Originally published on Mic.com
Even actors know it.
If sex was really like it was in movies, we’d always be hoarse from sexy moaning, post-coital cigarettes and orgasms that arrived promptly three minutes into sex. In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar U.K., Kristen Stewart copped to the high standards to which her famous sex scene in Twilight was held, griping, “It had to be transcendent and otherworldly, inhuman, better sex than you can possibly ever imagine, and we were like, ‘How do we live up to that?'”
While the film industry is thankfully demonstrating a new interest in depicting the unglamorous reality of sex, led by filmmakers like Amy Schumer, Judd Apatow and Lena Dunham, the majority of movies still abide by the same stubborn clichés. It’s time to stop comparing and start calling bullshit.
Here’s what movies would have us thinking sex is really all about.
1. Jackhammer-style pounding is the way to go.
It’s tough not to wince watching a woman get utterly pounded during sex onscreen. The cliché serves as shorthand for male sexual prowess, sex therapist and psychologist Sandra Lindholm told Mic. But it’s unrealistic to expect a woman to reach an orgasm this way, at least not without plenty of foreplay; gentler, slower motions are generally a safer bet.
When it comes to the clitoris, Lindholm said, “pounding into that is not usually the kind of motion or stimulation that is going to work.”
2. The bathtub is an excellent place to get sexy.
If you want to demonstrate that two characters are beginning to open up and trust one another, put them in the bath. But let’s be realistic: Who takes that many baths these days, anyway? A 2014 study found that home architects are receiving more requests for showers without tubs, and USA Today reported in 2012 that the number of hotel rooms with bathtubs has plunged (so to speak).
Plus, as clinical sexologist Ian Kerner told Cosmopolitan, “[H]aving intercourse in the tub is problematic — water washes away lubrication.” Ouch.
3. You’ll be moaning and screaming if you’re enjoying it.
We can’t blame Harry and Sally entirely, but the famous deli scene has come to symbolize one of Hollywood’s biggest sex stereotypes. Moaning and screaming may be an easy shorthand to represent pleasure in film, but the expectation to perform this style of orgasm can seriously damage our own sexual confidence, as well as send the wrong message to men looking gauge their partner’s arousal by their vocalization.
“[Men have] been socialized to please women in bed,” Lindholm told Mic. “When a man is with a woman who doesn’t vocalize, he starts to get worried. What’s going on with her?” Cue the orgasm gap.
4. Switching positions is not awkward at all.
When two characters switch from, say, missionary to anal, you’ll never see a bottle of lube drop on the floor. You’ll never see something slip out of place, or someone lose their balance. And you’ll rarely see the couple discussing any of it.
“Hollywood makes it look so seamless and natural and it flows and it’s fluid,” Lindholm said. “But there are oftentimes some bumps in the road that I think we need to understand and accept and be able to even laugh at.”
5. It only takes a few minutes to orgasm.
Thanks, Noah and Allie, for perpetuating the idea that an orgasm can arrive after a mere three minutes of intercourse, not to mention that penetration is the only required action. (What’s oral stimulation good for, anyway?)
“Certainly there’s a percentage of people who are really horny who get together and come in four minutes,” sex therapist and psychologist Denise Silbert told Mic. “But that isn’t the majority of people.”
Women actually take about 20 minutes (or more) to reach orgasm, while men take about seven to 10 minutes. And a majority of women are unable to reach orgasm through penetrative sex alone. Moreover, there are all sorts of factors that contribute to how fast we orgasm, said Silbert, including lack of communication between partners and anxiety over our performances.
6. You’ll want to wrap yourself in a bed sheet immediately afterwards.
Sex and fashioning the perfect bedsheet toga are seemingly skills that go hand in hand. Better yet, women always manage to keep the blanket firmly around their chests, while men manage to keep the sheets snugly fitted around their waists, thanks to what would have to be a mysteriously L-shaped sheet.
We get it: The Motion Picture Association of America is tough on nudity when it comes to ratings. But the idea that women’s breasts and genitalia must stay covered while men need only conceal their bottoms is informed by centuries of double standards that regard female bodies as more illicitly sexual. That prudish L-shaped blanket, not to mention the sheet toga, may be useful for ratings, but they’re two of the more absurd onscreen sex mainstays.
7. Or you’ll just jump up and leave as soon as you’re done.
No need to hang around for cuddling, chatting, or that thing called sleep. Just pop up, put your pants on and head out as your partner gazes at you admiringly from the bed. In reality, the idea of getting dressed isn’t too appealing after getting all hot and bothered. And as Silbert pointed out, it’s not uncommon to pass out after sex. “That’s why they suggest you masturbate if you can’t sleep,” Silbert said. “Every now and then I hear people say they get more energized, but the reality is, physiologically it makes you tired.”
Post-sex sleepiness is especially pronounced for men, who experience an increase in sleep-associated chemicalssuch as prolactin and oxytocin during ejaculation.
8. Done with sex? Smoke a cigarette.
The stereotypical post-sex cigarette is one of the oldest film clichés, dating back to the 1930s and ’40s. Blame the Motion Picture Production Code, or “Hays Code,” first set in place in 1934. The code established guidelines that limited the sexual content that could be portrayed onscreen. With graphic representations of sex strictly forbidden, filmmakers had to get creative, Lynne Joyrich, professor of modern culture and media at Brown University, told Mic.
“Studios had to come up with an arsenal of conventions so that viewers were trained to know this means sex,” Joyrich said. “They’re convenient, and it becomes a shorthand way of indicated to the viewer what’s happened, even now when there’s no longer the production code.”
And despite the fact that just 21% of Americans are smokers, and 54% of college graduates have never even tried a cigarette, the cliché lives on.
9. Ordering room service after sex is a Thing.
Joyrich said the stereotype may come from the cultural association between sex and consumerism. “Literal consumerism in the sense of consuming food, but also cliché in films as a sexual awakening, and then they’re interested in material goods,” she said.
Either way, with the average room service club sandwich in New York City costing $24, the idea that anyone would fill up on room service after sex is baffling. Unless you have Edward Lewis’ Pretty Woman money, reasonably priced Seamless is considerably more realistic. But hey, we can dream…