Great Sex – NOT!

If you haven’t seen it already, check out “The Kids are All Right,” directed by Lisa Chodolenko. The acting and writing are spectacular: each character is real, flawed and charming. But one element seems all wrong – the sex.

Annette Benning and Julianne Moore play a lesbian couple who’re raising two children, now teens. They contact the man who was their sperm donor, who turns out to be a macho chef and gardener played by Mark Ruffalo.

He charms the kids and hires Julianne to design a garden in back of his house. Sparks fly and they end up in bed. What we see is what we usually see in movies that try to portray hot sex: the man rams the woman, fast and hard. Faster, harder, banging, slamming, over, under, sideways, down.

I always thought this was male fantasy sex. It’s certainly not what any woman I know would yearn for. As the Pointer Sisters sang: “I want a man with a slow hand. I want a lover with an easy touch….”

Sensual, playful, teasing, savoring, rising and falling to peaks and valleys – we don’t see much of that.

What movies do you remember as being arousing? A TV director I once worked with, Bobby Roth, said he believes it’s most erotic when you don’t see graphic images but see people’s faces, hear their voices, and can imagine what’s happening. One of my favorite scenes of that sort was in “The Big Easy,” with Ellen Barkin and Dennis Quaid. He was coming on to her, she was resisting and said, “I’ve never had much luck with men.” You could see his hands moving, off camera, but couldn’t see what he was doing as he told her, with certainty, “Your luck’s about to change.”

I’ve long wanted to see how women directors would portray lovemaking, but so far it’s been disappointing. The sex scenes in “Kids are all Right” look exactly as male directors have done them. Pounding and ramming. And then I remembered: Lisa Chodolenko is gay. Maybe this is her idea of what hetero sex is like? Maybe she learned it at the movies?



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33 thoughts on “Great Sex – NOT!

  1. Jocelyn

    I remember loving the sex scene from The Player. All you saw was a super close-up of their faces while they moved and whispered to each other. It was so sexy, though you saw nothing.

  2. Dennis

    I thought that was a bit off too. I thought that sex between those two was more likely to be tentative and exploratory on her part and him laying back and letting it happen, with her setting a slower pace.

  3. Anonymous

    Terry (Bridges) and Jessie (Rachel Ward) love scene in Mexico in the movie “Against all Odds”

  4. Anonymous

    Why so much stereotyping??? Good sex on screen was well evidenced in “A Perfect Murder” between Gwyneth Paltrow & Viggo Mortenson. Also, between Julie Christie & Donald Sutherland in “Don't Look Now.” I'm sure there are others. Both both of these love scenes were very, very hot!

  5. Ken

    Right on Sara, as a male, I felt that was the only part of the movie that missed. Seemed more for sensationalism rather than represent anything real or even slightly sexy.
    Sadly it is what in my experience many men think of as “great” sex. Perhaps some women do too.

  6. Rick the celestial cowboy

    just when we think we have seen or heard the last of you, the wonderful sara comes up with something even more provocative than the last time. okay. the greatest film that involves the greatest sex scenes which are not gross or offensively x-rated. in my case, it has to be WIFEMISTRESS starring marcello mastroianni and laura antonelli. there are scenes involving masturbation by antonelli whose husband has been unfaithful to her and a poignantly lovely threesome between antonelli, a frigid blonde woman and a man that touched me so deeply i had to see the movie again and again…and again.

  7. Gail Storey

    Fascinating and right-on, Sara. One of the most exquisitely beautiful and sexual/sensual movies I've seen is “Female Perversions” with Tilda Swinton and produced by Mindy Affrime.

  8. Terrence

    Good post. I was thinking of seeing this film tonight. If I do, I'll check if I see the same thing. I definitely agree with your observation re sex in film. I think it is rare to find sex in film arousing. And it's obviously supposed to be. I am hard pressed (no pun intended) to recall any sex scenes in films that are. I think film is much better at seduction and flirtation. Little beats 19 year old Lauren Bacall flirting with Humphrey Bogart.

    There are men and women in porn who take their time, and I assume it works much better for everyone involved.

  9. Mona

    ohhhhhhhhhhh I thought the scene in “The Big Easy” was great!The sexiest part was watching Dennis Quads face that told her what was coming and then hers as she let go…..of course his butt was pretty good looking too… an interview Ellen Barkin said most of it was unscripted, maybe that is the difference… it was part of each of their real experiences……not what someone else perceived as hot sex..

  10. Anonymous

    Good for you Sara, writing about how stilted the depiction of sex in the media is. It always embarrasses me to see it. No wonder American men are so bad in bed, and are unable to connect their hearts and their gonads.

