This article on why sex and desire in movies is unrealistic originally appeared on Blood + Milk.
Music swells. The camera pans around in a circle. And, shortly after our main characters’ lips (finally!) meet, the scene fades to black.
The “closed door” sex scene is a classic part of any rom-com and, increasingly other movies. Some are more or less explicit but all have one thing in common:
Two people falling into each other’s arms. The rest of the world, forgotten.
“I feel broken. I just want to want it.”
Me, alone in my office talking to another perfectly whole human blame themselves or their bodies for not giving them movie-worthy sex.
Frustration, anger, and sadness mingle in my belly on their behalf. It’s a familiar cocktail—“If I had a penny…” familiar. This isn’t the first or even the thousandth time a sex coaching client has said this to me. It never hurts any less though, the ways in which our world has shamed us around sex.
I repeat what have become well-tread lines, no less true for how often I speak them:
It’s not your fault. And, there is a way to shift it.
The Movies Lie
This has created a world in which what we see in these idealized forms is considered normal, even though, in reality, it’s not. In fact, for many, it’s not even ideal because it’s predicated on perfection and looking a certain way and doing certain things that are only one small part of what sex, intimacy, connection, and pleasure actually encompass.
In fact, much of what compromises mainstream conversations about sex really only works for a small percentage of the population—those for whom it’s created: namely cis, white, heterosexual, able-bodied, neurotypical, upper-middle-class men.
Only, the truth is that when it comes to sex, there is no normal or standard. There’s only more or less common.
Forget Movie-Worthy Sex
Movie-worthy sex is a construct. The same goes for porn. And, even my beloved romance novels: everyone is always 100% physically and emotionally ready and eager.
Don’t get me wrong—these situations happen. To some people, some of the time.
For most of us, our desire needs a bit more nurturing and attention.
What the Movies (and Books and…) Get Wrong About Desire
Desire often doesn’t just pop up! Emily Nagoski’s amazing book Come As You Aretackles this in detail and is well worth the read. However, the short version is this:
Most people—especially but not only women—experience sexual desire in a way that depends on the context around them.
How are they feeling? What else is going on in their life? What’s their relationship to themselves like at this moment? How about their partner/s?
The rest of our lives and days don’t just disappear when we step through the bedroom doors (or wherever you get it on). Understanding and honoring that is something we never see—yet it makes all the difference in helping you to have more sex.
If You Want to Have More Desire…And More Sex…Try This
Understanding how desire *actually* works helps you have more of it.
Understanding what expectations you’re (consciously or not) putting on yourself, your partner(s), and your sex life helps you choose what you *actually* want your sex life to look like.
Understanding that you aren’t broken helps you make the changes you need to make from a place of acceptance and ease versus tension and struggle.
And, all of this helps you get to the root cause of why you aren’t in the mood or having sex as often as you’d like.
So that you can have more of it AND feel more fulfilled by the sex you’re having.
Find Freedom In Pleasure, Your Own Way
So, where does this leave you as someone who understands but might still find themselves frustrated that they aren’t having movie-worthy sex?
Well, this is where I get to share some happy news: you have a few options.
You can learn about desire on your own. There are books (like Emily’s) and online courses and programs rooted in science and with actionable steps that have helped hundreds increase their libido, get in the mood more regularly, and have more sex.
You can also work with one of the many folx—coaches, educators, and therapists—who tackle these issues.
You also can change the media you consume—from the books you read to the people you follow on social media—to more accurately reflect the world we live in.
No matter what you choose, I hope you say yes to your pleasure and leave the outdated, unhelpful expectations behind.