Here’s a quote from some young actor who is currently appearing in a TV show about homosexuals (which I’ll never watch):
“It is awkward, but the thing was, on the show we had people called intimacy coordinators and their jobs, they’re amazing, they’re jobs are to help with the sex scenes and everyone doing the sex scenes to feel safe and fine and not awkward.”
Here’s a thought: if your actors are requiring what is essentially psychological counseling just to get through a sex scene, perhaps you might just want to dial back the sexuality a tad?
Look, I love me a decent sex scene: Body Heat, Impulse, Zefferelli’s Romeo & Juliet, Don’t Look Now, Unfaithful and the original The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (not the rape scene, though) — all those and more have been fun as hell to watch, and even now are still quite titillating.
The problem is that as the sexual boundaries have been pushed back on screen, the sex scenes have become not only more explicit, but more intense — and along the way, more harrowing. Erica Jong once described porno movies as (paraphrasing) after the first ten minutes, you want to fuck somebody, and after the next twenty minutes, you never want to fuck again for the rest of your life.
Modern mainstream movies about sex are like that. I defy anyone to be anything but depressed after watching Gaspar Noé’s Love, Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac , 9 Songs or Anatomie de l’enfer (to name the most extreme examples). In some of the modern French movies (e.g. Anatomie), I start to feel depressed during the first sex scene, which must be some kind of record.
I’m not suggesting we go back to the Hays Code era, where the husband and wife had to sleep in separate beds, and extra- or non-marital sex had to result in the death of one of the participants (which is downright sick, sicker than the taboo sex). But seriously: let’s just leave a little to the imagination, shall we?
Here’s a thought: if a sex scene means that the actors have written into their contracts that the acts must be performed by a body double, then dial it back and ditch the sexual stand-ins. And any sex scene which lasts longer than one (1) minute should be edited until it doesn’t.
Let’s keep it sexy, but also keep it subtle, and short. Sex doesn’t have to be spelled out — we all know what it’s about. Here’s an example, from Hitchcock’s North By Northwest :
Anyone remember what this scene cut to? Yup: here it is. Thirty-five seconds.