How the Ways We Simulate Sex on Screen Are Evolving

It is a strange thing when you think about it: films have long had fight and stunt coordinators to make the simulation of violence and dangerous situations both look realistic on screen and to protect the actors involved in the scenes. Yet, simulating sexual scenes is often done without expertise and often in very inappropriate ways that can and have seriously affected those involved. Here is how that is changing for the better.

Coming to you from The Atlantic, this fascinating video discusses the evolution of how sex is simulated in theater and on screen, as well as the historical issues and how intimacy coordinators have helped to change how things are done to better protect the well-being of those involved. It doesn't take much searching to find many examples of actors and actresses left with lasting mental, emotional, and even physical trauma after poorly or even abusively directed sex scenes, with some directors even taking advantage of their fear and surprise to evoke real reactions. Thankfully, that sort of behavior is changing, and the film world is recognizing the need for better and more respectful methods. Check out the video above to see how that's happening. 

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I always think it's weird when they simulate sex on a TV show.

1. They mostly keep their clothes on while having sex, which seems silly and breaks the believably barrier taking me out of the show.

2. What are they trying to do with this scene? It isn't porn and I don't think that the viewer is looking for porn. It isn't adding to the plot other than informing the viewer that these two characters did it. You can do this without the silly looking sex scene.

3. Is this scene intended to excite me? You know about the porn on the internet, right? It's more silly than sexy on a TV show.

It just makes me wish that the scene was over so we can go on with the show. I think that most of the time, it is just wasted screen-time because they think they are supposed to put it there. Maybe it's just me.

Phillip Breske's picture

Nope. Not just you. If I want to see sex, I'll watch porn. If they want me to think two people are having sex, they'll have sex. Simulated sex always looks simulated. And silly.

user-206807's picture

100% agree
But what you write is mostly typical of US American shows.

Phillip Breske's picture

I've decided I don't want to be a movie star.

Sue G's picture

I don't think simulated sex is any good.

So don't do it! ;-)

Jon Winkleman's picture

ummm Body Heat, 9 1/2 Weeks, Risky Business? There are a lot of great simulated sex scenes that also were believable, consensual and non abusive.

Ivan Lantsov's picture

just show cigaret after - better than fumble with cloths on!

user-206807's picture

The way the Americans and Europeans simulate sex scenes is really different. I never understood how Americans could have children while they kept their underwear and panties to make love....

It's all for the sensors, which makes the scene ridiculous. It seldom adds to the plot, so leave it out.

Steven Magner's picture

Well not everybody is Gaspar Noe

I've always hated sex scenes. They're so uncomfortable when you're watching a film with friends and family. More often than not everyone in the room is staring at each other looking for reactions. The older the actors the weirder it gets. Really young actors, it's creepy as all hell. Sends a pretty clear "the director's a perv" message no matter how skillfully and appropriately it's captured.

A well executed kiss or touching is good enough to get the point across. Same as implied violence tends to be more effective than explicit depictions. It's not about being prudish. It's just sex scenes are so awkwardly staged and shoehorned in that it negatively impacts story and pacing. It's really unsexy.

Jon Winkleman's picture

the biggest takeaway that also applies to still photographers is advance consent. In Last Tango In Paris both director Bertilucci and male lead Marlon Brando had discussion of how the sex scenes with the butter would physically play out and left Maria Schneider out of them and in the dark until it was physically sprung upon her during shooting. They basically raped her on camera. Other sexually explicit non porn films do have lots of real unstimulated non-penetrative contact on film however the performers were informed about it before they were hired and consented to be a part of it. Even women who do hard core porn are contesting to the sex on film so it is not abusive.

Talk to your models before you book them. Do not spring surprises on them during a shoot and pressure them to comply with levels of nudity or depictions of sexuality that had not been informed of in advance.

I don't like hot scenes on my tv screen, every time I use the app to watch TV online on the device I don't want sex scenes happening.