Authentic and Awkward: The Best Onscreen Representations of Sex

A good sex scene in a movie or TV show can take several different forms. Steamy, rough, graphic, or tender, there’s a whole selection far superior to anything porn can provide. But, for a long time, sex onscreen was inauthentic and a fantasy, always between a straight, white, cisgender couple. Diversity and believability were not a priority. However, with the rise of indie cinema and a desire to see different cultures and communities on screen in the last few years, onscreen sex has followed suit. TV show Sex Education shows young people that sex is often much clumsier and more uncertain than porn or Hollywood like to pretend. Meanwhile, Euphoria depicts the beautiful and troubling sexual explorations of young gay and trans people. If you still want the fantasy, shows like Bridgerton continue to serve us
steamy escapism with full-on sexy montages. But if you want to see sex in all its awkward,
intimate authenticity, here are my top five favourite scenes.

5) The Spectacular Now

Released in 2013, The Spectacular Now is a precursor to the indie coming of age story that’s so popular today. The sex scene in particular feels ahead of its time. As Aimee loses her virginity to popular boy Sutter, there’s laughter, awkwardness, and enthusiastic consent from both. They joke about the importance of safe sex as Sutter clumsily puts on the condom. There’s affectionate cheek kissing. When they start, Aimee instructs him to “go really slow”, which he does, continually checking if she’s okay. More heart-warming than sexy, this scene is what everyone wants their first time to be like.

4) Lady Bird

Lady Bird’s first time is a disaster: unromantic, uncomfortable, and under thirty seconds, with a sudden nosebleed as her version of a climactic finish. Worst of all, she’s on top: “Who the fuck is on top their first time?” Afterwards, we find out her boyfriend lied about being a virgin, carelessly informing her he’s slept with an uncertain number of girls. Not exactly dreamy post-coital pillow talk. Like many of Lady Bird’s misadventures throughout the film, losing her virginity is disappointing and very relatable.

Making Out Lady Bird GIF by A24
From Giphy

3) Pose

Black queer stories are rarely seen on TV, let alone black queer sex scenes. Pose gives us a glimpse of LGBTQ+ culture in the 80s in all its camp glory, with well-developed characters, interesting storylines, and stunning fashion moments. However, it’s not all glitz and glamour; we see the impact of the AIDS crisis on the characters, as well as the social and political struggles the trans and gay communities faced at the time. It makes me cry around four times per episode… you have been warned. Pose is also a rare example of a show with diversity in both its casting and creative team. To avoid spoilers, I won’t reveal the characters involved in the show’s most notorious sex scene. I will say, however, the scene is ground-breaking for its unusually cinematic and erotic portrayal of sex between two men.

2) The Miseducation of Cameron Post

For years, lesbian sex was depicted on-screen with no attention to real female pleasure, instead, fetishizing queer women in brightly lit, male-gaze orientated scenes (Blue is the Warmest Colour, I’m looking at you). However, since the release of films like The Miseducation of Cameron Post, sapphic sex has been handled more sensitively with a focus on female desires. Cameron is a teen girl caught having sex with her best friend in the back of a car and sent to a Christian conversion therapy centre when her aunt finds out. The car scene takes place in one single shot, allowing the girls’ fumbling nervousness to naturally develop into passion. We get several great sex scenes throughout the film, all exciting and believable. And, just so you know, this film was my gay awakening. Yes, it really is that hot.

1) Normal People

Last year, Normal People changed the sex scene game forever. The show’s handling of mental health, grief, abuse, and the complicated feelings of being a young adult make it unmissable, but there’s a reason it was the sex that everyone and their mum couldn’t stop talking about. There are several incredible moments between main characters Marianne and Connell throughout the series that display the desire, excitement, and rawness of their sexual relationship. Both subtle and graphic, you can tell that care and consideration was taken when staging each scene and making the actors comfortable. The first sex scene, in which Marianne loses her virginity to Connell, is memorable for the importance it places on consent,
communication and mutual enjoyment. If you haven’t watched Normal People yet, stop whatever you’re doing and go get your life together.

-Daniella Clarke

Featured Image Source: Still from Sex Education Trailer from Netflix via Youtube

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