Provocauteurs and Provocations The Conversaton article

Provocauteurs and Provocations featured in The Conversation

The sex scene isn’t disappearing – it’s simply shifting from clichéd fantasy to messy reality | The Conversation | Featuring Provocauteurs and Provocations: Screening Sex in 21st Century Media by Maria San Filippo | May 25, 2021

Writing during what seems – in retrospect – to have been the wildly carefree summer of 2019, Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday lamented that “sex is disappearing from the big screen.”

Fast forward two years, and, improbably enough, it’s conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat who’s pleading for “sex and romance [to] make a comeback at the movies.”

Both commentators blame this sexual stagnation on what they see as an abstinence-only policy in Hollywood, fueled by the Weinstein effect on one hand and family-friendly franchise fever on the other, where libidinal energy has been sublimated into buff-yet-sexless superheroes. To Hornaday and Douthat, sexual prudence seems to be tipping into prudery.

Hornaday and Douthat are correct that the traditional sex scene – a tasteful “pas de deux” between glossy stars, typically straight and vanilla, presented as a spectacle for our visual pleasure – has become increasingly rare.

But after devoting hours to watching sex scenes as research for my book “Provocauteurs and Provocations: Selling Sex in 21st Century Media,” I can reassure the randy and romantic among us that sex onscreen isn’t disappearing. Far from it.

Instead, over the last decade, it’s simply changed – and mostly for the better.

Written by Maria San Filippo, the author of Provocauteurs and Provocations: Screening Sex in 21st Century Media.

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