s V, because learning comes with doing. (Yes, that pun is intentional. ) Another reason this movie is great is the way sex work is depicted as a respectable — you might even say noble — calling pursued by a totally normal, healthy person. Sex work is typically seen as an inherently tragic fate that befalls only the broken and the lost, and sex workers are objects of scorn or, at best, pity. (Google “hooker with a heart of gold” to swandive into sex worker tropes in pop culture. ) But here we see a breadwinner and mother who is happily married and drives shamelessly to her appointments in a wood-paneled station wagon. Go mom! And last but not least, the main storyline is about the sexual awakening of a person with physical disabilities, representing a demographic usually rendered asexual in pop culture. Not only does he have a healthy sexual appetite — he’s also a good lover, as you can see in the other clip I posted. This movie shatters all kinds of stereotypes. 🏆
(2/2 ) “The Sessions” is about the relationship between a sex surrogate (she’s part sex worker, part occupational therapist serving patients/clients with clinical sexual problems ) and a severely physically disabled man who wants to know what pleasure feels like. In their “therapy sessions”, she teaches him how to be a good lover. What you see here is one of their sessions — check out my other post for another great scene from this movie and a full review. (There are so many good sex scenes in this film, I couldn’t post just one. ) 🏆
According to several legit studies — from The Hite Report in 1976 to Cosmo’s Orgasm Survey in 2015 — between 70-80% of people with vulvas need some form of clitoral stimulation, be it manual 🤟🏽, oral 👅or battery-operated🔋, to have an orgasm. (Many consider the g-spot to be a part of the clitoris, so we’re not necessarily just talking about external stimulation here. ) Only 15% of vulva owners come from plain ol’ p-in-v sex — meaning without the help of fingers, tongues and/or toys. So if sex scenes had any interest at all in accurately portraying how most people with vulvas feel pleasure, they would look a lot more like this romp-in-a-cave from “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” Ignore the part where she stabs him in the chest with an arrowhead (although lots of folks find pain erotic; see my posts on “Secretary” and “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” ) and focus on his hand down her pants. Siiiiiigh. I’m reminded of that old Christina Aguilera song that goes, “If you wanna be with me / Baby there’s a price to pay / I'm a genie in a bottle / You gotta rub me the right way.” Though corny af, those lyrics are scientifically sound. The famous researcher Alfred Kinsey found that women reach orgasm over 90% of the time from masturbation, which most often includes genital petting. Another study published by the American Sociological Review reported that women are over 25% likelier to orgasm during hookups when clit rubbing is involved. The clitoris is so talented! So stealthy! So powerful! In fact the phrase “Crouching tiger, hidden dragon” is an ancient Chinese idiom for the clitoral orgasm. (I just made that up, but it seems possible. ) There’s also lots of cool martial arts and trickery in this movie, but honestly this scene is the only thing I need to see. #oscarworthy🧞♀️🐅🐉👋🏼🤤
When it comes to misrepresenting sexual pleasure, teen soap operas are some of the worst offenders. But this scene from the seventh episode of “My So-Called Life” has always stood out in my mind as one of the most nuanced I’ve ever seen in a show about young people. We see two sexually active teenage girls — one compulsive, the other conservative — open up to each other about their experiences not just with sex, but more specifically with the complexities of arousal and pleasure. This scene contains so many insights about what discovering sex can really be like for people with vulvas — it probably helped that the person who wrote this episode has one — and this degree of “realness” is nearly impossible to find in other shows. I can’t imagine Serena and Blair having this convo, or Betty and Veronica, or the Kardashian sisters — or did I miss that episode? Between hypersexualized high school dramas and abstinence-only education, young women have nowhere to go to reliably learn about the nuances of sex, sexuality and pleasure. As a result, the orgasm gap (Google that if you’ve never heard of it ) starts the moment we lose our v-cards: A study from 1983 found that only 10% of straight girls had orgasms the first time they had sex. 1983 was a long time ago (and a full decade before MSCL even aired ), but if as many as 90% of straight girls walk away from their first sexual encounters without climaxing, it kind of makes you scratch your head when you think of how the sex lives of young adults are typically romanticized by Hollywood. That shit is beyond aspirational. “My So-Called Life” was different, and you can see why from just this scene. These girls have no idea what they’re doing. They don’t have the right information. The blind are leading the blind; they’re either lucky or unlucky. This was the truth in the 80s, in the 90s, and it still is now. And as usual, we can do better.
