Worried your sex life isn’t like it looks on TV or in the movies?
Don’t be. Sex involving food, a piano or gunfire is never as fun as it sounds.
When you’ve been brought up with pop culture as your unofficial guardian, it’s easy to assume that you’ve been lumbered with the world’s dullest sex life. You’re forever comparing your experiences with those you see on screen, and you beat yourself up when you inevitably fall short.
For instance, not one single person has ever attempted to stab me to death with a pickaxe mid-coitus, like Sharon Stone did to that poor chump at the start of Basic Instinct. No union of mine has ever ended with my partner shooting a baddie in the chest on a moving train at the point of orgasm, like Cindy Crawford did in Fair Game. Nor, to my eternal annoyance, have I ever been asked to travel back in time and impregnate a mysterious and beautiful woman with a baby who’ll grow up to lead a resistance against an army of intelligent robots. One day, though. There’s always one day.
But of course sex gets jazzed up in the media. Of course it’s a parade of perfectly proportioned, square-jawed men and beautiful, athletic women doing all sorts of exotic stuff to each other surrounded by candles and saxophones. If sex on screen were in any way representative of what sex is like in real life, it’d be miserable to watch. Films would need to come with sick bags and disclaimers warning viewers against scenes that may cause shame and guilt.
For instance, imagine how much more depressing Titanic would be if, immediately after ravishing each other inside that car, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet awkwardly angled their bodies away from the wet patch that’s formed on the upholstery.
Or if Out of Sight had followed up its acclaimed sex scene with a sequence in which George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez make mortifying smalltalk with each other behind a methadone addict in a grimly lit pharmacy queue because there’d been an accident and now they’re buying the morning-after pill. Or if Tom Cruise accidentally hacked up a greenie into Kelly McGillis’s eye during the Take My Breath Away Top Gun scene. All the romance, all the mystique of Hollywood lovemaking, would vanish in an instant.
The good news is that there’s an age limit to this. As soon as you hit 50, or get married, or enter into any sort of committed long-term relationship, you disappear from Hollywood’s radar. With the exception of Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now, in which Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland make an astonishingly good fist of capturing the ease and intimacy that comes with sex between two people who know and like each other, it’s generally assumed that your bits seize up and fall off the instant you do anything as stupid as actually fall in love.
This is why romantic comedies tend to end with a wedding. A wedding suggests that everyone lived happily ever after. The reality is that, if the film cut to 10 years down the line, we’d probably see Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds rendered too exhausted from work and kids to get up to any funny business. Sex – on the rare occasion that it’d actually happen – would be initiated with a duty-bound eyeroll and performed in deathly silence with one eye on the clock. It wouldn’t exactly be a whole lot of LOLs is what I’m trying to say.
No, mainstream Hollywood is only interested in the thrill of the new, and sometimes this preoccupation is taken to insane lengths. Take Love, Actually, for example. In real life, we’d spend a lot more time watching Chiwotel Ejiofor become the happiest man in the world by marrying Keira Knightley, and a lot less time watching Andrew Lincoln write creepy messages of love out of blood and sperm while hiding in a bush outside Knightley’s house like some sort of criminally deranged lunatic.
But before you age out of this hideous misrepresentation, you’re going to be bombarded by scenes of your peers embarking upon endless devil-may-care naked gymnastics sessions. And these, in my experience, rank among the most unrealistic scenes of all.
Sleeping with someone for the first time can be nerve-racking, but you’d never know that from watching films, where everyone seems to automatically know exactly what the other person wants without having to embark upon a long and unfulfilling period of trial and error, usually with the aid of a corresponding checklist on a clipboard. Hair on screen always remains perfectly in place, and never gets trapped under anyone’s arm. And bras remain firmly on. On the rare occasion that they do get removed, it happens in silence. To my knowledge, no movie character has ever shouted “Jesus, that’s better, that wire has been cutting into my tit for hours” as they undress, for example, which seems like a preposterous oversight.
So, if you’re young and easily influenced, you need to know that it’s OK. Movie sex isn’t a blueprint for real sex. Using food, as Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke did in Nine and a Half Weeks, isn’t fun or sexy. It’s cold, it’s sticky and it stains things. Try having sex in the shower like Sharon Stone and Sylvester Stallone did in The Specialist if you must, but be prepared for the moment where you bend down and water gets in your eye and you stagger around blindly like a ridiculous naked Frankenstein trapped in a glass coffin for what seems like an hour.
Don’t have sex outside like Cate Blanchett and Andrew Simpson did in Notes on a Scandal, because you’ll get your trousers dirty and you won’t be able to think up a decent excuse when you get home. And, for god’s sake, never ever have sex on a piano like Julia Roberts and Richard Gere did in Pretty Woman. Because, you know, it’s a piano. Pianos are noisy, and some of us are trying to sleep. This isn’t a film, you know.