Andrés Muschietti's adaptation of IT is a powerful coming-of-age story where children unite against a demonic, shape-shifting clown — so why is everyone so busy talking about a sex scene that was published 30 years ago in Stephen King's original book?
It might seem bizarre that the titular monster could be overshadowed by some "Losers" banging in a sewer, but that's exactly what's happened recently — to the point where King himself has even weighed in on the controversial scene, despite the fact that Beverley Marsh didn't let any of the Losers put their "thing" inside of her during either adaptation of IT released so far.
What Does Stephen King Think About The Controversy Surrounding The Sewer Sex Scene?
Back in 2013, the King of Horror spoke out about the controversial gang-bang, explaining to a forum on Stephenking.com that:
"I wasn’t really thinking of the sexual aspect of it. The book dealt with childhood and adulthood –1958 and Grown Ups. The grown ups don’t remember their childhood. None of us remember what we did as children–we think we do, but we don’t remember it as it really happened. Intuitively, the Losers knew they had to be together again. The sexual act connected childhood and adulthood. It’s another version of the glass tunnel that connects the children’s library and the adult library. Times have changed since I wrote that scene and there is now more sensitivity to those issues."
Said sensitivity eventually prompted King to expand upon his original statement thanks to newfound interest in IT. Speaking to Vulture, King added that:
“It’s fascinating to me that there has been so much comment about that single sex scene and so little about the multiple child murders. That must mean something, but I’m not sure what.”
For every fan who believes that the movie should have faithfully adapted this pivotal sex scene, others would argue that the orgy borders on pedophilia and remains entirely unnecessary to the story. Either way though, King has a point: Why is it more acceptable to see a child's arm ripped off and eaten than watch two kids in the throes of puberty exploring their sexuality?
Whether you believe that the controversial sex scene should have been included in the movie or not, such a response undoubtedly says something about American attitudes and values, even if King himself isn't sure what this may be.
Why Is Sex More Shocking Than Violence In The Movies?
Would you be more disturbed by the sight of Pennywise's teeth sinking into the flesh of a child or a 12-year-old boy's penis sinking into a 14-year-old girl? Both are graphic and unsettling sights designed to shock and perturb, but only one of these was included in Muschietti's adaptation of IT, despite the fact that both are arguably integral to the source material — well, at least according to #StephenKing, anyway.
Yes, the age of the parties concerned in the sewer orgy certainly raises more eyebrows, yet adult sex is also considered far more shocking than violence for the most part, at least by industry standards. According to The Telegraph, Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin discussed the issue in the wake of the Sansa Stark rape controversy, arguing that violence should not be accepted by society more easily than sex:
"I'm always astonished that there's always so much more controversy about the sex than about the violence. I can write a scene and describe in detail a penis entering a vagina, and there will be a portion of the audience who get very upset about that. But I can write a scene about an axe entering a human skull and nobody will complain about that. Generally speaking, I'm much more in favour of penises entering vaginas than of axes entering heads. People seem to accept the violence much easier than they accept the sex."
According to a study conducted by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) in 2015, 80 percent parents are worried about their children seeing graphic sex onscreen compared to just 64 percent who are concerned over the effects of being exposed to graphic violence. As if that wasn't surprising enough, 70 percent are distressed by full frontal shots of nudity while only 56 percent freak out over graphic violence in movies. What this amounts to is that people are more comfortable with seeing a character shot in the head than being exposed to someone's little head onscreen.
On the face of it, people might be surprised to learn that depictions of sex onscreen have become more of an issue for parents than violence. After all, sexuality is an integral aspect of the human experience, one that doesn't cause harm if handled in a mature and healthy way. Violence, however, can never be perceived in such terms.
The positivity that should surround sex has been historically suppressed for the most part, leading many generations to grow up perceiving these carnal pleasures as something wrong and even perverse. As a result of this, violence has continued to pervade the media in all its forms while sexuality has been largely hidden away as a dirty secret. It seems then that we as a society have become somewhat desensitized to the sight of blood and murder. In fact, gun shots and knife wounds have lost their power to shock and sensationalize for the most part, while nudity and the act of sex itself remain mysterious and unseen.
Sex is also far more accessible to everyone, sparking more fears among parents who wish to avoid exposing their children to sexuality in any form. The belief here is that children are less likely to embark on violent rampages than privately make unhealthy sexual decisions following exposure to these acts onscreen. When someone like #Pennywise rips off a boys arm, the consequences are immediately apparent, but the negative results of unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases are depicted with far less frequency.
At the end of the day, the fantasy of violence is far less terrifying for most than the real dangers of unsafe sex. Of course, there's a whole other debate surrounding how violence affects audiences which is also vital to discuss. Whether you're more disturbed by the gruesome deaths of innocent children or the idea of Beverley helping multiple boys lose their virginity at once may ultimately be a matter of personal taste. Despite all this though, the controversy that surrounds this orgy certainly hasn't harmed IT's earnings at the box office.
Perhaps its time then that we take our minds quite literally out of the sewers and focus on the ways that director Andrés Muschietti arguably improved the original story and Cary Fukunaga's script by touching upon the racism and abuse that are also integral to the source material. Although, of course, there's also the matter of that gay sex scene which no one even seems to be talking about.
Is sex more shocking than violence onscreen? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!