This clip is from a movie called “Secretary”, about a young woman’s sexual awakening as a sub. (For anyone not familiar with that term, a sub is a sexually submissive person. ) It’s an interesting movie to watch in the #metoo era — the dom (sexually dominant person ) that awakens her inner kinkster is her boss, and they have multiple BDSM trysts in his office — but we’ll save that conversation for another day. For now I just want to talk about the sex scenes, which are some of the most compelling I’ve ever watched. There’s an impressive range of tastefully shot sex acts, from masturbation to partner sex to kinky sex to married sex, and it all feels informed by real-life d/s (dom/sub ) encounters and relationship dynamics. The existence of the clitoris is generously acknowledged, so that’s 1,000,000 points right there. But where this film really shines is in its tenderness and nuance. In our culture, kink is associated with perversion, sexual deviance and mental illness; at the same time, the sexual domination of women by men is constantly and stupidly glamorized. Whether you’re vanilla or not, the line between good sexually dominant behavior and toxic sexually dominant behavior needs to be clearly drawn where everyone can see it. As far as I can tell, that line has never been where it should be. Sexual submission is just as misunderstood. There’s so little opportunity to publicly discuss all the ways people can feel sexually empowered — for many people, sexual submission (in the context of consent ) is deeply satisfying. This movie shows us how a struggling woman can become a healthy, thriving, independent person because of her relationship with a dom. It also shows us how shame can fuck up people’s lives. Fuck shame. Kinky sex is the best. This movie is gold.
A friend told me she was so preoccupied with sucking in her stomach during sex that she couldn’t focus enough to orgasm. What stood in the way of her pleasure was, directly and indirectly, thousands of hours of pop culture programming that had totally undermined her sexuality. On that note, let’s talk about this quick but important love scene from the sixth episode of the second season of “Empire”. Over 11 million people saw this when it aired, and some of them had very strong opinions about it. What’s the deal? As far as loves scenes go it’s pretty mild, especially for this series. It’s not even really a sex scene, because we’re told more than we’re shown. No, what made this brief moment historic was (*cue the confetti cannon* ) an unapologetically fat woman was depicted as desirable on primetime television. 🎇🎊🎉💥 So simple. So innocent. So forbidden by our culture. How often do we see women with bellies that stick out in sex scenes? Stretch marks, cellulite, multiple rolls around their middles? What about women who are undeniably fat? The first few names that come to mind are comedians — I think it says a lot about pop culture that those women have to be put in the context of comedy in order to be recognized by the alpha bros of Hollywood as girlfriend material. But in the forty five seconds you see here, nothing is played for laughs. It’s just a typical love scene that happens to involve a plus-size person. You know, like normal sex. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not suggesting thicker women aren’t aggressively fetishized (that’s a different conversation ), or that more body types should be sexually objectified at greater length. In fact, the best thing about this scene is that she’s NOT objectified. No extra attention is given to her shape; her lover doesn’t comment on her figure, and neither does she. She’s depicted as a human being, and not as a body type. If this wasn’t news, and if there were more scenes like this, we would all be so much better off.
This clip from “Hard Knock Wife”, Ali Wong’s excellent Netflix comedy special, makes me laugh everrry time (c’mon Ellllliot✌🏽 ) in spite of the fact that what she’s joking about really ain’t funny AT ALL — cuz it’s true. Feminist author Peggy Ornstein talks a lot about young women and one-way pleasure in her depressing but incredibly relevant book “Girls and Sex”. In it, she interviews a bunch of high-school girls about their sex lives and finds that a disturbingly high number of them — including the hardcore feminists — blindly prioritize men’s orgasms over their own. And as for oral sex, they feel deeply obligated to go down but balk at the notion of asking for the same. Few of them recognize how objectively sexist and fucked-up that is. Researchers April Burns, Valerie Futch and Deborah Tolman did their own study on the same subject, and they found that teenage girls consider being good at fellatio a KPI of their sexual maturity and self-worth — moreso than feeling pleasure themselves. In their report they wrote, “The physical sexual satisfaction was his alone. Her pleasure was in a job done well, and correctly. The performance standards they try to attain are “other” person based — girls learn to maintain others and relationships at the expense of themselves.” When and where do girls learn to place a higher premium on learning how to give head than they do on learning how to have an orgasm? How can anyone claim that abstinence education works, or that sexism isn’t rampant and insidious, when this is the norm? What can we do to make sex not completely suck for so many young women?
Sex scenes that accurately depict how most women really orgasm are kinda hard to find. But informed and nuanced representations of sexual pleasure featuring women of color are even more scarce. While steamy romances starring non-white actors and actresses certainly exist, these movies are sometimes treated like a separate category, even when the plot is straight-up formulaic. Also Hollywood doesn’t make as many of them, and fewer sex scenes means fewer opportunities to represent the spectrum of human sexuality. Think of it as white cock supremacy — to our universal detriment, one very specific demographic seems to control most of the cultural narrative about sex, and the consequences of their domination are vast and complicated. This is just one of the reasons the Netflix series “Dear White People” is a must-watch. While the show might not be as culturally disruptive as “Orange Is The New Black”, “Girls” or “Insecure”, it takes a very respectable swing at the white cock narrative — like in the fourth episode of season one, when we see Troy going down on Coco. To show cunnilingus in this context seems like a really big deal — I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I can’t think of any other sex scenes where a black woman is shown receiving oral sex from a black man. Can you? Dear white people, please make room for more of this.