Why Are People So Obsessed with Whether Sex in Porn Is “Real”?

Aug 28, 2013 • Culture, Film, Porn, porn

I’ve seen this video shared around a good deal lately, and find one thing kind of fascinating about it: People feel the need to explain that sex in real life and sex in movies are not the same thing.

If you watch a romantic comedy, you will notice that love and relationships in movies do not work anything like they do in real life — if you think they do, you are in for some very serious disappointments. If you watch police procedurals, legal thrillers, or detective movies, you will notice that the law in movies rarely works anything like it does in real life (will someone please explain to the writers of Law & Order just what an insanity defense actually is and how it works?) If you watch pretty much any action movie, you may have noticed that guns in movies do not work even vaguely like they do in real life. People would be horrified if they did. Do you know how much blood the average human body contains?

In fact, I’m hard-pressed to think of anything which works the same in movies as it does in real life. Movies are, first and foremost, narrative art: they’re trying to tell a story, which means that everything which isn’t part of the story will be stripped down, which means that meaning and structure will be imposed on the sequence of events that you’re watching. They are also a visual art: the lighting, the angles at which people stand, the close-ups and distant shots, are all chosen to give you the best possible visual image of the salient things which are happening on the screen.

Yet there seems to be a particular perversion that porn sex needs to be “real.” Viewers seem horrified at the notion that the orgasms people are having on screen might not be real — were they expecting that the tears that characters cry are real, or the wounds they sustain? They’re actors. This is not someone’s daily life.

And other viewers seem obsessed either with having sex like people do in porn films, or with explaining to everyone else that sex isn’t like it is in porn films.

Simple note for you: If you are trying to film a sex scene, and the sex itself is what’s important in the scene, the people will be positioned in a way to optimize the camera angles. The messy and unpredictable and funny-looking parts of sex will be edited out, because they aren’t part of the story the film is trying to tell. This is art, not life.

(Incidentally, if you want to see what sex looks like in a film where its creators aren’t trying to do this as much, I recently encountered a very interesting example of this via Netflix: a film called Sexual Chronicles of a French Family. It’s about the sex lives of a family in France, and while a great deal of the movie is people having sex, it’s really a movie about people who are having sex and how they relate to it. And it’s properly French, so there’s lots of extra angst and ennui and you can feel all artsy about it. The result isn’t especially erotic, but it is well-written, and I found its ending deeply emotionally satisfying.)

This piece originally appeared on Google+.

  • jgold85

    I think much the same could be said of science. Scientists like to wring their hands over whether science is reasonably portrayed in films like Prometheus, and while I’d argue that accurate science usually better serves narrative than inaccurate science does, I don’t really care as long as I’m entertained. We don’t *really* think that the unwashed masses really think they’re learning about the scientific method from a Ridley Scott film, do we?

    • avflox

      I’m okay with science magic — I love Jurassic Park! — but I do resent science magic being the standard go-to deus ex machina.

  • http://www.derekscruggs.com/ DJ

    I’s just an extension of the fantasy. When having sex I get off knowing that the girl got off. So knowing the girl got off in a porno would likewise be a turn-on. Of course, girls can fake orgasms in real life too so there’s know way to really know for sure. I don’t spend time thinking about it (though I do like to watch behind the scenes clips to learn more about the girl).

    The flip side is some girls are very obviously faking it or not into it and that’s a turnoff. I once met Adrianna Nicole and she said working with girls who fake it was her least favorite part of the job.