Tony Stamp looks at the encroaching puritanism in mainstream media.
I just want there to come a time where women’s nipples are normalized. You only have to look at lingerie advertisements to see not only the pubic region resembling the neutered look of a Barbie, but where a woman’s nipples should be it’s just blank skin. Men/boys can take off their shirt anytime, anywhere, and it’s considered perfectly acceptable;but a woman’s nipple shows through her shirt or a woman is seen breastfeeding and suddenly, SHAME!
As far as porn goes, it does seem to be more violent than ever. I’m all for two consenting adults doing whatever they want with each other; but I do worry about the message it sends to younger audiences when a woman is being choked harshly or otherwise being mistreated.
I, for one, enjoyed the scenes in Oppenheimer, especially where they were both casually sitting around naked talking with one another. Maybe sex isn’t the real issue here, it’s the naked human body?
So, back when I was a newly minted professional actor doing screen work for the first time (like 15-16 years ago at this point, I was probably about 19 years old), I worked on a tiny, independent short film for a festival competition. Our director of photography for that piece contacted me a few days after we wrapped and went ‘hey, I need some help filming some B Roll, I’ll give you $100’ to come help me out for a day.
$100 was a lot, so of course I was like ‘hell yeah, I’m totally in, I’ll see you there.’
I meet up with him the next weekend and he hands me a bunch of balloons and says ‘okay, all I need is for you to blow these up for me while I film.’
Weird request, but $100 is $100. Except as I’m blowing up balloons, his requests start to get weirder. ‘Interact with the balloon more’ ‘be friends with the balloon’ ‘you love the balloon’ ‘have you ever read about how kinks start in childhood?’
That was the question that finally made me pause. Turns out, he films pieces for some kind of underground German kink site and some of those kinks are .... well, balloon related. My life flashed before my eyes, and suddenly all I could think was ‘what if I have to run for President some day and someone digs a clip off of a weird, German kink site and I can’t explain it?’.
He gave me $50 to leave and not talk to anyone about it ever again once he realized I was wildly uncomfortable.
The thing is? I probably would have rolled with it if he’d told me what he wanted in this first place (this is a lie, I was a wildly sheltered 19 year old who wasn’t even allowed to watch Titanic because of the scene with Jack and Rose in the car, but me NOW would have rolled with it). I rehash this story mostly because it’s been interesting to watch reactions to it change over time. 15 years ago people thought it was funny, now across the board almost everyone finds it a horrifying violation of my rights.
Frankly? It’s both. And I think there’s room for it to be both. It was absurd. He also should have told me instead of manipulating a very sheltered 19 year old girl. I think our trouble with media in general now is that we’re not ready to live in a gray space yet, where things are both uncomfortable but also worthy of talking about. And not everything that YOU are uncomfortable with is something that’s uncomfortable for everyone. We’ll get there eventually, I think. It might just take time. And a lot of fighting online.
> I’m not sure Webworm has ever talked about sex before, which is pretty weird because it’s why we’re all here.
I'm here for the articles actually.
Webworm: After Dark!
People these days seem less able to distinguish between "this is something that makes me uncomfortable on a personal level" and "this is a societal problem that needs to be addressed".
I think in online spaces we often rely on "emotional truth". If I feel it, it must be true. Which it often is, but it's worthwhile sometimes to ask yourself "Why do I feel this way?"
In spite of the fact that sex seems to be everywhere in our society, our media, our advertising, I think there's a lack of *meaningful* sex. Sex where consent is visibly obtained (and it can be as simple as Character A pausing, and Character B nodding their head), sex where the pleasure of both participants is accounted for, sex that is portrayed from a non-cishet-male gaze. Bridgerton is a good example because the male partners of the women protagonists are shown pleasuring the women first. We so rarely get that perspective, it's usually Tab A into Slot B with the assumption that what brings pleasure to the man will also bring pleasure to the woman.
And then getting away from het sex entirely, it's nice to see loving sexual relationships between queer partners, because it throws the het sex handbook completely out the window, where gender roles (top/bottom) are completely discarded, and it's just two people expressing love through mutual pleasure. Unfortunately in our society, sex is portrayed as a form of combat almost, a way to get what you want, a weapon, a tool, a means to an end. It's seen as coercive, dirty, immoral.
I think that's the real tragedy, that when we even teach kids about sex, we teach only the reproductive aspect, and that if you're not trying to have a baby, sex is to be avoided. What a disservice we do when we don't teach about how it feels, about the importance of taking care of your partner, about confirming that you are both enthusiastic participants, about knowing how and when to stop if you or your partner is uncomfortable, about how to have FUN with it, and how to prevent unwanted pregnancy while still enjoying sex. Part of it is the Puritanical streak that runs through the history of the US, but part of it is control. And the people who are in control are the ones who dictate whether sex is good or bad, what types of sex are acceptable or perverted, whose perspective should be shown when showing sex acts.
