Sex scenes (especially ones involving super-famous people participating in super-naughty acts) are spectacularly important to mainstream movies. That’s why we were shocked when we heard there’s one deed that’s getting routinely censored.
It’s not anal sex. It’s not rape. It’s not athletic rumpy-pumpy where two or more actors engage in a series of crazy positions.
It’s the simple sex act of a man going down on a woman. According to Hollywood classification standards, it’s so appalling that it deserves the highest possible rating. We’re talking about a consensual activity that goes on in real-life bedrooms everywhere. Celebrities, feminists and even sex therapists have spoken out, sparking an important conversation about sex and women’s pleasure.
What’s been going down?
Over in the US, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is the body that decides film classifications. It’s a “board of parents who consider such factors as violence, sex, language and drug use, then assign a rating they believe the majority of American parents would give a movie.”
The MPAA will give any film that features a man going down on a woman an NC-17 rating, which means only those 18 and over are permitted to view them. Therefore, they’re rarely picked up by cinemas as it’s generally not financially viable to show them.
Here, movies are governed by the Australian Classification Board.
A spokesperson from the Attorney-General’s Department told Cosmo
that the guidelines “do not make any distinction based on the gender of the participant.” Rather, factors such as the frequency and amount of visual detail given are considered.
According to the ACB, sexual activity may be “implied” in MA15+ films, and “realistically simulated” in R18+ films (so a female receiving oralcouldreceive the green light for this rating, depending on the context and whether it’s justified by the storyline). The next step up is porn – an X18+ classification not allowed in cinemas – so there’s not really an in-between!
But Hollywood producers often have no choice but to cut the offending scene out of the movie (well before it reaches Aussie audiences). It’s worth mentioning that the depiction of a man receiving oral sex from a female seems to be less of a big deal for the MPAA. Same with sexual violence, full nudity, torture, murder, and war scenes.
Feminists on the warpath
Actress Evan Rachel Wood is clearly not happyabout the MPAA’s stance, taking to Twitter when she found out a scene she filmed – depicting Shia LaBeouf going down on her – was cut from the movie Charlie Countryman.
In a string of posts, the actress told fans:
“I would like to share my disappointment with the MPAA, who thought it was necessary to censor a woman’s sexuality once again. The scene where the two main characters make ‘love’ was altered.
“Someone felt that seeing a man give a woman oral sex made people ‘uncomfortable’ but the scenes in which people are murdered by having their heads blown off remained intact. 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!
“It’s hard for me to believe that had the roles been reversed it still would have been cut or had the female character been raped it would have been cut. It’s time togrow up.”
A similar thing happened with Blue Valentine, starring Ryan Gosling. In 2010 a scene in which he gave his character’s wife oral sex was cut, and the Gos spoke out about the situation:
“The MPAA is OK supporting scenes that portray women in scenarios of sexual torture and violence [just] 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.”
The sexperts have their say
Sex health counsellor Gia Ravazzotti (consciousintimacy.com.au) says of
the MPAA’s decision:
“If no different ways of pleasuring a woman besides penetration are displayed, people will believe this is all that’s required for a woman to enjoy sex. Seventy per cent of women require clitoral stimulation to achieve orgasm, so only displaying penetration as the way females enjoy sex is limiting at best.”
She agrees that it’s a feminist issue, too:
“As long as sexual violence towards women is more acceptably portrayed in movies than women receiving direct and dedicated sexual pleasure, then we can be assured that sexism is alive and well.”
Sex therapist Jacqueline Hellyer (jacquelinehellyer.com) wants to add that it’s demeaning to a man’s sexual motives, too. She says:
“I have spoken to thousands of men about sex, and there’s nothing they love more than to pleasure a woman. If movies don’t show this, people get these screwy ideas about what’s normal.
“Men want to see a woman in the throes of pleasure. It’s important that’s part of our psyche, to understand how far we’ve come since patriarchal values dictated that women had no sexual needs. We do – and men want to meet them.”