Our Lifestyle Editor Siobhan Carney compiles a bad sex guide from film, TV and books. Magic penises and freshly made ears? Set your dinky little JVCs to stun.
At least it does according to advertising agencies.
Like Freud before them, companies looking to sell us products have stumbled upon the fundamental truth of human existence: When it comes to sex, we’re really no better than animals. Sure, we can be smug about possessing opposable thumbs but, as any sexually frustrated teenage boy will tell you, the ability to grip hasn’t exactly elevated us above our baser instincts. In terms of our attitude to sex, we’re all just one flexible digit away from a David Attenborough documentary.
Or to put the whole thing in professional advertising terms: Consumers are basically just sex obsessed perverts.
So, whilst the likes of Stan Collymore and Steve McFadden prefer to get their sexual kicks hanging around dimly lit car parks, the average British consumer need only switch on their television set to get the same kind of voyeuristic thrill.
And that, my friends, is exactly what the advertisers are going for.
Welcome to the creepy world of ‘product porn’. It’s exactly like normal porn except:
- You don’t have to delete your browser history afterwards.
- ‘Cillit Bang’ not a German pornography film but a harmless kitchen cleaner. Meanwhile, the phrase ‘Bang and the dirt is gone’ is an advertising slogan and not the tagline for a film about a muscular homeowner and a saucy French maid.
- Watching Dettol effectively remove grease from kitchen tiles won’t prompt your girlfriend to nudge you and passively aggressively ask, ‘do you wish I did that?’ and then get annoyed when you say yes. (Although on second thoughts, perhaps it will.)
From make-up to dish detergent; we’re constantly bombarded with adverts featuring highly sexualised images or thinly disguised innuendos.
Even straight laced companies are getting in on the act.
Once upon a time, M&S was the place my Nan bought sensible shoes; these days, it’s better known as the company that perfected the concept of ‘food porn’. According to the husky-voiced Marks and Spencers narrator, “This isn’t just a fondant covered with cream…it’s a sexy, sexy chocolate fondant covered with a mouth wateringly thick dollop of rich, whipped cream!” An advert so fraught with sexual innuendo, that it’s unclear whether I’m supposed to feel hungry or turned on after watching it.
Amazingly, this kind of advertising really does work.
How else would you explain the hordes of deluded women who, after one glance at David Beckham’s oiled up torso and Armani clad crotch, rushed out and bought their boyfriends designer underwear? A startling phenomenon, and one that was successful presumably because it encouraged female consumers to believe that, should their out of shape and pasty skinned man don a pair of similar pants, they too might be able to ‘bend it like Beckham’. Unfortunately, given that the average British man looks more like David Brent than David Beckham, Armani’s campaign surely resulted in the biggest case of buyer’s remorse since Chelsea decided to spend fifty million pounds on Fernando Torres.
These days, even chocolate bars can be sexy. Take the Kinder Bueno advert for example. The commercial featured a female chocolate bar tempting a male shopper by suggestively murmuring, ‘lick my ripples’, before completely losing control and frenziedly yelling, ‘bite me, bite me!’ Like the chocolate-themed version of Fifty Shade of Grey, it’s a campaign which teaches us that even confectionary is ‘gagging for it’. An altogether disturbing notion – and one that means I can never look at a kinder egg or curly wurly in quite the same way again.
Still, when it comes to using sex to flog merchandise, nothing quite trumps the average perfume ad. Adverts for fragrances by Calvin Klein, Christian Dior, Chanel and Gucci: they’re what pornography would be – if pornography featured an operatic soundtrack and was directed by Martin Scorsese.
Furthermore, and for those who don’t already know, perfume commercials usually adhere to four specific rules:
1.) They must be filmed in black and white.
2.) They must feature an attractive couple/bed/open window with curtains blowing in the breeze.
3.) The couple in question must be so overcome with lust at the scent of perfume/cologne that they just immediately start pawing each other like horny teenagers at a Yates Wine Lodge.
4.) The name of the fragrance MUST be whispered at the end of the commercial. (Presumably because the narrator is a creepy pervert and doesn’t want to disturb the attractive couple enthusiastically dry humping on the bed.)
We get it, we get it! Smelling nice helps you get laid. Even so, if perfume ads are to be believed, and the merest hint of a nice smell really does incite us with uncontrollable lust, it’s amazing that we’re not all out humping piles of freshly mown grass. I mean, I quite enjoy the smell of coffee, but I’ve never lost control in the middle of Costa and tried to mount the cappuccino machine.
However, whilst advertising executives are undoubtedly acolytes of the ‘sex sells’ mantra, the concept of using sex to spark the interest of an audience exists across many forms of media. For years, Hollywood has been guilty of crowbarring unnecessary sex scenes into films. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not against sex in movies; sometimes a love scene is actually required to help further the plot.