I'm rambling, but this piece gave me a lot to think about.
I don't know if this relates, but I feel like it does. I was just discussing with my kid our cultures need to place a moral judgment on things that are inherently objective: the right way to cook a food, write a story, hold a fork, wear our clothes. My kid was agonizing over a creative project and how the teacher had said there was a right/good/true way to hold the materials. We broke it down that unless safety is concerned, there just is not really a moral judgment to be place on creative activity - the act of creating. Did you make the thing you wanted? Great.
I've seen mentioned perfectionism and this kind of moral judgment as a tenet of white supremacist culture. A way of gatekeeping.
All this to say, who cares. Watch it or don't. Provided the creator of a film has made the choice to have a sex scene (rather than a weird studio or executive directive) then great. Let's stop moralizing the arts.
I wanted to comment on Euphoria specifically - I think the problem with that show was not Sydney Sweeney’s grandparents described “best tits in Hollywood” but the way it depicted high schoolers having sex. This was what was unrealistic. Not the fact that highschoolers have sex, because many do. But the way they were doing it. US shows and movies have constantly either portrayed teens as complete virgins (Easy A a great teen movie about an absolutely shocked community that one girl was having sex!) or has having extremely experienced, hot and steamy sex on the reg. This is not realistic. And any show about teens will ofc have a largely teen audience.
But then you look at Sex Education and the old British Skins which included sex a lot. But these sexual scenes are not there to turn you on (although some might have e.g. Cooke and Pandora playing twister). And show awkward teens having some very romantic, some very quick, some bad, some good sex.
So sex scenes aren’t bad, they just need to be designed and there for the right reasons. For the plot, to show a deepening of a relationship, to show how these characters would actually have sex. Not for the role reason of these are hot actors and having hot and extreme sex scenes will give this show a higher rating and get people talking about it.
This topic exhausts me. Not that this wasn't a great conversation about it (Webworm is always delightful, no matter who's behind the writing wheel) but as someone on the asexuality spectrum who took 25 years to know that was even a way people could be and wasn't just being a broken "normal" person, this conversation is always bizarre to me. The entire world is sexualized. Advertising is, movies are, hell, even baby clothes can be. To my perspective, it's like sports fans being mad sports aren't sporty enough anymore.
It's the moral judgement attached, I think. I would also like there to be more romantic movies without sex scenes, simply because that is not where my interest lies. Sometimes the implication is that a relationship isn't "real" or "official" until it's consummated because that's "just how people are" which always sits very uncomfortably with me. But if I were to express that, a lot of times I would be get lumped into the 'puriteen' movement (despite turning 36 in 3 days.)
I don't know, I'm not trying to start an argument or anything, just another perspective. I've spent 10 years trying to get a handle on my identity, even wrote a book about it, and have seen some very very nasty takes. And this conversation almost always turns moralistic about how ridiculous teens are being. But I don't know. Why can't we have both?
(I'm sorry, I have a lot of conflicted feelings and I don't know if I expressed them well but I trust this space)
My perspective is from being a former sex worker for over 20 years and also working for the Aotearoa NZ sex work collective for many years. For some men, the overviewing of porn meant they could only have sex with sex workers, and then spend a lot of time talking about the porn they were watching(this is really boring as a sex worker). This has risen a lot over the years. Also, I wish people involved in working in these areas like OnlyFans etc would reach out to sex work organizations that are all over the world, and get some advice and support which is free. There is a possibility that the gen z is already aware of the problems associated with some porn, as they are amazingly vocal about it all.
Also, I believe that the pendulum is a way to describe some things in society. Post the timely #metoomovement, the world freaked out (as it needed to). It needs to acknowledge the importance of consent in everything, so maybe sex is on hold by some movie makers while they understand what the world wants from consent.
I agree that movies and TV should represent all of life which of course involves sex. Howeverrr, I can’t say I’m missing sex scenes from film because I find it increasingly more unbearable as a woman to watch the inevitable scene where the woman gets pleasure of all pleasures from straight sex and it all ends as soon as the man has finished. Once we start seeing more realistic GOOD sex then I might care more? Or at least show a pan to the woman’s disappointed face as it finishes before her turn 💀💀
Wow do I have so many thoughts. Probably more than I can share in one comment. As someone who is still trying to actively undo the harm that toxic purity culture had on me during my evangelical upbringing, the modern puriteens somewhat terrify me. Not to mention the infantilizing of adult women who are capable of making their own decisions regarding their own bodies. I’ve been in online and fandom spaces a lot over the past several years and seeing this firsthand has been concerning.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting more platonic relationships in media, but it feels like the dial has gone so far the other way with the youth of today that they don’t want romance at all (much less sex)? Which as an aspiring romance novelist can be a little disheartening. I have long felt that society has looked down on romance in general (being a woman-dominated genre) and seeing this pushback on sex and romance in fiction feels like another setback. As for me personally, bring on the nipples, I’m not afraid!
