Why is the mere thought of watching a twisted deviant murdering innocent people less horrific than watching a sex scene in the same room as our parents?
We demand that films come with a high saturation of violence, yet what rarely is shown is the forbidden sex scene.
This being said, the “golden age of television” has certainly ushered in a wave of gratuitous sex scenes with shows like Game of Thrones. Streaming services have allowed productions to bypass the usually accepted standards of onscreen depictions of flesh, and provided it to an unprecedented degree. However, Hollywood not only seems to be stuck in its conservative ways, but trying to keep us there too.
Sexuality and the depiction of sex itself in American films is something that Hollywood has never been very good at. Perhaps because they don’t actually want to be. Although a lot of films are driven by romance (not to mention often involving a lot of needless objectification), these all seem to be lame fixes for avoiding our very Western fear of sex. Western society’s sexual anxieties can be traced back to conservative religious roots, where women were once painted as advocates of the devil, tempting puritans with forbidden “sins of the flesh”.
Think about when Hollywood does make an effort to explicitly depict erotic sex, it ends up being cringe inducing and laughable. The 50 Shades of Grey franchise sparked mothers across the world to prepare themselves for a 2 hour-long journey of passion and ecstasy – what it delivered was an embarrassing, vanilla mess. Anastasia and Christian could just as well be two robots disguised as humans, doing their best version of what’s known as “normal human interaction”. The sex scenes themselves are disappointing, quick cuts are jarringly used to prevent the viewers from having a clear view of what’s actually going on, and the soundtrack is blasted at a deafening volume to further distract, teasing the idea of sex but never fully gratifying audiences.
The message is continually drilled in; that we ought to feel awkward and ashamed of our carnal desires. Film classification ratings are most harsh on female nudity and the enjoyment of sex (especially lesbian sex) rather than monitoring violence. As studies find that gun violence in PG-13 films are steadily rising, somehow sex remains a point of concern among parents and classification boards.
In France, the coming-of-age LGBT romantic drama Blue is the Warmest Colour (La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2) was open to any viewers above the age of 12, whilst in America it was only available to adults, who had already passed the film’s target audience. The film skilfully walks the line between portraying sex as both visceral art and normality. In reference to the nudity and sex scenes, Adèle Exarchopoulos who plays the titular character said, “I understand it. American audiences aren’t used to it”. The matter-of-fact attitude that international films take with sex doesn’t reduce it to some sort of immature joke. Instead, it’s simply a part of everyday life.
Whenever Hollywood does make reference to sexuality, it’s often done so in a roundabout way, treating it as a taboo and further reinforcing our misplaced sense of guilt. This is a damaging attitude, and confusing not only for maturing children and adolescents, but adults too.
Like Exarchopoulos says, “We all have sex, it’s like a drug, everyone loves it” so damn Hollywood and its outdated agenda.