sex in movies is like salt in cookies

CNN.com had an article the other day about some research that suggests that sex in movies doesn’t necessarily make them more popular. This seems to fly in the face of the movie industry’s common practices, which assume that putting a hot and steamy love scene is de rigeur. But I have to say that I’m not all that surprised.

For a long time, movie makers have been operating under the belief that sex sells. And I think that used to be more true in the past. After all, when movies and TV were much more strictly limited in terms of showing anything remotely resembling sex, there were more ways to provide titillation. Back then, actors in a bedroom scene needed to keep at least one foot on the floor in order to avoid looking like they were getting busy. (This may be where the old trope of a woman lifting one foot during a standing kiss came from.)

It hasn’t been that long since interracial kissing was taboo. (As an aside, the Kirk/Uhura kiss wasn’t the first, but it was the first passionate kiss between a white person and an African-American person on TV and it was quite controversial.) And other media taboos around showing sexuality have been broken only fairly recently. But now that they have, and now that anyone with a computer and an internet connection can find as much sexually explicit imagery as they want, we’re not dependent on movies for such things anymore. And that changes the entire context for sex in movies.

To be honest, I find most sex scenes in movies to be pretty boring. Not because they’re not explicit- on the contrary, I find a well-scripted, choreographed, and directed non-explicit scene to be more interesting than lots of the porn out there. Rather, I find it boring when it’s irrelevant to the story. When it seems like it was thrown in to try to spice up a movie, especially a mediocre movie, I find it more annoying than anything else. As if I won’t notice the bad acting because there’s some skin, or something.

If directors are going to include a sex scene, then I think it needs to be like putting salt in cookies. You don’t do it in all recipes because not all of them need it. And you only put a little bit in because you only need a little to make the cookies taste better. More than that and you ruin them.

I hope that movie producers, directors, and writers pay attention to the research and put a little more thought into how and why they use them. When it moves the story along or when it develops a character, fine. And when it doesn’t add anything to the story, there’s no reason to bother. It doesn’t help their sales and that should be telling them something.

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