Take Fatal Attraction for example – a film remembered mainly for its ability to freeze the hearts (and genitals) of men everywhere. If Sting’s ‘Every Breath I Take’ is the anthem for stalkers, then Fatal Attraction is their ‘how-to’ guide. For those who’ve never actually watched the movie, it tells the story of Dan Gallagher, a married man who makes the disastrous decision to nail co-worker, Alex Forrest. Dan, it seems, is totes eager to ‘tap dat’. A phrase he apparently takes quite literally because the first of the film’s two sex scenes takes place on a kitchen sink. Unfortunately for him, what he actually ends up ‘tapping’ is into a deep well of Alex’s crazy.
Like most men, it takes Dan a while to realise his mistake, which might explain why he also succumbs to Alex’s charms whilst riding an elevator. The couple then proceed to get off before…well…getting off.
In the case of Fatal Attraction, the sex scenes aren’t there merely to titillate – they’re actually a necessary part of the overall movie plot. How else could the audience understand Glenn Close’s transformation from kinky temptress to bathroom dwelling bunny murderer?
Still, for every ‘Fatal Attraction’, you have a movie like ‘Ghost’. Whilst the latter is undoubtedly one of the best ‘chick flicks’ ever made, it also features a completely unnecessary love scene. We already know that Patrick and Demi are in lurveeee, which means there’s absolutely no need for a scene in which they suggestively fondle pottery and then bang to the jukebox strains of Unchained Melody.
Even when irrelevant, movies at least have the option of showing us sex scenes. Whilst they might add nothing to the plot, the sight of two individuals writhing around on a bed/car bonnet/kitchen sink is at least self-explanatory. Books, on the other hand, are forced to describe love scenes. The gradual build-up of sexual tension, the thoughts and motivations of the characters, the act itself; in the hands of lesser literary talents, it’s often a recipe for disaster. The love scene from the movie Ghost might be completely unnecessary, but at least we’re not subjected to 15 pages of flowery prose and nausea inducing description. I mean, imagine if Ghost were a book.
He glanced at her from across the loft apartment. In the background, Unchained Melody played softly on the 1950s jukebox. Molly sat alone at the pedal wheel, her hands gripping and squeezing as she skilfully manipulated the wet clay. “I wish that were me”, Sam thought longingly, as his loins began to stir. He’d always had a thing for earthenware based pottery.
Sam sat behind her, caressing her hands. “Now just let the clay slide between your fingers,” Molly said, suggestively arching her back into his chest.
“If she carries on like this -,” Sam thought, “- the clay won’t be the only thing that goes hard.”
The silence held for a moment as they both fondled the clay. Suddenly, without warning, Molly turned her head and began to kiss him passionately. From the corner of his eye he noticed the she’d completely abandoned the potter’s wheel. “She’s going to ruin that vase of she’s not careful” he thought, with a pang of disapproval.
Plus, if you factor in the creepy scene in which Molly and physic, Ode Mae Brown ‘get it on’ (Whoopi being kind enough to let Sam use her body so he can grope Molly one last time), the book version of Ghost would be less ‘Mills and Boon’ and more ‘50 Shades of Ode Mae’.
Even so, sex in literature is not exactly a new phenomenon.
For decades, publishing giant Harlequin have been providing sexually frustrated housewives with ‘rapey’ descriptions of subordinate virgins with ‘heaving bosoms’ being nailed by hairy chested men with ‘throbbing manhoods’.
Still, at least Harlequin novels know they’re supposed to be ridiculous. As a result, descriptions of ‘fiery loins’ and ‘love truncheons’ are usually written with a certain amount of tongue-in-cheek. Sure, they might be cliché ridden and formulaic, but Mills and Boon novelists nevertheless attempt to include SOME kind of plot.
Which is more than E.L James did.
James, of course, is the author of 50 Shades of Grey – a novel in which literally NOTHING happens. NOTHING. There is no plot, no character development. Events occasionally occur, but presumably only so the characters will have something to talk about after they bang.
For those of you lucky enough to have never read it, the novel tells the story of idiotic college virgin, Anastasia Steele and her fling with multi-gazillionaire douchebag, Christian Grey.
Although not explicitly stated in the book, Anastasia was obviously cryogenically frozen in the 1920s and has only recently been thawed out. I assume this mainly because Anastasia has the mental age of a 12 year old and is the only college student in the history of the world to have never heard of Facebook, own a laptop, or have an email address. How does she contact her college lecturers? Smoke signals? Carrier pigeon?
Grey, meanwhile, is only like, “er-mah-gerd, totes the bestest, most dreamiest guy ever!” Plus he plays piano, flies a helicopter, loves BDSM, and apparently has a magic penis.
That’s right ladies, a MAGIC PENIS!
