Bedroom Insider

A blog about relationships, intimacy and sex toys.


Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Why Does Sex Look So Fake In Media

Close up side profile photo of two people in love pair sitting

When was the last time you saw sex seen in the movies that looked anything at all like real sex? Have you laughed or cringed or wondered why exactly sex looks that way and who are having sex like that? Perhaps you've felt disappointing or shame because the sexual experiences you've had don't match up with what you expect due to how sex is portrayed on screen. There's a reason why sex doesn't look realistic in media.

What Looks Good May Be Fake


First, remember that everything you see and hear on screen has to keep your interest. It doesn't need to look real as much as it needs to look interesting. So while your body can wind up contorted in ways that aren't exactly attractive when you actually have sex, you wouldn't see that in a steamy sex scene in a movie. The same goes for sounds, which may not always be so appetizing.

Movies and TV shows get away with this in part because sex scenes are short. At most, we see a few seconds of the action. It's a highlight reel. You can imagine that things such as consent, awkward position changes, and the application of lube are happening behind the scenes. But those things are boring, and viewers want to see the good stuff. At the very least, we've been trained to want to see those things and not the weird reality of sex.

But just because sex scenes may be short doesn't mean they don't involve a ton of production. Makeup, bodily enhancements, lingerie, specially-cut sheets and blankets, sexy lighting, and creative camera shots help to create all those steamy moments on film. That's not considering everything that's done after the initial filming including editing the visuals and adding music.

Of course, there isn't any sexy music playing when these scenes are being shot. There are, however, dozens of people watching actors in various states of undress as they attempt to simulate sex without making too much contact with another actor's body or revealing their own. Cameras, body parts, and blankets are arranged strategically to hide that actors are, in fact, not naked at all. Those simultaneous screaming orgasms are faked because that's what an actor does. No one has to rush to the bathroom to clean up dripping cum or fight over who sleeps in the wet spot on the bed because the scene has already ended. How can sex look real when it's imitation like any other thing we watch?

Shortcuts Save Time But Miss Details


Secondly, sex on the screen follows a script, and we're not just talking about the script that actors follow. There's a sexual script that people tend to follow on-screen and off. It goes a little something like this when we're talking about straight, cis-gendered folks: flirt, kiss, grope, remove some or all clothing, “foreplay,” penetration, man's orgasm.

These sexual scripts more often than not focus on penetration as the main course. Not only does this too often overlook a woman's sexual pleasure, but it suggests that a man's worth equates to the performance of his penis. Of course, the couple is always ready to go physically and mentally. It just wouldn't look good any other way.

To be fair, movies and shows frequently rely on shortcuts. We know that one character is the hero because they're wearing white and another is a villain because they're bedecked in dark colors. We expect that some things will appear a certain way because it helps us to understand what's going on. Our brains take shortcuts and fill in information all the time to be more efficient and to help make sense of the world. In some ways, it only makes sense that the media we create would do the same.

But seeing those same scripts repeated time and again if we're not occasionally reminded that this is just one way for sex to look and that every person can define sex individually can enforce a narrow depiction of sex. We can – and should – create our own scripts or feel free to ditch the script altogether. Sex can be much more varied than what appears in movies or on TV, which rarely shows couples of average appearance or disabled people enjoying sex.

Sexual scripts might be a bit more creative with other arrangements (two women, group sex, et cetera), but you might be surprised to realize how that sex walks the “straight” and narrow as well. We haven't even gotten into porn, in which sexual acts are often filmed from the (straight) man's point of view. POV porn is a popular segment of the porn market, perhaps because so much content caters to men, what they want to see, and how they see the world.

Question The Media You Consume


The problem is many of us accept what we see and don't think twice about it. This might not seem like a big deal, but questioning these portrayals of sex can be enlightening and healthy. We're not taught to analyze the media we consume to determine if it's realistic or complete. If we don't make a point to examine media, however, we might not realize there's a disconnect between the big screen and real life.

TV shows and porn fill in the gaps when there's a lack of quality sex education. However, this media doesn't paint the full picture. We might accept that sex should look and sound like what's in the movies and wonder what's wrong with us if that's not what we like to do with our partners in bed when, in reality, there's nothing at all wrong with our wants and desires. Real sex simply doesn't get any screen time.

Of course, it's not all bad. Slowly but surely, audiences have been able to see a wider variety of bodies and abilities. It's more common to see sex occurring between same-sex couples and bisexual characters exploring their sexuality on screen. Trans characters have appeared in more than a few TV shows. Writers make a point to show consent and negotiation before any clothes come off. Sexual activity isn't quite as routine, and there are nods given to a woman's pleasure, which often requires clitoral stimulation and not just penetration.

Change is happening, albeit slowly. Every time a viewer sees a character with whom they can identify, whether it's because of appearance, sexual orientation, or something else, or characters having sex that actually includes the activities they enjoy, they feel validated and normal. And every time we can gaze at the screen and see the awkwardness that sometimes accompanies sex, we are reminded that sex isn't picture perfect, but it doesn't have to be. It's okay when things don't go as planned. It's all part of the experience and that experience cannot be accurately portrayed in a few minutes of film.

By: Adriana Ravenlust
Follow on Twitter @adriana_r

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