The Decline And Evolution Of Sex Scenes

A very NSFW scene from Game of Thrones, discussed below:

Kate Hakala mourns the decline of steaminess on the big screen:

The zeitgeist favors both family-oriented films and flicks full of special effects and gun violence, which are cheap to produce, over realistic, provocative depictions of human sexuality. Sex scenes require rehearsing, clearing of no-nudity clauses, the development of chemistry, and the hiking of R ratings, whereas CGI takes a computer and some imagination. The latter will time and time again have a wider audience. In 2012, out of the top 20 grossing films of the year, only four included any sex scenes, and only one of those, Ted, was R-rated.

And the resounding trend I see on the internet’s “Best Movie Sex Scenes” lists* is that they all feature movies that are mainly over ten years old. In fact, the last movie to top the box office that included a truly hot and heavy love scene was Titanic (who could forget that smudged hand print on the car window?), but that was a depressingly long sixteen years ago. … We may have now become a culture that feels safer watching a city be bombed to death with their mom than they feel safe watching somebody feeling pleasure next to their mom.

Alison Natasi rounds up actors’ and directors’ opinions on the awkwardness of shooting a sex scene. Jason Kehe tracks the migration of such scenes to television and sees an artistic evolution of the form:

When the adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s fantasy novels first aired in spring 2011, it swelled with sex—par for the course in HBO’s True Blood era. But there was a difference this time: Characters spoke in these scenes. And not just pillow talk, either, but epic discussions of dynasties, subterfuge, and redemption. We learned about the Lannister siblings while a character was downing wine and being serviced by a topless prostitute. Dragon lore got discussed during one extremely NSFW bath. Then the coup de grâce: a major character delivering a five-minute monolog while two women get it on in the background. Even the competition couldn’t hide its admiration. “Nobody gets to talk for two pages about power!” says Julie Plec, executive producer of The Vampire Diaries, CW’s sex-lite answer to True Blood.

So forget sex. It’s “sexposition” now—a way for cable writers to keep your attention while educating you on plot, background, and character.