Man at His Best

Opinion: Hollywood's Portrayal Towards Sex Takes A Questionable Route

Don't even attempt on it.

BY Fin Carew | Feb 13, 2017 | Film & TV

Screenshot from the film, Piranha 3DD.


Happy Valentine’s Day! For people already coupled up, it’s time to express that love in the most obligatory and forced fashion possible. For people without a Valentine this year, you’re not crazy—it really is just you without a date. In the whole world. You make me sick. 

It’s a great time for romance movies—they tend to shove a love story into any old toss of a production. But while movies love romance, they’re freakin’ crazy about sex. They use it to sell a mediocre project (Piranha 3DD), as an integral part of a plot targeted at teenage douchebags (Road Trip), or to simply work a director’s personal fantasy into the narrative (Vicky, Christina, Barcelona; probably, I dunno). I think that’s all the reasons movies have sex scenes. Did I miss any?

Hollywood’s obsession with sex is no surprise since it mirrors our own. But what’s considered an appropriate sexual encounter has, thankfully, been updated in the last few years. I’m not talking about “controversial” sex scenes like gay intercourse (*eye roll*), but what movies suggest we, as manly men, should consider appropriate behaviour; namely, the subject of consent.

You’d be amazed at the stuff that went on in movies in regards to consent. We all know about Bond’s ’60s escapades—wooing a woman by holding her resisting arms with his manstrength and kissing her until she changed her mind (hopefully)—but does anyone remember Major League? Obviously not, and even fewer people remember the “romance” scene. In this scene, Tom Berenger breaks into his ex-girlfriend’s house (now engaged to someone else), chases her around the room while she screams at him to get out, holds her down and they begin to make love (I use the phrase with dark irony). What the shit? She, of course, succumbs to his romantic chivalry, later ending her engagement to join him—a situation you could probably class as Stockholm Syndrome.

But at least that was scripted fiction. In 2013 (and again in November 2016), it came to light that the infamous “butter rape” scene in Last Tango in Paris (1973) was shot without the consent of then-19-year-old Maria Schneider. Director Bernardo Bertolucci and the film’s star Marlon Brando apparently pre-planned the horrific scene, and decided it would be better if Schneider’s reactions were that of genuine “rage and humiliation”. The director claims he felt guilty afterwards, but does not regret it—which basically means he knows he did something wrong but is
okay with that. Inspiring.

Thank God we’ve come a long way from the production of these films, as the outrage towards Bertolucci in November displayed. There are still problems, of course, but I like to think scenes like the one in Major League wouldn’t fly anymore. Sex in a movie can be shown as a beautiful expression of pent-up emotions (Carol), a bizarre situation for an action sequence (Shoot ’Em Up) or even just really funny (Deadpool)—all without the promotion of aggressive sexual behaviour. Sex is great and we should all be enjoying it. Except for you, because you don’t have
a date. You loser.

From Esquire Singapore's February 2017 issue