Lies Pop Culture Tells Us About Sex

Bull Durham, which lies about sex less than most pop culture.

This morning’s post on the problems prestige television continues to have with sex inspired a rather epic conversation about the assumptions movies and television shows make about sex and sexuality, and the lies that a lot of them told us. A number of folks were kind enough to help me curate the conversation, including Jess Zimmerman, who Storyfied the section of the conversation on the very specific misconceptions about sex my followers took away from pop culture, Monica Reida, who captured, among other things, a long section of the conversation on young adult fiction, fan fiction, and respect for characters, and Heather McLendon, who produced a comprehensive roundup of the discussion I’ve embedded here*:

One thing that was particularly interesting about this conversation to me was gender disparity that emerged in the assumptions people discussed in heterosexual sex (which is the vast majority of sex portrayed on television). Women are set up to be passive creatures who experience pleasure, rather than give it, who acquiesce to sex rather than seeking it out, who are constantly groomed and dressed to be ready for sex, but who don’t necessarily have knowledge of what gives them pleasure that they can pass on to their partners. Men, by contrast, are expected to be sexual ninjas, with an intuitive sense of how to elicit their own and their partner’s pleasure, who face no logistical challenges in the run-up to or aftermath of sex. Sex is spontaneous, solely involves penetration, and requires no foreplay for anyone involved to have any fun. Contraception is invisible. All participants are seriousness potentially to the point of grimness. No one talks, but everyone orgasms. Maybe this is a fantasy of what we’d like sex to be like. But it’s a set of assumptions that leaves out an awful lot of fun and emotional connection—as well as the fact that not all sex, even consensual sex between loving, knowledgeable partners, is good sex.

*Links in these good folks’ names go to their Twitter feeds. You should follow them.