Sex On The Silver Screen

Writer: Sarah Wilkes
Artist: Madison Marshall

Sex scenes. Some fooled your 12-year-old self into thinking life was a Nicholas Sparks movie, some take you by surprise at family movie night (ground, swallow me up!) and others are just as hardcore as your last Pornhub search. 

Whether hot and steamy or downright cringeworthy, there’s no doubt that sex scenes shape the way we perceive and show up in the adult world. 

It’s interesting to consider how sex on screen influences our viewership of films and television. When I was 13, one of my favourite films (one I shared, it seemed, with every other teenage girl) was The First Time, starring Dylan O’Brien and Britt Robinson. 

The sex scene in that film, between two hormone-filled teenagers who met at a party, gave me butterflies like I’d never experienced before. 

The film’s popularity amongst my age group was no coincidence. Its glaringly accurate depiction of life as an adolescent, and all the feelings that come along with it, made The First Time both exciting and comforting to watch. But without the pivotal sex scene, the movie isn’t exactly award-winning. 

Which makes me wonder: without sex scenes, would some films and television shows be as successful? Would R-rated shows like HBO’s Euphoria and Game of Thrones be so popular without their explicitness? As we mature, do we crave watching different types of intimacy on film? 

Just like our need for intimacy on-screen evolves as we mature, so has cinema etiquette changed over the years. What’s acceptable now would’ve caused outrage in theatres a few decades ago. Watching Fifty Shades of Grey with your closest girlfriend would certainly have a different vibe now than in the ’60s. Nowadays, not only do we live in a sexualised world, but an increasingly digital one, too. Eroticism is at our fingertips with on-demand entertainment streaming services — and, of course, the deep, dark web. 

Considering this, some might find that full nudity, BDSM and moaning girls just doesn’t do it for them. So, I want to shed light onto one of the most heated and adrenaline-inducing sex scenes of all time, and it isn’t even X-rated after all. 

There is no doubt that Brokeback Mountain (2005) is groundbreaking in its storytelling of a homosexual relationship between two masculine cowboys in a 1960s society. Watching the two main characters, Ennis and Jack, have sex for the first time is as equally frustrating as it is a relief. 

Ennis wakes up to find himself spooning Jack, suggesting his attraction is innate, exposed only by the subconscious state of sleep. Ennis’ immediate reaction once awakened is to show aggression towards Jack — if that’s not toxic masculinity, I don’t know what is. Watching the juxtaposition of his desire and blatant fear is nothing short of unsettling for the viewer who can see their obvious connection (I literally thought to myself, “just fuck already, god damn it”).

The chemistry between them is so passionate, and the tension so thick, it feels as if it was written in the stars. This fierce urge I had for them to give into each other gave me more feels than watching any kind of explicit sex scene with dicks flying around. 

Although I’ve never experienced unrequited love like Jack and Ennis, nor ever suffered their oppression, I felt every tumultuous emotion in the scene. 

Brokeback Mountain’s sex scenes exist to evoke fierce, passionate and yearning emotions in the viewer. Unlike many other films, the sex scenes don’t exist for the audience’s pleasure or selling more box office tickets.  

But the famous term ‘sex sells’ does ring true in Netflix’s erotic 2020 film, 365 Days. The Polish movie follows the kidnapping of Laura by a Sicilian mafia member named Massimo, who gives Laura 365 days to fall in love with him. 

Yes, it’s a deeply problematic plot. Yes, it pretty much contradicts what us progressive Gen Zs stand for. The lack of nuance in the film’s title is matched in its plot and character development, and the Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb ratings seem to agree with me. 

Yet here I am — a serially-napping, easily-distracted university student — admitting I sat through the entire film. I even sat through the credits while my fanny flutters subsided. 

365 Days includes countless sex scenes, with one scene on a boat being rather notable. It’s the first time Massimo and Laura have sex — but oh boy, this is not their first rodeo. The scene is so intimate that it barely looks like acting. Think passionate, sweaty and just the right amount of kink — all on top of a super yacht in Sicilian waters. I bet it sounds like one of your secret sexual fantasies, right? 

To top it off, it has been confirmed that 2022 will see the release of a second 365 Days film, proving that sex really does sell. After all, movies just wouldn’t be the same without those steamy, passionate sex scenes that get our heart rates rising. 

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