The Good, The Bad & The Sex

The secret to fantastic sex? It’s all about dispelling the fantasy.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
The secret to fantastic sex? It’s all about dispelling the fantasy.
My Reading Room

Your clothes fall away to reveal a seriously expensive set of silk lingerie. Your partner gently lays you down on the bed; flattering candlelight bathes your bodies, which also happen to be flawless. You both spend a few moments kissing sensuously (this is all you need to get in the mood) and, after about 45 seconds of thrusting, you throw your head back and have an orgasm so good, it’s likely the earth stopped spinning for a second. In the movies, this is how most sexual encounters go. So yeah, about that…

Great sexpectations

We’re pretty sure everyone will agree that the reality of sex is very different from what Hollywood would have us believe. For starters, it’s a fact known to all women that on the magic day when the stars align and you’ve waxed your legs, are wearing decent underwear and your hormones are in check, you do not get to have sex. Instead, it’s when your limbs have gone stubbly, you’re pre-period bloat is in force and you’re down to your last (ratty) pair of clean undies that the universe decides you will get an opportunity to get laid. Hmmph.

So if we know that sex scenes in movies are all smoke and mirrors, why do we still have unrealistic expectations of how doing the dirty should play out? We want things to be tender, not awkward; passionate, not “Whatever you’re doing, can you please not”; and not to mention, there should be queensized helpings of mind-blowing orgasms every single time.

“Hollywood, our egos, insecurities and even conversations with friends can contribute to our high expectations of sex,” says sex therapist Lucy Patarcic. “Erotic fiction has contributed to the issue, as has online pornography. With all of its airbrushed images, intercourse lasting up to 45 minutes, and body doubles, it definitely plays a role in both women’s and men’s unrealistic expectations of sex, and in body image too.”

Getting down IRL

Luckily for us, the tide of glitch-free on-screen sex is turning. Since its premiere in 2012, Lena Dunham’s TV show Girls has been acclaimed for its unstylised, uber-real sex scenes – complete with belly rolls and uncomfortable conversations about pretty much everything from condoms to the “right hole”. As Lena admitted to The Independent, “It’s hard for me to write from a place of fantasy [that allows me] to see sex as glamorous.”

It’s refreshing (if not a little cringeworthy) to be reminded that a lot of the time, sex is filled with belts getting stuck, teeth knocking together, endless fiddling and adjusting, ineffective communication, quasierections and loud fanny farts. “Often, because of our expectations of what sex should be like, we end up ‘performing’ sex instead of being connected and present in the moment,” says Lucy. “Sex can be incredible, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a million awkward things that can happen too. Really,  there’s no such thing as ‘normal’ sex – what may be mind-blowing to one individual or couple may be very vanilla to the next.”

Erotic diffusers

All of the abovementioned mortifying moments prompts the question – what do we do when something hella awkward happens in the bedroom? As is the case with most issues in real life, it all comes down to communication. “Talk to your partner, go to the shower if you need to, and depending on what it is, laugh it off ,” suggests Lucy. Whether it’s feeling awkward about that tummy roll or letting loose an accidental queef, “If it doesn’t bother you, then it isn’t going to be a concern for him,” she advises. “The more attention you bring to it, the more he’s going to notice.”

And one more thing: when the going gets rough, don’t keep it all to yourself in shame. Tell your friends about it afterwards. That might sound mortifying but, trust us, opening up a conversation about the bad as well as the good will make you all feel much, much better in the long run.


Luckily, sexy times in the cinema aren’t always as perfect as the car scene in Titanic. Here are some that succeed at keeping it real.
Jamie and Dylan
Granted, this one comes with stunningly hot people and the requisite earthshattering orgasms. But it’s notable for the way these first-time lovers don’t get things right straight off the bat. Mila Kunis telling Justin Timberlake, “You’re not a lizard,” makes everything worth it.
Dean and Cindy

From the throes of first love to the bitter anger of love lost, Blue Valentine didn’t pull punches when it came to exploring the physical side of a relationship. Ryan Gosling told The Guardian, “The sex felt real – it wasn’t sexy or ‘a sex scene’,” and it shows on-screen.

Aimee and Sutter
The sex scene from the 2013 comingof-age tale is Shailene Woodley’s favourite for a reason. Keeping it shy, anxious, tender and vulnerable at the same time, the moment captures the tenderness of a “first time” in a genuine and truly sweet way. 
More: awkward