the best sex in movies and television is terrible

The Cut had a great article breaking down how Woody Allen got away with being a shithead to Diane Keaton in front of everyone:

But I keep thinking about Allen’s speech, especially as his character has come under increasing scrutiny in recent weeks. Yesterday, Alec Baldwin went on Twitter to defend Allen against his stepdaughter’s account of having been molested by Allen as a child. Baldwin called Dylan Farrow a liar — an actress, in fact, suggesting that the rage and anguish she has expressed at what she’s perceived for decades as Hollywood’s complicity is a performance. But of course, Allen is the veteran actor in this scenario. If you look closely at his own performance at the AFI tribute last spring, you can see some of the tactics he uses to project a demeanor of plausibility and harmlessness, and how they mask the deliberation and craft behind his routine. You can also watch him making Hollywood complicit before your eyes.

Allen’s speech at the AFI tribute to Diane Keaton was an example of stealth misogyny. He engineered things so that at the climax of the award ceremony, when everyone thought they were applauding Keaton, they were actually applauding him for demeaning her. Allen was the very last speaker; he was to present the award in the next moment. So he knew that, no matter what he said, at the end of his speech everyone would jump up and cheer. By dropping the word fellatrix into the list of Keaton’s professional accomplishments, though, Allen completely undercut everything he seemed to be saying. And by giving it an unconventional pronunciation, he made it unlikely that anyone would understand or be sure what he’d said.

It’s a classic–if byzantine–example of how covertly abusive men force or seduce others into collusion. The AFI tribute to Diane Keaton was covered by five or six industry publications, but none of them commented on Allen’s use of the word fellatrix in his speech. In general, most of them characterized it as a comedy routine or a roast that ended in a loving tribute. Which isn’t at all what it’s actually like. What you miss on the page are the mannerisms, the fake pauses and stammers, the gestures (Allen bringing his hand to his face, fingering his lip, playing with his ring) that made it seem like he was nervous or considering what to say, creating a patina of spontaneity.

It’s a highly rhetorical speech, for all the assumed hesitancy, full of devices drawn from classical oratory as well as classic misogyny.

As of right now, it’s the #2 most viewed story on the site. #3 is The Best Sex Scenes in Movies and Television of 2017. In other words, it’s our culture’s official instructions for fucking. Topping the list (“in no particular order”) is a BDSM threesome:

The threesome scene in Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
Mrs. Marston and the Wonder Women, a biopic about the polyamorous BDSM relationship that inspired Wonder Woman, is an erotic delight from start to finish. After a whole lot of anticipatory buildup (involving a sexy lie-detector test and a voyeuristic sorority hazing ritual), our central trio (Rebecca Hall, Bella Heathcote, and Luke Evans) finally get it on for the first time backstage in a college auditorium. In a lush, sensual extended threesome scene, we watch the three lovers take turns giving and receiving pleasure, swaddling each another in various costumes and furs as they finally unleash their forbidden desires. It’s one of the kinkiest — and most unexpectedly romantic — things I’ve seen all year. –Anna Silman

The idea of a lie detector is to coercively invade someone’s inner life. Voyeurism, too, is supposed to be sexy because it’s violating. Hazing is a terrible way to behave. “The Greek system” is a terrible social institution. Polyamory is a way of using people and avoiding intimacy.

So everything surrounding the sex is horrible. You should be able to tell your lover anything, not submit to a polygraph. Sometimes desires are forbidden for a reason. The pleasure of getting away with violating social norms against decency (but really just acting like a typical man) is totally self-absorbed. You can’t bond with an object.

Telling people this is good sex is, in fact, perverse.

Grey Worm and Missandei get it on on Game of Thrones
After three seasons of buildup, we finally got to see Essos’s cutest couple — Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) and Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) — have sex. And it’s the rare Game of Thrones sex scene that feels like meaningful character development instead of gratuitous titillation. Grey Worm reveals his castrated nether regions to Missandei and then goes down on her — an encounter that feels unabashedly feminist, as well as offering a reminder us that there’s more than one way for couples to be intimate. –A.S.

