The other day, while I was supposed to be in the middle of working on a major project, I found myself eyeball-deep in a friendly conversation covering many years of terrible sex decisions. My buddy and I went back and forth sharing stories that spanned from high school to last Tuesday, each adventure something we were both proud and ashamed of. Just like sticking your hand on a hot stove will teach you to never do that again, these individual moments in our collective history were lessons we learned from—even if they were decisions we’d make more than once.

The whole sordid affair got me thinking the next day: “wouldn’t it have been easier to learn from a movie that sleeping with a man on his friend’s makeshift innertube air mattress was probably not the best choice?” I mean, isn’t that what films are supposed to do? Provide audiences with entertaining life experiences that seem too exaggerated to be real?

I’ve always appreciated films that present sex as both art and entertainment, but what sometimes makes an onscreen sexual moment memorable is when both the characters and the audience can learn from it. Thankfully for us (well, me), there have been a few films in recent memory that offer pertinent life lessons when it comes to bedroom activities.

Consider Your Public Groping

Now, we’re starting with this one because while it seems like the most obvious, it is the lesson we most often forget. Public displays of affection are either gross or adorable, depending on your level of comfort with space invasion. Every time a couple engages in it, they are vulnerable to voyeuristic eyes. Most likely the couple is oblivious to the attention as they are wrapped up, quite literally, in the other person. My personal decision to refrain from PDAs is in honor of a particular Goldie Hawn film from the early 1990s. If The First Wives Club taught me anything it’s that you should really debate the environment in which you let your older boyfriend rub your nipple. That probably isn’t the most important message to take away from a film about unwanted divorce, however it is the message that resonated the most with me.

When the three recently jilted “starter wives” Elise (Hawn), Brenda (Bette Midler) and Annie (Diane Keaton) each catch a glimpse of Brenda’s smarmy husband Morton (Dan Hedaya) stroking his new girlfriend’s breast during a very public moment the resulting judgment each woman fires towards the young lady makes for some superb comedy relief. They are clearly angry at Morton for showcasing his new ladylove, but in that moment they engage in a level of slut shaming guaranteed to make even a Tea Party grizzly mom blush. Although Shelly (Sarah Jessica Parker) later aids the women in their mission to shame their ex-husbands, this scene reminds any young woman that it may be kinky fun times to get your boob rubbed in a group full of rich people, it can also bring into question your level of self-esteem.

Life lesson: Unlike a public sex fetish, PDA starts off innocent enough but can result in judgment from those around. Engage in at your own risk, for you will certainly be called mean names both behind your back and to your face.

Never in My Hair

There’s Something About Mary remains in public consciousness not because it is an epic piece of comic cinema. No, sir, it stays with us because Ben Stiller performed a little pre-date stress relief and the result got lost in his hair. Most people would take away from this scene the idea that one should always do a double take in the mirror before heading out on a first date. Not me, as the next scene with Cameron Diaz applying what she thinks is hair gel to her bangs proved that ejaculation in your hair is more tragedy than comedy. It is a shocking and hilarious moment the first time around, however further reflection just makes the joke seem hurtful. Mary shows an instant trust with her date when she reaches for the mysterious gel, and she is unwittingly rewarded with jizz in her hair. This a mainstream film that features a trope often explored in pornographic films. Funny, yes. But also a tad bit invasive.

Life Lesson: Now, I am no prude, but There’s Something About Mary does present a decent argument regarding the consequences of letting a guy do his thing near your hair. If it happens it might be fun, naughty, and maybe even empowering, but at the end of the day you still have bodily fluids on your head.

Don’t Front

My final lesson the movies taught me comes courtesy of Anne Hathaway questioning her career decisions. After she traded out frizzy hair and caterpillar eyebrows for a tiara and hot wax, she set her attention on more mature roles. While it would be a few years before she would see her attempt to ruin her sister’s wedding day in Rachel’s Getting Married, she did bare herself (literally) in the Black and White rip-off Havoc. Never one to let a sexy film pass me by, I watched this rich girls with daddy issues film expecting to see more than Hathaway emoting with her top off. As you might have guessed, it’s not the greatest. You want a solid exposing performance from Hathaway, watch Brokeback Mountain.

But I digress. Havoc may not have been an award winning film, but it does open eyes to the trouble with rich people problems. Here we have two well-off “good girls” who just want to experience life on the darker side. They dabble in drugs and eventually find themselves tangled up with some bad folks—typical Hollywood fair. It takes an expected but sad turn when Allison (Hathaway) and Emily (Bijou Phillips) both accept a trade of sexual favors for drugs. Hathaway’s Allison stops the experience at the last minute, saving herself from stumbling down the rabbit hole (you know, because she just wanted to have a little fun), but her friend Emily isn’t as lucky. Instead of stopping when she pleads with them, the two men violently rape her. The message is clear, she wanted to be a bad girl, and now she is. Unlike Thirteen, which also tackled teen girls, sex, and drugs, Havoc places blame on a girl for her sexual victimization and then has the nerve to call it “real.” In a real situation neither girl would have walked out of there unharmed, it wouldn’t have just been the one who looked like she deserved it.

Life Lesson: Duh, don’t do drugs. And maybe also just try shop lifting instead of hanging out with drug dealers when you get mad at your parents for not paying attention to you. Just a thought.

Learn more sexual life lessons from Reel Sex


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