Has Hollywood totally messed up our sex lives?

I talk a lot about how evangelical teaching has messed up our expectations around sex. But let’s face it–a lot of those expectations are in movies and shows, too!

Behind the scenes at the blog we’re getting ready to move over to a new domain in a few weeks, and we’re only taking posts from 2018 onwards. But I found one from earlier that I did want to take, so I thought I’d rerun it today! Let’s talk Hollywood and bad sex advice. 

Sheila Wray Gregoire

So here we go–10 ways Hollywood messes up our views of sex.

1. She Looks Like a Supermodel

Did you know that forensic scientists are always drop dead gorgeous? And they show up to work in heels and with a ton of mascara. I obviously chose the wrong profession.

Everybody in Hollywood looks perfect. You wouldn’t be in Hollywood if you didn’t look perfect! But look around at the people that you know in real life. We aren’t that beautiful a bunch. Most of us are just pretty normal.

(And incidentally–this is why I love British shows so much! In Britain, people tend to look a little more normal!). 

What We Feel: It’s easy to think that you can’t be sexy if you have a tummy at all. Have you ever looked down at yourself post-baby and just thought, “I’m disgusting now”? Most of us have, because most of us have tummies. That’s because we’re WOMEN. Hollywood tells us that flawless is sexy, and so it’s easy to believe that if we have flaws, we therefore aren’t sexy. And when we don’t feel sexy, we often shut down. Don’t let Hollywood shut you down! Hollywood’s not worth it. 

2. He Looks Like an Adonis

And it’s not just women. Every man in Hollywood has a six pack. And they don’t age, either! I remember when we were homeschooling watching the 60s movie To Kill a Mockingbird with my girls. It was awesome. Gregory Peck, who played Atticus Fitch, was 46 years old when he acted in it. And he looked pretty normal. We watched it in 2011, when Brad Pitt was 48. But Brad Pitt easily looked 15 years younger.

What we Feel: Men aren’t supposed to be distinguished anymore; they’re supposed to be sexy. That can warp how we see attraction to our husbands, too!

3. The Women Always Have Libidos Through the Roof

Women want sex. All the time. They want it just as much as men do. From episodes of Friends to Sex and the City, women are always raring to go.

What We Feel: Watch this long enough, and many women start to worry that they’re frigid. If you’re not panting and on the prowl, are you therefore undersexed? Nope. For many women, desire and arousal doesn’t actually kick in until you’ve started to make love. While some women have really high sex drives, many women just don’t. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy making love anyway! If you throw yourself into it, and believe your body will follow, it likely will.

If, on the other hand, you believe Hollywood and you’re waiting until you’re completely turned on to have sex, you may be waiting a long time.

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4. The Men Always Have Libidos Through the Roof

Men are sex obsessed. Every man is thinking about sex all the time. Whether it’s the nerds in The Big Bang Theory or the detectives in Law & Order, they’re all out to “get some”.

What We Feel: About 19% of evangelical women have the higher sex drive in their marriages. And if you’re that woman, it’s easy to figure, “I must be really, really undesirable.” Because every other guy is sex obsessed except for mine!

But what if it’s not true? What if not every guy IS sex obsessed? Then perhaps we wouldn’t feel so rejected. If your husband doesn’t want sex, you’re not alone! In our research for The Great Sex Rescue, we found that about 1/5 of women have the higher sex drive, and many couples have shared sex drives. I have a series on dealing with husbands with low libidos that may help you.

5. Porn is Fun! (Not!)

When characters on sitcoms watch porn, it’s usually something to laugh about. Sometimes couples watch it together, in the hopes of getting aroused together. Or the guys watch porn on poker night. It’s just a natural part of life.

In evangelical resources, porn is often portrayed as something inevitable that men will do, so women have to have frequent sex with their husbands to stop the porn use. But at least porn is seen as something bad (even if the accompanying message is toxic). In Hollywood that’s often not the case, though there are some exceptions in more recent movies (like Don Juan).

What We Feel: Then, when your husband watches porn and tells you “everybody does it”, you wonder, “am I a prude for thinking this is wrong?” And porn wrecks marriages. Porn isn’t harmless. It causes us to fantasize, to dissociate, to not be able to get aroused by a person but only an image. It causes people to turn to porn instead of each other, and soon takes away desire for your spouse almost entirely. It develops a pornified style of relating of objectification of women, where women are seen as objects to use rather than people to love. 

And porn is problematic if women watch it too! 

It’s selfish. It’s evil. And it’s exploitative. A marriage will steadily go downhill if one or both partners watch porn.

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6. Marriage is Boring

Back in the 1990s my husband and I used to watch Friends. I thought Chandler was just hilarious. But one night, after a particularly raunchy episode, we realized we were essentially watching a show about people jumping into bed with one another. And we stopped.

In Hollywood, the hottest sex scenes usually occur the FIRST time a couple falls into bed. It’s that conquest that makes it so arousing. And so most shows revolve around winning a new person to go to bed with. Marriage, where you past that “first” time decades ago, is awfully boring.

