Tuesday, August 19, 2014

TV sex

TV sex is not like real sex. Of course you generally don’t have Standards & Practice people hovering over the bed during real sex.

But in an age where mainstream movies are more explicit, the number one best selling book is rated X, and internet porn is only a click away, television is somewhat handcuffed (but not in the fun way). There are conceits we are asked to accept. But in real life….

What woman has sex completely naked except for wearing a bra? This is my favorite. I see it a lot when there’s a prostitute. Like prostitutes are shy. Or on the “groundbreaking” SEX AND THE CITY.

Meanwhile, on cable women are topless in GAME OF THRONES during jousting scenes.

Y’know, through deft camera work it is possible for a woman to be topless but nothing is revealed. She doesn’t have to wear a bra. An Allison Williams GIRLS sex scene is a perfect example. They tastefully cut around and you saw nothing. Meanwhile, Lena Dunham is bare breasted when she’s trying on shoes.
 
I’ve also seen scenes in shows where the woman is topless and the man is wearing a T-shirt. I don’t understand that at all.

Moving on…

Ladies, when have you ever finished sex then wrapped the bed sheet around you when you climbed out of the bed? This happens all the time on TV. The modest actress couldn’t look more awkward and generally has to hop to the bathroom, which is also somewhat unnatural. Just once I’d like to see her trip.

To avoid the whole nudity issue, another TV convention is the man just slamming the woman against a wall and the two have sex standing up. Sometimes they don’t even bother to remove their underwear, so I’m not sure how that works. And even under optimum conditions, it’s not the most comfortable position. Fortunately, the guy always lasts thirty seconds at the most. That’s not just acceptable, it’s required for television. But those thirty seconds seem to be enough as the woman is always completely satisfied. Not once has the woman said, “Wait. What are you doing? I just got this dress back from the cleaner. You’re going to get it all wrinkled. You know there’s a bedroom fifteen feet from here.” Or: “Really? That’s it?”

And if there’s a condom involved, TV guys can take them out of the packet and apply them in one second. Other than Rob Lowe, I don’t believe it.

Back in bed, the women are always wearing full make up, and it’s never messed up… both before and AFTER sex. One can only conclude that she’s freshening up DURING.

TV couples are always doing it under the covers. And why not? It’s hot, no room to maneuver, and there’s no oxygen. And it must be really hard to apply lipstick and eye liner under those conditions.

Of course, shattering all those taboos is GIRLS. And for all my making fun of broadcast television for its bogus depiction of sex, I found myself really missing bras and bed sheets.

34 comments:

Dan Ball said...

Now it's getting worse because they can't show post-coital cigarette-smoking on TV, either.

Maude: "The very word itself makes some men uncomfortable. Vagina."
Dude: "Oh yeah?"
Maude: "Yes, they don't like hearing it and find it difficult to say whereas without batting an eye a man will refer to his dick or his rod or his Johnson."
Dude: "Johnson?"

Scooter Schechtman said...

HBO's"Lucky Louie" made of point of not showing female nudity, only male nudity for the sake of laughs. The dvd commentaries by Louis CK and Pamela Segall would be very instructive to viewers who have neglected this classic sitcom.

Stoney said...

Robert Klein had a funny bit on his "New Teeth" album about filming a "love scene". "She went off and had a Coke while I humped a sheet for twenty minutes.

Biggest letdown of a sex scene; Q and Mrs. Q on "Star Trek - Voyager". Captain Janeway said it best: "That's it?"

And, lest we forget, George Costanza not only did it under the covers, he added pastrami and television.



Igor said...


On the one hand, this is another funny piece by the proprietor of this blob, Mr. Levine.

On the other hand, it's as if Capt. Renault wrote a piece to express his shock and awe-shucks about the practiced blindness of cops in Casablanca.

Ken does have Claude Rain's thick, dark hair, so I suppose all is well.

Igor said...

This BLOG. Not "this bloB."

Sorry. (Je m'excuse.)

Johnny Walker said...

I wrote a comment here once that echoed much of the same sentiment. To my mind it seems that Hollywood either pornifies the female body (slow camera passes over the woman's nipples -- so natural, so realistic, so important for the story), or it behaves like seeing a nipple will bring the end of the world.

I think 80s movies began the trope that a sex scene meant the leading characters were now in love. Never mind showing them actually falling in love, that would be too difficult. It's much easier/more economical/exciting for teenage boys just to show the couple having softly-lit softcore sex. (And by 'the couple', I of course mean the woman -- we never see the man's body.) Afterwards the audience knows they're in love -- because there's no doubts or problems after you've had sex.

On the flipside is the happily married couple who are afraid of letting their spouse see them naked. (Or the camera team who know how to place foreground objects like parent's fingers over our eyes.)