I mean, this was what feminists were saying about Game of Thrones in 2015:

The rape scene that closed out this week’s episode of Game of Thrones is probably only the third worst act of sexual violence against a major female character we’ve seen in the series. The wave of revulsion it’s kicked off is at least in part because Game of Thrones has now unambiguously become the kind of show for which it’s necessary to maintain a critical ranking of acts of sexual violence against major female characters. But it’s not as though we weren’t warned – and by “we”, I mean viewers like me who’ve fastidiously hoarded the benefit of the doubt while the programme recklessly mixed grisly violations with the tits-out titillation that is the USP of cable television.

After all, there’s a rape in the very first episode, and like the one this week, it’s the consummation of an arranged marriage: Daenarys Targaryen is tremulus and unwilling when her warrior husband Khal Drogo takes her to bed, and she’s also only 15. This is a departure from the book, where Daenarys is a consenting partner – but as she’s two years younger in the book, the screenplay is arguably an improvement. It’s tough to square this violence with the affection and devotion Dany develops for Drogo, but given that her only family is the brother who sells her into matrimony, it’s not totally implausible that Drogo shows her the nearest thing to kindness that she has ever experienced…

Game of Thrones has given up entirely on making those kinds of observations, though. Because what is obvious after the last episode is that it’s given up on seeing women through our own eyes. There is no way that Sansa’s marriage could have taken place without rape. She is compelled into the wedding, and the man she is wed to is the most exceptionally evil character in a world with no shortage of exceptional evil. At least we’re not supposed to like Ramsay Bolton, unlike Jaime Lannister – or even worse, Tyrion Lannister, who strangled his faithless woman and still gets to maunder on about losing the “woman he loved”. Of course Sansa wouldn’t want to have sex with Ramsay, and of course he wouldn’t listen to her when she says no.

But the programme makers had the choice of whether to make us watch or not, and they put us right there in the room, camera focused lasciviously on her suffering face. Even worse though is that they put Sansa’s stepbrother Theon in the room as a witness, and made his anguish at watching her rape the closing note of the programme. Apparently violence against a woman counts for more if it distresses a man.

It’s hard at this point to think of any satisfactory way for Game of Thrones to proceed, short of Daenerys unleashing her dragons and barbecuing every man in the Seven Kingdoms, and maybe the executives of HBO for good measure. Thrones has stopped being a story about how women survive, if it ever really was that, and become something much more grim and ordinary: just another example of the shit we have to negotiate in a world that’s fundamentally hostile to female humans.

All of that, and the show is “unabashedly feminist” because a guy with no balls goes down on a woman one time?

Perry and Celeste’s violent sex in Big Little Lies
Anchored by an award-winning performance by Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies gave us one of TV’s most nuanced depictions of domestic violence. In episode two, we see eroticism and abuse dangerously intertwined: Perry (Alexander Skarsgård) slaps Celeste (Kidman) violently across the face during a fight; shortly after, when they make rough, passionate love against a wall, viewers are left uncertain whether to be titillated or disturbed. As Hillary Kelly writes, “The scene is sexy and revolting all at once, since it’s entirely unclear whether Celeste holds any power. Perry grips her wrists so tightly, and enters her so violently, that it’s difficult to say whether it’s consensual. Is she channeling his rage into sex to save herself? Is he raping her?” It’s this ambiguity that makes the scene — and Perry’s ongoing descent into full-blown monstrosity — that much more affecting. –A.S.

He’s just indulging his forbidden desires and she didn’t fight back there’s no problem right? Bringing fantasies to life! Hot! Let the reader go forth and fuck like this!

Chris and Sylvère fantasize about Dick in I Love Dick
I Love Dick is all about the psychology of female desire — how sexual arousal takes place in the mind just as much as it does the body. In episode two, we see how Chris’s (Kathryn Hahn) relationship with her husband Sylvère (Griffin Dunne) is reanimated by her attraction to another man (the titular Dick, played by Kevin Bacon). As Chris and Sylvère have sex, Chris imagines Dick sitting in a chair, directing them, watching them, even telling Chris when to come. As Chris sublimates her desire for Dick, Sylvère gets turned on by his wife’s desire for another man. It’s one of the best depictions I’ve seen of how couples integrate fantasy into their sex lives, and it’s shot entirely from a woman’s POV. –A.S.