  11. Anonymous

    It's about time someone said something! I was beginning to think I was the only one who, at the onset of a sex scene with new lovers, would grumble “Here we go again, one rushed kiss, rip off the clothes and start pounding .. BORING!” And SO not sexy.

    Of course that type of sex is fun and exciting occasionally, especially between seasoned partners (such as when you only have time for a quickie). But most of the time, in film and otherwise, give me the slooow hand, at least till we get warmed up. Now *that's* hot!

  12. Anonymous

    I haven't seen “The Kids Are All Right,” so I cannot comment on that. But as for “The Big Easy,” that was my favorite moment from the film. Definitely HOT.

  13. rick the celestial cowboy

    there is really no such thing as 'good sex' on the movie screen. the most brilliant directors of our time have wisely discovered it is better to leave the grunting and groaning out. i am a film critic and love foreign sub-titled movies, which, i believe, depict sex the way it should be shown — realistically, nothing voyueristic, but showing people as they are in such a setting. i have seen wonderful french films that show sex or near-sex between teenage boys and women that were wonderful. think ANTONIA'S LINE, a world war ii vintage film that starts out with antonia announcing that she will die that day, and the film goes back to show her 'line' of descendents that include her lesbian daughter who has a sweetly marvelous affair with her daughter's tutor after soliciting a strong german man to get her pregnant. she doesn't desire a man for marriage — just a child to continue the line. then there is WIFEMISTRESS starring the wonderful italian actor marcello mastroianni and lovely laura antonelli. in this film we can see the expression on laura's beautiful face while she masterbates while under the influence of ether, which was something people used in the early 1900s as an acceptable recreation drug. there is also an exquisite three-some featuring antonelli, a frigid blonde woman and a military officer in the same bed that is so real it sent shivers through me. even in LA DOLCE VITA, fellini's classic film about the decadence in rome, when fellini shot a sexual orgy in a mansion, all he showed was a beautiful young woman who was getting a divorce taking off her clothes on the floor, removing her bra from inside so you never really saw anything except her face and arms and the faces of the participants. then there was beautiful and very intoxicated marcello mastroianni 'riding' the back of a drunken society woman while throwing feathers from a pillow in all directions. how many of us who have been at a drunken party that got out of control who can relate to that scene? i would say a lot. those are my favorite films featuring 'explicit' sex…

  14. rick the celestial cowboy

    and while i am on the subject, if you want to see how a masterful female director films a sex scene, why not try lena wertmueller's SWEPT AWAY, when a communist deck hand throws a wealthy blonde woman with whom he is marooned on a tropical island after the engine on their motorboat leaves them stranded on the island, onto a beach and makes wild love to her. it isn't rape — she eagerly goes for it — and later even suggests they try anal sex, something he knows nothing about. marvelous story-telling, marvelous film work and a marvelous lesson in being human as told through the eyes of a classic woman film director.

  15. MH

    I have always thought “The Big Easy” scene was the most sensual, sexy one around. I wonder if men do think that women like being “rammed”? Not my man, anyway

  16. Beauregard

    I'm flabbergasted no one has yet mentioned the movie 9 1/2 weeks.
    That said, I would applaud you, Sara, and agree, and add that sex after 60 does not seem to exist in the media.
    As a man in that sexagenarian demographic, I can only say thanks to the few women I meet after I became a single man at age 55 who introduced me to a world I did not know existed. It made me sing that song: “How long has this been going on?”
    The first time a woman said to me, “Oh my god, five. I can't give you any more orgasms” was a moment of erotic enlightenment. It was not too long after that I found your writing about tantric sex.
    I'm reading, for maybe the fourth time, Joan Anderson's book “A year by the Sea.”
    She describes her middle aged married friends as
    “relieved that the need to do the 'chore' is over”
    “One quit because… for her husband any keyhole would do.”
    “Another couldn't bear her husband's snorting and sniffing.”
    I feel badly for these women and the many like them I have met who have given up that part of their life.
    It's available.
    One of the advantages of aging for men is that premature ejaculation is no longer a problem, so we have plenty of time to take care of your needs, if we are smart enough and helped enough to identify those needs.
    I was in my mid 50s the first time I saw a clitoris, literally handed to me, and some time away from figuring out what to do with it.
    I'm older now and wiser and only waiting for a partner similarly situated who can also speak in complete sentences since, at this age, I expect to spend more time talking and listening no matter what.
    Great topic and I hope you will narrow the focus to your age group.