Ok so I wasn't sure how much of an opinion I'd have on this subject because honestly sex is sex. It's glorious and it's very much part of our lives. Like every other warm blooded women, I enjoy watching things like Bridgerton (for the story, of course ;)). Have all the good sex on screen you want as long as its safe and everyones ok with it.
However, I've made an observation recently at work (bear with me here) that I think goes hand in hand with this subject.
So I work in a bakery at a grocery store. Now if you've ever *been* to a grocery store, you already know the typical repetitive playlist you hear. So every so often we nix the "hits of the 70s" and branch out into the 80s-90s playlist. Where songs get a little more explicit. It never lasts long. All it takes is Push it by Salt N Pepa to come on before its abruptly changed and I cackle about it every time. That was a HUGE hit on mainstream radio when it first came out! BUT on the other hand when like "Afternoon Delight" comes on on the other normal playlist, no one bats and eyelash even though *everyone* knows what that song is about 😅😅. Is it just women owning their sexuality that scares the people away?
So it's not even just in film or television where we're seeing this kind of uptick but also music as well. Even classics that have been in rotation for decades now. The mind boggles, it truly does 😅. Humans are just plain weird.
Oh hello David!
I need to take a little break from Armchair pods after listening to JVN shed the tiniest ray of light onto the fact that edits were made in his episode without his input or feedback. I noticed this in the editing just listening, bits of a longer conversation slapped back together after deciding what to shelve.
I’ll be back just to support Fligtless Bird, I just wanted you to be aware that as a long-time subscriber of Webworm I know the heart that you have for advocacy for trans rights. Hard conversations are important but they don’t mean much without clarity or non-manipulated audio. I’m side eying Monica and Dax significantly more.
Not you though David! Loving you David Farrier!
There is another argument that goes with the “kids don’t want sex in movies” trend and that’s “kids don’t want any scenes in their media that don’t actively advance the plot”. The latter is one they often use to argue why sec should not be in movies and television, they claim it stops the action cold and does nothing to move the story forward and I have to blame universe building media for this, at least in part.
When large swathes of the media kids consume is about uniting an overarching collection of television shows and films (and sometimes video games) anything that happens that isn’t directly tied to explaining the current MacGuffin or setting up the next one, is deemed unnecessary....unless it’s a cool fight sequence, they always have time for those. Sex, to them, can never be about the characters because most of the media they consume is inherently sexless and they are so media illiterate they don’t understand how people reveal themselves during sex. There should be scenes where characters aren’t pushing the plot forward because what they do when they aren’t doing their character’s job or quest shows you more of who they are and that goes to why you either root for against them, or hell, have trouble making up your mind about them. These kids would hate the Royale with Cheese conversation in Pulp Fiction because it’s not directly tied to the story. They dislike characters just hanging out, they dislike romance because it takes away from the story (and the cool as hell fights). They try to use progressive language to dance around the sad, regressive and media illiterate reasons behind why sex, romance, and plain conversations bother them so much but it’s partly that their media is designed to get them to the next piece of content and also that they live in a world where dating isn’t about having fun, it’s about ordering a person from an app. Even dating has been stripped of the excitement because an algorithm is involved. This is terrible because they deserve diverse love stories with all kinds of sex in them but their media has to be broadened to allow for that.
Tbh, I hate most movie (and tv) sex scenes. No foreplay, the dude just pumps into the chick a couple of times and bam they both orgasm... Urgh that’s ridiculous.
Now the show Sex Education, that does sex well and in creative, non body shaming and consensual ways!!
If more movies/tv shows were like that, I’d watch more 🤣
And on porn, my goodness you can tell dudes that mostly watch it. Back when I was single (only a few years ago), it was horrifying how often a guy would start strangling you, slapping and much more with zero discussion or consent. Even if you set boundaries, I had guys completely ignore them with no remorse or apology. It’s so incredibly dangerous, I never want to date again and I really do fear for my step daughter and my friends daughters... 😭
This was a really interesting read (what else do I expect, it’s my beloved Webworm?!)
Don’t really have any insightful comments to add - mostly I think seeing body positivity on screen is a good thing and for this to be displayed in mainstream media other than porn is something to be welcomed, not get your feathers ruffled over.