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SEXtember: Safe sex on film

Meld Magazine

Wed Sep 10 2014


THE lack of safe sex on screen has led Marina Solomon to investigate just why films and television shows avoid depicting safe sexual practices.


Sex scenes are almost inevitable when it comes to films and TV shows these days. Awkward, raunchy, funny or downright steamy; they’re pretty much unavoidable.

But how realistic are these sex scenes, and why more often than not, do they not promote safe sex?

Every now and then a film or show comes along that drops the word ‘condom’ into the conversation, or the camera pans across a condom packet next to the bed. But why, in this day and age, are films not showing the act of putting the condom on?

Australian filmmaker and former RMIT teacher, Christine Rogers (The Forest), finds that films are more for entertainment and pleasure rather than being educational. If every film “[stopped] to think about protection in a film, [it] blows the mood.”

When asked if she’d ever implement it into her films, Rogers spoke about her upcoming film and states, “whilst pregnancy is no longer an issue in this day and age, STI’s are rampant and more awkward to talk about.”

Whilst it is an important topic, Rogers maintains filmmakers do not find it artistically appealing, but that she would possibly explore the subject more if the film she were creating was based around teenagers. She’d go so far as to even making comedic light of the whereabouts of the condom, and the decision that follows.

…whilst pregnancy is no longer an issue in this day and age, STI’s are rampant and more awkward to talk about.

Award winning feminist erotic filmmaker, Anna Brownfield, has unlike most, shown the practice of safe sex in her films. Though she might not have explicitly shown the actor reaching for a condom, she has cut to scenes where the condom is visible during sex.

Brownfield does, however, share the similar beliefs of other filmmakers saying that actors reaching for protection often ruins the romanticism and passionate moments.

“Even in erotic films and porn it’s not usually shown, because it breaks the fantasy.”

Brownfield believes that safe sex in films is extremely important, maintaining that it’s significant to show safe sex and even the negative outcomes that come from the practice.

“It has become a prevalent idea that the practice of safe sex is just a matter of contraceptive, with people forgetting that STI’s usually follow,” she says.

Even in erotic films and porn it’s not usually shown, because it breaks the fantasy.

Meanwhile, creator and director of the Made in Melbourne Film Festival, Ivan Malekin, finds that usually filmmakers want things to be sharp and snappy – anything that is not crucial to the story or the character is superfluous and therefore cut.

Malekin also suggests that the issue relates quite heavily in relation to Hollywood’s perception of sex, where scenes tend to be sensationalised. True depictions of sex aren’t high on the agenda as titillation is more compelling.

Malekin found that while  films might not show the practice of safe sex, a number of films show the outcome of a couple who have not used protection, such as Juno and Dallas Buyers Club.

Whilst Malekin himself has never shown the act in any of his films, he tantalises with the idea, suggesting that he would show the act if he were to make a film which called for grittiness or realism.

When the filmmakers were asked if they could list any mainstream films that practiced safe sex, all came up empty. They seemed to have found the question a ‘tough one’ and that the act appeared to be so rare they were unable to think of anything.

Given the influential control films can have on people these days, withholding scenes depicting safe sexual practices simply because they ‘blow the mood’, or ‘ruin the passion’, may send a wave of bad messages to current and future generations who’ve been taught to believe condom application would ruin their passionate moments.

Not all films, however, are like this. In those instances where films do promote an awareness of safe sex, there are those awkward few seconds that lead to the passion, suggesting perhaps that there might not be anything wrong at all with the practice of safe sex.

Below are examples of films that hint at the idea of safe sex and films that show the awkward moment that sometimes occurs with the introduction of condoms (NSFW):

The First Time

Dave and Aubrey have a bit of an awkward fumble for a condom when having sex for the very first time.

The Spectacular Now

Sutter and Aimee are about to have sex, and there’s that awkward moment when there’s a bit of a condom situation, alas, they got it working.

Sex & The City: Streets of Dubai

Not so much a sex scene, but it’s good to know Samantha from Sex & The City is always using protection.

American Pie

A sex comedy classic, this scene sees Jim’s dad give his son some pretty funny and awkward advice.

17 Again

Though not a sex scene, this clip does show the promotion of safe sex (and a little bit of Zac Efron).

The 40 Year Old Virgin

Andy struggles with the condom procedure for a while and if you thought that was awkward, wait until the end of the scene!

Do you feel there should be more safe sex on film? How important do you think it is for films to promote safe sex? Is it important at all? If you have any opinions about it, share your thoughts in the comments section below!