  17. Puna

    Absolutely right on, Sara. Please, no more “jump on the body” sex. Best sex scene in a movie was “Dirty Dancing” with Patrick Swaze and Jennifer Gray. That movie had a female director as well.
    The lesbian sex scenes in “Children are Alright” were difficult to watch and not particularly moving in any way.

  18. Barbara

    Haven't seen the movie and probably will rent it at a later date…but this review of the sex is disturbing. I have to agree with the Pointer Sisters too. Seems that when i see a sex scene there doesn't seem to be love, but only a power struggle. I like using my imagination too. And after being with the same partner for 20 years, I have to say our communication is direct and caring.

  19. Nancie

    For me, one of the very sexiest movie moments is post-coital in BULL DURHAM – Kevin Costner's character, Crash, is eating a bowl of Wheaties at the kitchen table, Susan Sarandon's Annie Savoy is perched on the sink, smoking a joint. They banter and laugh, he feeds her a bite of cereal, she says, mouth full, “God, you're gorgeous. Wanna dance?” He wordlessly throws the bowl over his shoulder, sweeps everything off the table, picks her up, lays her down on the table, kisses her deeply then deadpans, “Yes.”

  20. Crow

    Sex is process…a mind thing…it's like physical and emotional zen for two. It's all about touching…feeling…projecting…sharing…
    embrace…scent…taste…the music of two hearts…two sprits…
    sharing the parts of themselves that they share with no one else….
    it is the shared ride to a place that exists only in depth of two hearts and the mind's eye of two people in the same thought…in the same awareness of each other….oblivious to all else save one another…
    touching smiles and exploring souls….creating a dimension that no one but the two of you can find……..

  21. Roberta

    I totally agree! I've found that men who like the totally raw, pounding sex often are hiding low self esteem – and that sex is more of a performance for them than an act of love.

  22. Anonymous

    I loved the movies when they just kiss. There is even MORE left to the imagination. Talk about slow… I completely agree with you. This hot and heavy rushing and ramming is poor sex. Now you've made me have think about which movies were the best sex-wise. More later.

  23. tuguinha

    One of the most erotic scenes I watched was in the film by Bernardo Bertolucci “The Sheltering Sky”.
    The action takes place in the North African desert and the character played by Debra Winger is saved by a tuareg nomad.She later joins the tuaregs and she is taken to a village where she starts an intense sexual affair with the man that saved her. I thought the sex scenes were very sensual. They had much sexual chemistry even though they couldn´t understand each other. The whole ambiance was very exotic and beautiful.

    PS: Sorry for my english.It´s not my first language.

  24. Rachel

    I have not seen the movie yet, but pounding and ramming is sometimes just what ur looking for…. maybe it's a generational difference???

  25. BEV

    I have been single for 40 years, and mostly agree with what everyone says.

    BUT!! Once in a very great while, passion strikes like lightening. It is like an enveloping drug. Eyes lock across the room and agreement is instant. The spell is URGENT.You can't stand the burning surges in your veins.A nearby motel; tearing clothes off, an acrobatic all-nighter with this near-stranger. It is cheap and sleazy and dirty, and that just adds to it all.

    And it could be sexily dangerous, too, with a near-stranger. One morning, the guy was surely,and I felt that “click” of insight, of reality.Magic-time was over. I got dressed without another word, got in my car, and went to work. I left him still in the cheap motel bed, and have no idea how he got home.

    My daughters thought this ending was “so great!” I saw the guy again around the neighborhood. He was schizoid and had PTSD from Vietnam, neither of which bothered me. But I do object to a mean streak.

    I knew him casually, and wouldn't do this with a stranger in a bar.Mr. Goodbar does exist.

    “Some Enchanted Evening”?? Hardly. More like hot sex with a brain-damaged horny young guy who also has the time– and who turns you on.

    Bev in Honolulu

  26. Lynne

    “Sara, I so agree with you. I loved the “Kids are All Right” – but the sex scene was so over-the-top ridiculous (is it possible it was meant to be a sendup?). Part of this was the “banging” and “slamming” as you call it, but part was that it seemed to promote an old stereotype – that of the poor 'male-starved' lesbian finally getting what she had been missing out on for so long. It may not have been the intent – but… “

  27. Tara

    I had to chuckle at the reference to the Pointer Sisters 'Slow Hand' song – have thought of that myself after experiences of being “rushed” in bed! I agree with Roberta – some men feel the need to perform instead of being in the moment with you!
    Cheers for some honest dialogue about sex and the way it's portrayed on screen.

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