Many of us have gotten so used to the way sex is portrayed on TV and in movies that we’re no longer even bothered by how laughably unrealistic it is. Two small, toned, perfectly symmetrical and smooth bodies come together for one or two oh-so-heterosexual pumps — no foreplay, of course — before the woman explodes with ecstasy and they fall back into bed, with the sheets covering all the right places. We see it again and again- so that it’s become an expected routine. But it’s nothing like the sex we actually experience in real life — and that can have some major consequences.

While it may be tempting to think that the way sex is portrayed on the screen can get away with being unrealistic, it’s actually incredibly damaging. The fact that we’re still not seeing anatomically correct sex, we’re not seeing foreplay, we’re not seeing different genders, orientations, and often not seeing other races or body types — it’s so incredibly regressive. We can only hope that 2019 is the year of more realistic sex on screen — and here’s why that’s so important.

Sex ed isn't enough — or isn't available at all 

Even though it may not be the fault of the media that sex ed around the world — and in this country in particular — is often deeply flawed or absently completely, it is the case that the media often ends up filling in the blanks for young people. With a lack of sex ed available, vulnerable young people have their ideas about sex shaped by porn or film and TV. While an adult may watch a film and roll their eyes at a totally unrealistic sex position or an orgasm that seems to happen spontaneously as soon as penetration begins, young people don’t have the experience to realize that that’s not how sex actually works.


We see unrealistic sex that creates unrealistic expectations 

Some people may argue that TV and film portray a fantasy, rather than a reality, but it still affects us. While young people are especially vulnerable, many women feel ashamed that they can’t orgasm easily (or at all) from just penetration. But here’s the thing — most women can’t orgasm from just penetration. In fact, only about a quarter of women can. So where do we get the idea that all women should be able to orgasm without any clitoral stimulation? That a man should be able to do it with his magic dick wand? Where does this shame come from? That’s right, the media.

We see more honest sexual experiences — including the need for clit play — in porn then we do in mainstream TV and movies. We see more oral sex, more fingering, more toys being used. Porn may not be perfect, but it’s film and TV that are giving a really false idea of what sex should be — and making women feel embarrassed in the process. It’s also unfair on men, who are being told that three thrusts of their cock should have every woman erupting with orgasm. When they’re not able to achieve that, they think something’s wrong with them, rather than their fundamental understanding of the human anatomy. It’s not fair on anybody.

When it’s done right, it’s incredibly impactful 

There have been a little bit of progress made for realistic representation of sex on screen — and the impact has been huge. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend made waves by being one of the first television shows to use the word clitoris — and the first to explain what a clitoris does and how essential it is to female pleasure. For creator and star Rachel Bloom, talking about it was crucial — she’s been open about her own struggle to come to terms with needing clitoral stimulation to orgasm, in contrast to how sex is portrayed in the media.

"I had to read blogs and kinky books to understand that if you want to orgasm during sex, a lot of women, the majority of women, will have to find some ways to also stimulate the clitoris," Bloom said in an interview on with Mic. “We need to educate women about how every woman's body is different. In movies, when you see a couple having a love scene ... you never see the woman reaching down and stimulating her clitoris, or a man reaching down." The response to the show has been huge, with many fans sharing their thanks — and their laughs — at finally feeling heard and represented, in a way that also makes fun of the usual portrayal of sex on screen.

The show has also worked hard to "show what sex is really like”, including dealing with issues like period sex. Amazingly, despite the clitoris being a basic part of anatomy, even using the word is still considered taboo. "I had to have many conversations with legal about why it wasn't graphic or lewd," she explained on the Late Late Show with James Corden. So though progress is being made, there’s still a long way to go.

The way that we see sex portrayed creates a lot of pressure and unrealistic expectations — things that can shape and even ruin our sex lives. We’re starting to see a change toward more realistic representations — and it can’t come quickly enough. Here's to 2019 being a better, more progressive year.

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