It's all distracting and detrimental to the storytelling. It all takes you out of the moment. It all makes you forget about the characters. Why does it prevail?

I think a lot of the problem is that sex according to Hollywood is the most super-exciting thing that's going to happen to you all year.

What's wrong with showing the cozy familiarity that comes from being with someone for any amount of time? Two people able to feel completely relaxed, comfortable, and exposed. Not just lingering over the body of one of the parties, like they're an object. Isn't that level of intimacy, sexy in its own way?

Personally, I think the camera should always behave the same whether the actors have clothes on or not. Nothing forced. All just natural. If you see some nudity, fine, if you don't, fine. But don't make me aware of the actor's contract, complicated camera gymnastics, or the producer's leering "we need to see some titties" eye.

And if you ARE going to go down the softcore pornshow route (eg. a premium cable show), at least show some male nudity to even things out a bit!

Kate said...

There was a lot of toplessness in Sex and the City, which WAS on HBO, just like Game of Thrones. But different actresses had their own level of comfort, and one presumes contractual bonuses for each nipple shot. I just watched State and Main this weekend, and SJP herself played an actress who wanted extra money for showing her breasts. They re- wrote the scene to save a buck.

Anonymous said...

"Girls" sucks, TV was better in my day! I'm old! Rawr!

-Bob Reynolds

Paul Duca said...

"All this sex on the television...I mean, I keep falling off!"

CamrioKid said...

Another nitpick I've always had about TV sex is the post-coital clean-up. What about the bodily fluids and the aftermath? Too many times the woman jumps right out of bed and into her clothes, obviously not having cleaned up the remains of the day.

thomas tucker said...

I like the sex they had on The Dick Van Dyke Show.

Charles H. Bryan said...

I agree with Thomas Tucker.

I really sort of hate sex scenes, not just for all of the reasons in the post, but the vast majority do nothing to advance plot or character -- they're in there just to titillate, just to hope that viewers are distracted/not bored, just to fill some screen time. And most are just not all that interesting. Yay. Pretty people screwed each other. That's new.

I think THE CRYING GAME had the only meaningful sex scene that I can remember.

Bob said...

...but was there ever anything weirder on TV than the randomly pixellated breasts in the pilot of BREAKING BAD, an episode that featured drug production, consumption and large amounts of violence? Gotta hide those nipples, though. Just think of the children!

Non-HBO channels use a lot of smart camera work to ensure that nothing untoward is seen, but you can't help but feel the directors are wishing they were on HBO instead. Even MAD MEN, where sex is the third most important character (after the 1960s and Don Draper) in some seasons, deftly manages to avoid showing anything.

Strangely though, despite the copious nudity, HBO shows are generally the least sexy. Less is more when it comes to TV nudity.

And for the record, the best screen sex scene ever was in FIGHT CLUB. It lasted about two seconds.

tb said...

I like the now-standard comedic version. You know, cut to the train going in the tunnel, the rocket going up, the fireworks, the sausage being made, etc...

Mike Schryver said...

I've always assumed that the lack of male nudity is from many men's fear that if they've watched a scene with male nudity (even if there's also female nudity), people might think they're gay. I'm also assuming this will be less prevalent with younger folks.

Eduardo Jencarelli said...

"I'm also assuming this will be less prevalent with younger folks."

A lot less, or at least that's how I see it as a straight and somewhat 'young' 30 year old. I have no problem with male nudity if it services the story. To me, being perceived as gay even if you're not has no bearing on how I feel. Being gay is as acceptable as anything out there.

I certainly don't picture many men in their 60's and 70's watching Game of Thrones either.

D. McEwan said...

The one that always amuses me are the "Next Morning" scenes. The couple has had mad, wild sex, slept the night in each other's arms, then wake up and get out of bed, and the woman is in a flannel nightgown and the man is wearing boxers and an undershirt. Hello? If you're going to spend the night with whomever you've just had sex with, who redresses before noddng off? Anyone other than - I don't know - Mormons?

Then there's the scenes where the man has the sheet at waist level but the woman has apparently used masking tape to glue the sheet to her breasts.

Better not have the sex on the show at all than rediculously unrealistic sex.

Wallis Lane said...

I'm with CamrioKid on this; shouldn't you freshen up a bit post-deed? It always takes me out of the story when the characters, as so often is the tired trope, blithely state at some public event (oftentimes while wearing formal clothes) that they've just had sex outside the minute before, or in the elevator, or in the closet, or in the next room. Am I allowed to think: eeewwww?

Also, no-one's mentioned on of the most famous pieces of ridiculousness: the L-shaped sheet, which covers only the top part of the woman, but leaves the man bared to the waist.

