Sex Scene Discourse

explicit scenes don’t necessarily drive the plot forward or develop the characters in the show


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Movie Shooting Hollywood Love Story Scene with Actors Man and Woman Characters Kissing in front of Videocamera, Woman with Clapperboard Hang on Ropes. Filming Process Cartoon Flat Vector Illustration

Ronan Halpin ‘24, Editor

Somewhat recently there was discussion online about whether sex scenes and nudity are really necessary for film and tv. The big trigger for the debate was from Penn Badgley saying in an interview that for the newest season of “You,” he wanted to eliminate as many sex scenes as possible. This was due to his own personal boundaries that he wanted to uphold within his own life and relationship. I think that everyone should respect his decision as an actor, but discussions of his viewpoint snowballed into discussing sex scenes in general.

For many people, sex scenes can make them uncomfortable or hinder the viewer’s experience. And it is totally understandable that, depending on the situation, watching the sex scene can be pretty uncomfortable. Say for example you’re on a plane and you just have that feeling that everyone is watching you while an explicit scene is on. Or even watching a sex scene with your family is a universally awkward situation. However, I don’t believe that some viewers feeling uncomfortable is reason enough for the elimination of all sex scenes and nudity in film.

I do agree that most of the time explicit scenes don’t necessarily drive the plot forward or develop the characters in the show, but I do think that they may enhance the plot. We also have to face the unfortunate reality of the situation—which is that sex sells. So even though it makes a lot of us uncomfortable, some also enjoy these types of scenes in film. A big part of this discourse was people saying things along the lines of “sex scenes in movies are making me watch two people be intimate with each other without my consent.” I definitely don’t think it’s the best idea to throw around words like consent in regards to a movie, when that word can actually have a really negative connotation with people’s real life experiences. I think that if that sort of thing is really a problem for you, you may want to check beforehand if the movie you want to watch may include anything that could make you uncomfortable rather than forcing censorship and restricting an artist’s freedom.

It’s no surprise that this discourse was happening on Twitter, but people were saying things like the actual characters themselves haven’t consented to us watching them be intimate… not the actors, but… the characters. I’m sorry, but getting consent from fictional characters? How does one even do that? Within this subsection of online users who are against sex scenes, some people were suggesting that we should reinstate something called the Hays Code. The Hays Code is essentially a set of self-censorship guidelines that were in place in Hollywood around 1930-1960. Hollywood at the time wanted to try and keep their films “pure” and digestible to the general public and almost fix the image of Hollywood.

A lot of people at that time found Hollywood to be morally questionable, so the Hays Code was put in place to say, “Um, ya guys, we aren’t violent and wouldn’t even think about having two characters be intimate together on screen… anyways please watch our movies.” Some people were asking to bring back this code, even though I don’t think they realize how restrictive the Hays Code actually was.

So even though I don’t personally mind these types of scenes in movies, I agree that they don’t really contribute to the overall themes of movies and generally don’t truly help drive the plots toward. I also do realize that some directors don’t think about how the actors and actresses feel about these types of scenes, and that many of them have felt like they were forced into doing something they weren’t comfortable with. There should be intimacy coordinators and guidelines that protect actors and actresses in those situations. I don’t think these problems have to do with the sex scenes directly, but rather the directors being flat out bad people. I think that was the main reason for the discourse and why it became as big as it did.