Dick has been trending downward for quite some time—and never more so than on film, where the mere sight of shaft can get your picture blacklisted from most theaters. Heck, movies these days are so dick-deficient that the internet lost its collective mind over a flash of Chris Pine’s knob in Outlaw King, and the most memorable penis scene in a film this year was… a coven of witches pointing and cackling at a tiny one in Suspiria.
And while the MPAA’s (and by extension Hollywood’s) retrograde aversion to dick is nothing new—it’s an industry governed by the male gaze, after all—2018 has been a unique year in another sense: the dearth of man-on-woman sex scenes.
Can you remember a single good one? (And no, that ice cream shit in Fifty Shades Freed doesn’t count.)
All of the most memorable movie sex scenes this year involved two women. Rachel Weisz spitting in Rachel McAdams’ mouth as her Orthodox-Jew character is brought to forbidden climax in Disobedience. Keira Knightley’s trailblazing French author howling with pleasure as she’s fisted on a bed in Colette. Chloe Sevigny’s soon-to-be axe murderer experiencing her first orgasm in a barn at the hand of her dutiful servant, played by Kristen Stewart, in Lizzie. The moment Emma Stone’s handmaiden catches Rachel Weisz’s going down on Queen Anne in The Favourite. The scissoring in Duck Butter.
Yes, 2018 was undoubtedly the year of woman-on-woman sex in Hollywood.
But before the Jordan Petersons of the world go ahead and start irrationally blaming the #MeToo movement, they should know that it takes years to develop a feature film, so those released this year were conceived well before the Weinstein revelations of Oct. 2017; all of the aforementioned films were directed by men; and the MPAA, the ratings board comprised of concerned parents that governs cinema content, has historically promoted violence over sex—especially female sexual pleasure.
Back in 2013, the actress Evan Rachel Wood shined a light on this, taking the MPAA to task on Twitter for demanding that they cut a scene of her character receiving oral from Shia LaBeouf’s in Charlie Countryman. “This is a symptom of a society that wants to shame women and put them down for enjoying sex, especially when (gasp) the man isn’t getting off as well!” Wood wrote. “It’s hard for me to believe that had the roles been reversed it still would have been cut.”
Three years earlier, the domestic saga Blue Valentine was slapped with a dreaded NC-17 rating—the major theater chains refuse to carry NC-17 films—due to a scene where Ryan Gosling’s husband performs oral sex on his wife, played by Michelle Williams. “There’s plenty of oral sex scenes in a lot of movies, where it’s a man receiving it from a woman—and they’re R-rated. Ours is reversed and somehow it’s perceived as pornographic,” Gosling rightfully complained.
“You have to question a cinematic culture which preaches artistic expression, and yet would support a decision that is clearly a product of a patriarchy-dominant society, which tries to control how women are depicted on screen,” he continued. “The MPAA is okay supporting scenes that portray women in scenarios of sexual torture and violence for entertainment purposes, but they are trying to force us to look away from a scene that shows a woman in a sexual scenario, which is both complicit and complex. It’s misogynistic in nature to try and control a woman’s sexual presentation of self.”
Then there’s the curious case of Kimberly Peirce’s 1999 film Boys Don’t Cry. The MPAA suggested several cuts from the film—including a scene where Chloe Sevigny’s character is brought to orgasm via oral sex by Brandon Teena, a transgender man played by Hilary Swank; and another where Swank’s character wipes his mouth off after performing oral—in order to bring it down to an R rating. Peirce called the experience of dealing with the MPAA “devastating,” adding, “The MPAA indicated that one orgasm went on too long. Who’s ever hurt by female pleasure, I argued.”
Given its embarrassingly rigid past, these 2018 scenes of female sexual pleasure represent tiny steps in the right direction. Now Hollywood just needs to let them be realized by women.