How else would you explain why Anastasia (a 21 year old virgin who has never heard of a vibrator or even held hands with a boy) is able to have multiple orgasms the moment that Christian so much as unzips his fly?
Although she’s only churned out three books, James is still single-handedly responsible for writing 80% of the worst sex scenes currently available in print.
“Pull your knees up,” he orders softly, and I’m quick to obey. “I’m going to f*** you now, Miss Steele,” he murmurs as he positions the head of his erection at the entrance of my sex. “Hard,” he whispers, and he slams into me. Aargh! I cry as I feel a weird pinching sensation deep inside me as he rips through my virginity.”
Ohhhh, a weird pinching sensation: HOT!
Apart from the fact that ‘slam’ ‘weird pinching’ and ‘rip’ aren’t generally terms women like to associate with sex, there are two things that bother me about this description:
1.) No woman, I repeat, NO woman says ‘my sex’ when referring to their genitalia. It’s a vagina, Ana, you immature, lip biting moron.
2.) You can’t rip through someone’s ‘virginity’ because IT’S NOT A REAL THING! The term ‘virginity’ refers to a concept. It’s not like your liver or your spleen. You don’t go to your GP complaining of pains in your virginity.
But hey, who am I to criticise? After all, 50 Shades of Grey has sold millions of copies – mainly due to the invention of the kindle, which now allows women to secretly read porn on the tube.
Although she may have committed numerous crimes against literature, James’s descriptions of sex aren’t even the worst.
Don’t believe me? Check out this gem from Japanese writer, Haruki Murakami.
“A freshly made ear and a freshly made vagina look very much alike, Tengo thought”.
I’m not sure where to start with this one. Aside from the horrendous analogy (and the fact that Tengo is clearly a virgin with an ear fetish), a ‘freshly made vagina’ sounds like something you’d order at an Italian restaurant.
And speaking of terrible sex analogies, how about this technology inspired extract from Kissing England author, Sean Thomas…
“It is time, time … Now. Yes. She is so small and compact and yet she has all the necessary features … Shall I compare thee to a Sony Walkman, thou art more compact and more – She is his own Toshiba, his dinky little JVC, his sweet Aiwa … Aiwa, aiwa aiwa aiwa aiwa aiwa aiwa aiwa aiwa aiwa aiwaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh …”
Comparing a woman to obsolete technology? iPod-ict-a-riot!
Like a sexy, sexy sonnet, this paragraph is what I imagine Shakespeare would have written, (if Shakespeare had been born in the 90s and had easy access to Viagra.)
If the above extracts have taught us anything, it’s that bad sex scene fiction is usually the result of awful analogies, silly similes and moronic metaphors.
Whilst comparison is undoubtedly a great descriptive tool for writers, some are a just a little too eager to demonstrate their ‘simile skillz, yo’. Like, for example, novelist and apparent Mask of Zorro fan, Giles Coren.
“…she grabbed at his ****, which was leaping around like a shower dropped in an empty bath, she scratched his back deeply with the nails of both hands and he shot three more times, in thick stripes on her chest. Like Zorro.”
No one has seen his face….but everyone….knows his mark.
Had Giles been describing my reaction to reading this paragraph he might have written something like:
“She howled with laughter, like an Irish banshee watching a stand-up comedian at Jongleurs.”
Still, Giles practically looks like a wizardry wordsmith compared to this train wreck of a simile by author, Rowan Summerville.
“The wet friction of her, the cleft of her body, it tore a climax out of him with a final lunge. Like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin he screwed himself into her.”
Mmmm, sexy science references to insects – or in Rowan’s case, ‘inSEX’.
I mean, who amongst us hasn’t associated lepidoptery with lust or moths with mating?
Nevertheless, and despite evidence to the contrary, not all bad sex fiction is a result of figurative language. After all, why bother with analogies when you can write prose as cringingly bad as this:
“Paul ejaculates voluminously and with very great force indeed. In fact he keeps on and on ejaculating, there’s loads of the stuff, out it all comes, pint after pint, and he begins to wonder if it will ever cease.”
– ‘Too Beautiful For You’, Rod Liddle
Like the human equivalent of Mount Vesuvius, Paul should perhaps think about seeing a doctor.
The truth is, writing a good fictional sex scene is a hard task (pun intended). There’s often a delicate balance between the author’s desire to portray idealistic sex, and the crudeness that can result from overly realistic description. Put simply: If your language is too flowery you sound like a pretentious douche, if you’re too blunt you sound like a vulgar pervert.
In the case of fictional sex (and unless you’re writing erotica) ‘less is always going to be more’.
Rap duo Salt ‘n’ Pepper might have been keen to ‘push it’, but when it comes to ‘talking about sex’ some things are perhaps better left unsaid.