Carly Rosenfield is Right to Want Better Sex in Movies, By God!

Man, oh man, Ms. Carly Rosenfield is darn right: We Need Better Sex in Movies. Her article is named, appropriately, just that. She is advocating for more thoughtful, realistic, and responsible depictions of both sex and violence, and she focuses in on the MPAA ratings as big part of what keeps sex and violence depictions so skewed and backward in our movies.

For instance, there can be as much killing as you want in a movie and you can get a PG-13 rating...as long as there's no blood. So basically tons of tidy, easy to watch death in a movie is fine for a 13 year old, but as soon as you add all the messiness and harsh consequences that come with it shooting automatic weapons into a crowd, well then only 17 year olds can see that. It's silly really.

But let's get back to the sex stuff. Her gripe, and as she points out the same gripe in the fabulous documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated, is that things that are not hetero-centric and male pleasure based are often given ridiculously harsher ratings than seems anywhere near sensible given the kinds of ratings other movies get...and getting an NC-17 over an R, is a HUGE deal, actually. Basically people distribute R-rated movies, allow R-rated movies in their theater, and people see R-rated movie. So, because the MPAA influences what types of sex get R and which types of sex get NC-17, it also influences what kinds of sex feel normal (male masturbation, but not so much female masturbation for instance) because that's the kind of sex we mostly see.
"These ratings both reflect and perpetuate the societal trend that, in many cases, males are allowed to be comfortable with, even proud of, their sexuality while females are not." 
"In mainstream movies, this rejection of female sexuality often translates into sex scenes centered around male pleasure, or in which penetration, which for many women does not alone result in an orgasm, is the primary or only activity."
Ms. Rosenfield is on point about this, and she gets even deeper on point and quite boldly Orgasm Equality revolutionized, honest, and bad-aasicle in the following passage.
What concerns me is the way in which these scenes teach young people about sex...People thus establish expectations for themselves and their partners that are unrealistic, which perpetuate both heteronormativity and gender normativity, and which prevent them from being free to explore and learn from each other in ways that are pleasurable to both. As a cis-woman, I cannot and will not presume to know the male experience of these mass media portrayals, but I think that if I were a male who had grown up watching these films and television shows, I would likely believe that the penis going into the vagina equals (heterosexual[1]) sex and not much else matters, and would either feel inadequate if my partner did not derive pleasure from this or not be terribly concerned, because it must be their problem, right? Similarly, as a female, it was not until being in relationships with women and exploring queer culture that I learned that sex could be anything different.
Love this. She's so right about how strongly media depictions can influence our expectations of ourselves and our partners when it comes to how sex should work. Not every lady has moved from male to female partners like she has, but the feeling that there was a time of realizing that "sex could be anything different" is an unfortunately common experience for women, Just think about that for a minute.

She wraps it up pretty nicely. It's super complicated, but awareness and talking about this stuff is a huge first step for change.
So, what can we do? I’m not entirely sure. I think it’s a start though to be aware of the problems of representation in our society, and the fact that these skewed representations are both a cause and an effect in a vicious cycle of stereotypes and shame. Question everything you see, and be aware of the empty spaces in between: what we have been prevented from seeing
I'm adding Ms. Carly Rosenfield to the Orgasm Equality Hero List because I love the thoughtfulness of her writing about what media depictions of sex can mean to our real sex lives, and I love her honesty. This was written a couple years back when, I think, she was still in college, and I think she's off in the world doing other cool things now besides writing on blogs, so I hope she sees this one day and knows she's awesome.

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