Reel Sex: The 5 Most Unsettling Mainstream Sex Moments of 2011

Reel SexLast week we delved into the top layer of sexy films out this past year, suggesting that 2011 might have been one of the bolder years when it came to honest portrayals of sex in cinema. In 2011 we saw characters dealing with sexual violence, sexual addiction, and sexual curiosity, all in the most brutal and thoughtful ways possible. It’s years like this that we are reminded film is art that not only speaks to our souls, but also to our real life experiences while captivating us in intense and engaging 90+ minute periods.

But as you’d expect for all the good we saw this year, there was also awkward, ridiculous, uncomfortable, and even maddening sexual depictions. We could spend the next four paragraphs discussing the “sharting” scene in Hall Pass or attack the universally despised wet dream that is Sucker Punch (despite how much I enjoy the latter film), however the really disgusting cinematic sexual moments this year actually said something about a film’s characters while making the audience squirm with disgust.

While there are a few films I have yet to see before next Sunday ushers in the beginning of a new year, I have seen enough this year to offer up a varied selection of some of the worst sex moments in 2011.

Teenage Masturbation

There are a few things that still gross out film goers: dead horses, injured babies, watching people eat (unless that person is Brad Pitt. Hey-oh!).  But nothing seems to make an audience shift in their seats quite like watching a character masturbate on screen. For the longest time self-pleasure had been a trope in comedies, but it would occasionally rear its head in the drama scene as well.

This month’s We Need to Talk About Kevin features a particularly unnerving moment where mother Eva (Tilda Swinton) walks in on her teenage son Kevin (Ezra Miller) while he’s bashing one out. Rather than stop his actions upon his mother’s interruption, Kevin aims a disturbing smile over his shoulder directly at his mother and rubs himself faster. He’s almost daring her to look away, finding more sexual delight knowing he’s being watched by a captive audience. Eva stays there for a beat, unable to move both from shock and intrigue, but eventually she realizes what she’s watching and slams the door between Kevin and herself. But, it’s too late for the cinematic voyeurs. We’ve seen enough to recognize Kevin will finish himself off knowing his mother will never be able to erase that memory from her mind.

Might as Well be Masturbation

Speaking of rubbing one out, this summer’s Cameron Diaz, Jason Segal, and Justin Timberlake raunchfest Bad Teacher features a sex scene so awful it almost feels dirty laughing at it. Diaz’s gold-digging middle school teacher Elizabeth is so determined to win over trust fund baby substitute teacher Scott (Timberlake), that she manipulates him into bed with her during an over-night class field trip. She nuzzles into him, cooing sweet nothings into his ear while he weighs the moral implications of cheating on his girlfriend for this troublemaker.

Well, not surprisingly, he doesn’t weigh the options that long and before either of them knows it Scott is dry humping Elizabeth doggystyle until he ejaculates in his pants, as if he only needed a little chaffing to make it feel complete. Now, I will be the first to say some of the moves Timberlake uses on Diaz are pretty sexy, however watching this man-child unable to fully commit to cheating (see, it’s okay because he didn’t come inside her, naturally) just leaves you feeling completely grossed out.  That and the sperm stain on his jeans is so prominent you must wonder how Scott feels no embarrassment at all.

Pity (Fuck) the Fool

Masturbation and close-enough-to-masturbation-that-it’s-essentially-masturbation were not the only sexual activities that stirred stomachs this year. With a brutally honest film like Young Adult, it makes complete sense that a sex scene between a selfish woman unable to let go of her high school days and the handicapped friend she reconnected with when her ex-boyfriend wouldn’t confess his undying love for her would be so true-to-life awkward that it breaks hearts. Knowing that Mavis (Charlize Theron) will never care for Matt (Patton Oswalt), even after she unloaded all her insecurities while he revealed that sex was nearly impossible for him, makes the post-sex morning even more tragic. Just as she does earlier in the film with a man she didn’t like, Mavis unravels herself from Matt’s arms and slinks away before he can wake. The sex was between two pathetic dreamers, but unfortunately for Matt he’ll probably think back on it way more than Mavis ever will.

Even Jon Hamm Can’t Make it Sexy

Just like Young Adult proves beautiful people can be pretty ugly on the inside, June’s Bridesmaids proves that idolizing your sex partner keeps you from being able to see his flaws. In the film’s opening scene Kristen Wiig and Jon Hamm go at each other like sex crazed teens; slamming their bodies against one another and moaning out their feelings. Well, it turns out Wiig’s Annie is moaning out in displeasure while Hamm jackhammers in and out of her. The expressions passing across Hamm’s face are a hilarious mixture of absent determination and utter ignorance regarding the woman laying under him.

In a rare (and difficult to type) moment of cinematic sadness, it turns out even the delicious Jon Hamm can’t, in fact, make this heart breaking sex scene sexy. Quite the contrary, his easy slip into asshole, selfish love-maker actually makes one pray the moment will soon end so we can eventually see Officer Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd) wake Annie up with kisses and coffee.

Intimacy is Too…Intimate?

While there are many, many films not mentioned here, I cannot in right mind end this piece without another nod to Shame. This film features relatable moments to each of the above, from having Brandon’s (Michael Fassbender) sister Cissy (Carey Muligan) walk in on him masturbating to many sex scenes so devoid of feelings and attachment one is left wondering if Brandon can feel anything at all. But the most memorable and uncomfortable moment for Brandon comes during his attempted love scene with Marianne (Nicole Beharie), a woman he wants so desperately to sleep with but who keeps pushing those pesky feelings on him.

The camera stays with the couple so long it becomes almost too painful to watch as Brandon wrestles with his own inner demons and his lack of sexual ability once he starts trying to care for her. This scene is terrible not in its execution but in the emotions it elicits. Both feel hurt, confused, and alone despite each other’s company. And in the end they both can’t even look at each other because that would make the moment too real. And it would make the lack of intimacy too intimate.

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While Gwen Reyes has only briefly been a film critic and columnist, she's long been telling people what movies they should drop dollars on, regardless if they are listening to her or not. Based out of Dallas, she wants to live the dream by watching movies all day and drinking vodka gimlets all night. She graduated from Sweet Briar College with a surprisingly handy degree in Philosophy and Film Studies--it explains why she spends so much time analyzing the murderers in sexual thrillers (yes, dear reader, that's her excuse!)--and she loves anything to do with gnomes, pot-bellied pigs, and beards. But most importantly, Gwen likes movies about sad people, funny people, naked people, and bearded people.

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