D. McEwan said...

Then there was the sex scene that opens Sondheim's musical Passion. They filmed the original Broadway production, and the scene, an immedeiate post-coital scene, has them lolling about, singing complex Sondheim music, her with the glued-to-her breasts sheet and he with the tightly-wrapped-around-his-waist sheet.

The thing is, I saw that production on Broadway, and they lolled on that bed singing complex Sondheim music so naked and exposed that I'd wished I bought balcony tickets.

D. McEwan said...

Sorry, Wallis, I mentioned the L-shaped sheet apparently as you were typing your comment.

Tallulah Morehead said...

Well, during my long career, my primary objection to all the sex scenes I performed was how, in many of them, we were only allowed to fake the sex. I mean, what is the point of sleeping with the director and the producer (And later the editor. One wants to make sure they use the most-flattering footage) to get cast opposite Cary Grant only to be forced to fake the sex? Even if it was Cary who insisted it be faked? I despise Hollywood sham!

ODJennings said...

"was there ever anything weirder on TV than the randomly pixellated breasts in the pilot of BREAKING BAD, an episode that featured drug production, consumption and large amounts of violence? Gotta hide those nipples, though. Just think of the children!"

I'll see your Breaking Bad and raise you Sons of Anarchy.

You have an old school motorcycle gang who make their living filming porn and smuggling guns. Someone is violently killed every episode, (once they removed a guy's tattoos with a blowtorch) but the porn actresses have to wear schoolgirl costumes. and no one in the gang can say "fuck."



Cap'n Bob said...

In the mid-sixties I went to Times Square a few times to take in the XXX-rated movies. All I got for my buck was over an hour of simulated sex that didn't show so much as a nip or butt, never mind the good parts. TV producers could learn a lot from these fake sex filmers.

Gary said...

Another TV pet peeve: couples who wake up after a full night of sleep, and immediately share a passionate kiss. All I can think of is their morning breath. Yuck!

Powerhouse Salter said...

When a male character on network TV is surprised or interrupted during sex, he will instantly jump out of bed wearing pressed and tailored boxer shorts.

Sam said...

One odd thing I noticed awhile back in a movie--an R-rated one-- was that, following the sex scene, the man gets out of bed, but he does so by turning his back to the camera and scooting backwards off the bed, his backside to the camera the whole time, until he was standing next to the bed. The reason, obviously, was to avoid his having to expose his genitalia to the camera. Whether that was the actor being shy or the director and/or producer or production company being skittish, I can't say. It looked completely unnatural, though, and not just a little silly.

I have noticed that women generally seem to be expected to be better sports about flashing their altogether for the camera than men, who can often get away with just taking off their shirt.

RCP said...

Keeping in mind the concessions to the television audience (who apparently are more traumatized by human nudity than seeing people being tortured and chopped up) - it's still ridiculous to see people clothed after sex - by then, it's a bit late for modesty.

Mike Schryver said...

"I've always assumed that the lack of male nudity is from many men's fear that if they've watched a scene with male nudity (even if there's also female nudity), people might think they're gay."

I've always assumed that their fear was that they actually might be titillated.

Alan C said...

It wouldn't bother me to see a penis on screen every now and then if it would make my wife happy. One of her pet peeves is that there's more (and often more attractive) female nudity than male.

iconoclast59 said...

I still haven't gotten over seeing Dennis Franz's naked keister in NYPD Blue...

That being said, some of the best we-won't-show-you-but-you'll-know-it sex has been on The Good Wife. One time they showed Will and Alicia canoodling from the shoulders up, but you knew exactly what he was doing to her below the waist, and boy, was that scene hot! I believe there was another scene where Alicia went down on Peter; again, nothing was shown, but you knew what was going on.

mmryan314 said...

I'm surprised that no one has commented on Gyspy Rose Lee. In her memoirs she talks about taking fifteen to twenty minutes to unbutton her long glove while engaging the audience who were mesmerized. She claimed that that act was sexier than any strip she'd ever performed. So much for full on nudity.

Jeffro said...

I just don't understand why so many people want to have sex with their TV. I tried it once. It was shocking to say the least.

Cheerio,
Jeffro

Albert Giesbrecht said...

For those of you who hate sex, you must have loved "Raymond", Debra wore PJ's and a bathrobe, right up to her neck, in bed, it's a wonder they ever had 3 children.

RockGolf said...

@Jeffro: Have you tried adjusting the rabbit ears?

Glenn said...

Doesn't bother me if men show their junk on TV or in the movies. Doesn't happen too often, though. Maybe men don't like to do it. Maybe they're afraid they won't, um, measure up to the audience's expectations, if you know what I mean. Let's face it, most guys, their junk doesn't look too impressive just hanging there asleep. Not me. I'm mega-hung. Most of the rest of you guys, though.