What We Feel: Sex needs to be new, and fresh, and exciting! And marriage is the opposite of all of that. We start to feel like we’re missing out on something, and that all we have is the boring leftovers. The reason we’re not satisfied, we think, must be because we’re with the same partner who doesn’t know how to turn us on. In reality, though, the best sex is between married people–and not even newlyweds! In my research for The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, I found that the best years for sex in marriage were between years 16-20. So sex isn’t boring–practice is actually far sexier than conquests!

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7. Sex is Best When You Play the Field

Sex is better with practice, says our media. You can’t expect to know what to do unless you practice with a bunch of people!

While sex does take practice, what you really need to make sex great is the ability to communicate to a spouse about what you want, which requires vulnerability, which is based on trust. And you need a partner who is humble and willing to listen! 

What We Feel: We forget that sex is also truly intimate, and it’s the intimacy that gives sex power. You don’t have to know how to please everyone in the world; you just have to study your spouse, and you can do that in marriage. And we feel as if we’ve lost out if we only have sex with one person. On the contrary, our study did find that many women have amazing sex lives with their husbands–and multiple sex partners don’t mean that you have better sex at all.

8. Sex Has No Repercussions

People drop into bed easily in movies and TV shows, and then the next day go on their merry way, treating the whole thing “like adults”. It doesn’t have to affect anything; it’s just a fun one-night stand. You don’t see broken hearts, or people who have trouble getting rid of sexual baggage from past relationships. Sex is treated as a simple recreational activity–almost like you use each other as sex toys for your own enjoyment, with no commitment.

What We Feel: Many of us DO struggle with sexual baggage. We do struggle with jealousy over our husband’s past lovers. We expect sex to be easy, and we’re not prepared for the mind games and the guilt and shame that can come afterwards if we have sex with multiple partners. It’s sad, because our media is really cheapening sex and taking the power out of it.

How Hollywood Messes Up our View of Sex

9. Foreplay is Unnecessary

Most women require a LOT of foreplay to become aroused enough to enjoy making love. Many women require a lot of touching to even reach climax. In fact, we found that women who do reach orgasm are more likely to do so in ways other than through intercourse. the foreplay is the main thing!

But on the screen, people grope and kiss and within less than two minutes the clothes are off and the bodies are joined. No one ever gropes around to find just the right body parts to caress. No one ever has to ask, “is this the right place?” They automatically know, and everybody automatically feels amazing.

What We Feel: If simply ripping clothes off isn’t enough to arouse us, then we start to wonder if there’s something wrong. And we feel weird and uncomfortable asking our husbands for more foreplay, because it honestly looks like NO ONE ELSE NEEDS IT. We’re the freaks. And you start to think everyone else must be way more sexually responsive than you are, because two minutes of groping does nothing for you.

10. The Couple Always Reaches the Big “O” Simultaneously

No one ever struggles with making sex feel good. From the very first time (in movies like The Notebook), women experience absolute bliss. And the bliss is perfectly timed, too! There’s no “making sure she feels good” first. There’s no struggling with how to reach the Big “O” at all! It’s just absolutely easy and natural.

What We Feel: No wonder so many new brides feel like there’s something wrong with their bodies! Look, ladies: most women do not experience simultaneous orgasm. They don’t. That’s not to say it isn’t possible; it’s just that it’s not terribly common. And in my surveys for The Great Sex Rescue, only about 48% of women always or almost always experienced orgasm at all–and many don’t through intercourse. Most of the rest reached it some other way, and that’s perfectly fine.

It’s great to aim for the stars, and our Orgasm Course can help you do that (and we’ve got a module at the end to make orgasm through intercourse more attainable). But you are not a freak if things don’t come easily!

I can think of tons of other unrealistic portrayals–no one ever has morning breath, no one ever goes to the bathroom afterwards, no one ever is freezing so they have to wear flannel.

But these ones about marriage being boring, porn being arousing, men wanting it all the time, and women responding easily and rapidly really distort how sex works for most people. You were made so that in order for sex to feel good for both of you, you have to have a lot of communication. You have to know each other well. You have to be able to be vulnerable. And he has to take time to serve you! And it isn’t automatic, and that’s perfectly okay.

It is not you that’s messed up when it comes to sex; it’s Hollywood!

So don’t take it as the baseline for what your sex life should be. And don’t worry what other people are experiencing, either! What matters is what you and your husband manage to work at together. If you’re happy, that’s great. And if you’re not happy, the answer likely isn’t to try to emulate Hollywood. It’s just to get to know yourself better, know your husband better, and understand how and why God created sex.

And isn’t it a relief to know that it’s not just evangelical resources that get it wrong? (seriously–will anyone ever get it right?)

Hollywood warps our Expectations about Sex

Have you ever seen a really accurate depiction of sex (not super graphic, but more of an accurate depiction of the dynamic that couples have)? Let me know in the comments!

(And for me–the most incredibly accurate depiction of vaginismus I’ve ever seen is in the Netflix documentary Unorthodox. It was heartbreaking and right on point). 

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila is determined to help Christians find BIBLICAL, HEALTHY, EVIDENCE-BASED help for their marriage. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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