The recurring theme here is that “good sex” is desperation fucking when the emotional climate surrounding the sex is a godawful wasteland.

Witnessing someone else be turned on, per se, is arousing (lol empathy). It’s more basic than all the elaborate psychological factors surrounding the arousal.

This is some kind of cuckold fetish nonsense I don’t understand. Maybe it’s something deep in the white male psyche?

When I’m having sex and it feels like another man is directing the scene, i.e., my partner has learned that sex is abusive from IRL abuse and this kind of pop culture stuff, it makes the sex bad.

This one time, I came home pretty tired and numb from killing rats all evening. My ex-wife and her new female “friend” were drunk in bed after having had sex, leaving sex toys and panties strewn about. It was in fact one of the wost experiences of my life. Immediate reaction? We had sex while homewrecker bitch slept on the couch (too drunk to drive home oh the humanity). The full crappiness of the betrayal took a few days to sink in. Who cares how hard I came while trying to fuck away the shock and pain of it? It came right back and didn’t go away for years.

Having your wife start crying during sex because she’s fucking some other guy and lying to you about it is great, too.

Fuck everybody who thinks adultery and the idea of adultery are sexy. Die in a fire with syphilis.

Kat and Adena’s airport tryst in The Bold Type
From its very first episode, the love story between Kat (Aisha Dee) and Adena (Nikohl Boosheri) on The Bold Type was shipping fodder — after all, how often is it that you see a mixed-race lesbian love story on prime-time TV (not to mention one featuring a Muslim woman who wears a hijab)? In episode nine, when Adena gets held at customs and is threatened with deportation, Kat makes the ultimate romantic gesture, shelling out $11,000 to spend a night with Adena in the first-class airport lounge. What follows is a gorgeous evening of talking, smooching, and sexing in a lush pillow fort — one that handily delivered on a season’s worth of high-stakes tension. –A.S.

Mia Khalifa is Catholic:

 

Women that ACTUALLY wear a hijab because they want to talk about freedom from the male gaze. Did anybody ask them if they want white people jerking off to a “mixed-race lesbian love story” using their religious attire as a fetish object? This is the same as normal people being proud of themselves for putting demeaning representations of autism on TV.

And the “ultimate romantic gesture” is spending $11,000 (imagine what a charity could do with that!) on a night in an airport lounge? Alright, being rich is sexy. TV says, so it’s true.

The threesome in Blade Runner 2049: If Tinder is any indication, Blade Runner’s vision of future relationships — healthy, loving partnerships with bespoke artificially intelligent holograms — is probably a best-case scenario. At least Denis Villeneuve’s vision of the sex we’ll have with our computer lovers has been upgraded from Spike Jonze’s 2013 Her. In Blade Runner, Mariette (MacKenzie Davis) acts as a surrogate for K’s (Ryan Gosling) holo-girlfriend Joi, who projects her digital form over Mariette’s human form. It’s a feat of visual effects and by far the weirdest, most original sex scene of 2017. And sometimes, weirdest is best. –APD

The kicker is that this is the end of the article:

The only triumphant sex scene in The Handmaid’s Tale
Honestly, the sex in Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale was mostly harrowing: a parade of nonconsensual, mechanical acts that reminded viewers over and over how easy it is for women to lose control of their bodies. But there was a single, shining moment in episode five when sex was shown in a different light — when June, in a moment of resistance and rebellion, has sex with Nick, her Commander’s driver for the second time. While the first was orchestrated as an attempt to get her pregnant, this time was purely about June’s desire. It was consensual, filled with want and power and life, and June totally got on top. In 2017, is there any sex hotter than sex that’s a tool against the patriarchy? —APD

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