There’s been an unusual amount of talk about missing condoms this week. First Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was arrested in Sweden because of a broken condom. And now we’ve learned that porn star Derrick Burts has tested positive for HIV because the porn industry is institutionally opposed to using condoms.
But there’s another part of the film industry that is opposed to using condoms: mainstream Hollywood movies. Of course, the actors in those films aren’t actually exchanging fluids on camera. But they are sending messages about sex. And this one is loud and clear: sexy adults don’t use condoms.
The sex depicted in R-rated (and sometimes NC-17) movies is usually far more mainstream than sex in porn films. But directors and script writers seem just as categorically opposed to depicting safe sex. Many films skate right past the details of intercourse, but as sex scenes get more explicit on the big screen, shouldn’t condoms become more a familiar site?
This week, Porn star Burts is leading a crusade to get condoms used in all porn films. He told The LA Times:
“What they tell you in porn is, ‘You’re not going to make any money if you wear a condom, you know, viewers don’t want to see that, so I didn’t even know you had an option to wear a condom. I had never seen a condom on a straight set in my entire life.”
That fact is sad. But there is a lot that is fucked up about the porn industry, and all of that belongs in another essay. The thing that I find disturbing in mainstream films is the fact that the same stigma applies with condoms, even though the characters aren’t actually in danger of spreading diseases (at least on set).
The avoidance of that awkwardness on screen is why Leslie Nielsen‘s full body condom sex scene was so funny in Naked Gun 2. Putting on a condom may be an awkward pause in the sexy time action, but it is a fact of life, for anyone who is worried about contracting one of the nasty viruses that run rampant in today’s world. ESPECIALLY for people who engage in casual sex, which basically encompasses every adult character who has ever appeared on the silver screen in the last 30 years.
And yet, safe sex among adults just isn’t depicted in movies. Meanwhile, groups like the Smoke Free Movies project have basically launched a fatwa against films that show a character light up a cigarette. (Just ask James Cameron, who got on their hit list for making Sigourney Weaver smoke in Avatar.)
In real life, people use condoms all the time. Especially the first time they have sex with someone (which is a familiar moment in films). And yet, movie audiences almost never see characters pull out a condom.
For example, take the much discussed naked scenes in the new Anne Hathaway movie Love And Other Drugs. Anne’s character may be dying of Parkinson’s, but that does that also mean she wants to get as many STDs as possible? Because after talking with Jake Gyllenhaal‘s character for a total of 15 minutes, she brings him home to her apartment so they can bareback it in her kitchen.
Off the top of my head, I can only think of a few films that depict condom usage. And they mostly dwell on the same issue: the awkwardness of procuring or using a condom. Both The 4o Year Old Virgin and American Pie deal with that. Or there’s the flip side – the lack of condom usage that kick-starts the plot of pregnancy movies like Knocked Up and Juno.
But the only movie I can think of off the top of my head that realistically depicts safe sex is Trainspotting, when Ewan McGregor gets kicked out of bed by Kelly McDonald before he can pull of his condom. And later in that movie we find out that he just committed statutory rape (because Kelly McDonald’s character Diane is under the age of consent). Oops!
Anyway, I get that movies are idealized and sterilized versions of real life, and that Hollywood can’t be expected to embed moral lessons in every film that’s put out. But isn’t it unrealistic to perpetrate the stereotype that casual sex is a carefree indulgence? And considering how much different special interest groups have cracked down on unhealthy behavior in films and other public areas these days, it’s a little surprising to me that we all go along pretending that beautiful people are immune from all the dangers associated with sex today.
Can you think of any movies that actually depict safe sex? Let us know in the comments.