You're 15 years old, you're watching a film in your room and you've just arrived at the sex scene. What's the next thing that happens? Well, if my experience is anything to judge by, your mother will walk in just as the onscreen lovers reach the pinnacle of their coital-cacophony.
Parents clearly have an uncanny ability of always entering the room during a film's sex scene. However, any awkwardness surrounding movie lovemaking is certainly not limited to the viewer - they're often also excruciatingly awkward to film. Without further ado, let's take a good, hard, explicit look at the anatomy of a sex scene.
What's Actually Going on Under The Covers?
Now, there is clearly a plethora of ways to represent sex on film, and indeed some, often indie (and usually European), directors have showed scenes of unsimulated sex in movies. However, the vast majority of Hollywood flicks now favor filming sex scenes which attempt to preserve the modesty of the actors, while simultaneously looking remotely believable.
So, first things first, no, in 99% of the sex scenes you've seen in movies (excluding those 'movies' you've got hidden under your bed) the actors do not actually have sex, although clearly they may be naked to various degrees.
Indeed, an anonymous assistant director on Reddit, explained that in most situations there is no need for both actors to be naked - especially if a sex scene is taking place under the covers. This clearly isn't true for certain films, but in most mainstream Hollywood films, actors will not actually be clanging their nether-regions together.
No Prizes For Guessing What A 'Cock Sock' Is Used For
However, what if our onscreen love-makers have thrown caution to the wind and discarded the masking sheets, for example in Shame or Blue is The Warmest Color? Well, they could make use of 'pasties' and the venerable 'cock sock' to hide their shame on set. These flesh colored covers, jock straps and underwear - as well as prosthetic genitals - can make actors appear naked, while actually covering their more controversial areas.
All of this can then be combined with various camera angles and movie-making trickery to further preserve modesty and, perhaps more importantly, avoid the ire of censors. Often close ups filmed above the collar-bone can imply nudity without showing it, while actresses can also be filmed behind as to not show those pesky breasts.
Some directors, such as Lars von Trier, also utilize body doubles and computer wizardry to make it appear that the actors are involved in the sex scene, while David Fincher went full CGI for the sex scene in Fight Club.
What's It Like Filming A Sex Scene?
To the uninitiated, being paid millions of dollars to flop around on top of Scarlet Johannson probably sounds like a dream job. However, according to the above mentioned AD, it's not as fun as it might sound. He explains:
I have never met an actress or actor who is stoked for these scenes. Never. Not even the lecherous ones that hit on anything that moves. It’s not fun business.
Of course, for the most part, filming these scenes with someone you're not romantically involved with is simply a lesson in excruciating awkwardness. Because of this, sex scenes are generally filmed on a closed set - which means only camera and wardrobe are there when the actors are naked. The director often works remotely with a monitor, but only once wardrobe has de-robed the actors. Similarly the crew is only allowed back on set after wardrobe has once again covered the actors up.
Is That A [Insert Cylindrical Object Here] In Your Pocket Or Are You Just Pleased To See Me?
But what about the elephant in the room? Y'know, the question every guy out there is thinking about. What happens if the actor 'gets aroused' during a sex scene? Well, perhaps surprisingly, it's not an issue that comes up all that often. It seems the bustling and stressful situation doesn't exactly result in an erotic environment. Our AD continues:
You’d think it’d be hard not to get a boner, but it’s relatively easy not too. It’s a totally different situation when you’re being told how to lay, you’ve been on set 7 hours, lunch was an hour ago and it was chilly, the room you’re in is 100 degrees, there’s 10+ people all exhausted and expecting you to perform and get it right the first time so they can move on.
However, one famous actor, who was interviewed under the name 'Archie,' saw things differently. He explained:
Arousal during a sex scene, ironically or not, is pretty much the only thing that can make it truly enjoyable. It's hard to categorize it as "work" if you're lucky enough to attain this kind of Nirvana on a set. And usually, let's be honest now, who is going to be offended if someone knows they turn you on?... The offense for many actors, I'll bet my boots, is actually when the actor fails to get aroused — actors are already so insecure that for some, that's all the confirmation they need to realize the entire universe is pitted against them.
I should probably mention, I'm not quite sure how much 'Archie' speaks for the rest of the profession.
And Worst Of All...
It seems the universally hated thing about sex scenes is having to do them with someone you dislike, or even worse, find repulsive. Another actress, who was interviewed as 'Betty,' reveals:
[A sex scene with someone you dislike is] pretty gruesome. Like being in a bad relationship, thinking, "What am I doing in bed with him?" And [if it] happen[s] to be on a soap, [it's] like being stuck in a bad marriage.
But, want to know the most awkward thing of all? Often, an actor or actresses' partner is also on set watching it all go down.
So, what does this all practically look like? Well, now we know thanks to a new behind the scenes video from action-comedy, Stretch. The video sees Brooklyn Decker and Patrick Wilson squaring up before a sex scene, while director Joe Carnahan stands out of shot providing encouragement once 'action' is shouted. It's not exactly hot, I'll say that much. Take a look below: