7 Reasons Movie Sex is Ruining Your Sex Life

Here’s why Hollywood’s hot, steamy sex is leaving you and your partner cold.

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Movie sex rarely shows overweight people having sex
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If you’re overweight, you must be a train wreck

The sexiest, most erotic films of all time typically feature great-looking men and women. Their faces are gorgeous to look at, even in the throes of passion. Their bodies are either impossibly buff, or one meager pound north of anorexia. The only movie in recent memory that dared portray a fuller-figured woman having (and enjoying) sex was Trainwreck, starring Amy Schumer in the title role. “Some people feel inadequate, comparing themselves to movie stars, despite the fact that many actors look like the rest of us when they’re not made up,” says certified sex therapist Grace Landes. “We only see actors at their best, with their hair done, and in great clothes, or naked, in perfectly staged angles, and elegant lighting.” If viewing those svelte, stunning bodies tears you down instead of revving you up, you’re not alone. According to the Deseret News, men, as well as women, experience body image dissatisfaction, when they compare themselves with Hollywood hunks.

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Couple in bed having sex
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To you, talking dirty means asking your honey to take out the garbage

Not only are characters in movies better looking than the rest of us, but their homes are more fabulous too. Did you ever notice the gorgeous digs typically portrayed in movie sex scenes? There’s no dirty laundry on the floor, no ring around the bathtub, and no overflowing garbage cans. Most of us have to juggle our sex lives with the rest of our lives, and that means planning for laundry, cooking, childcare, and earning a living. Movie sex is unfettered sex, which is out of reach for many people. “It’s not rare for a couple to come onto my office and use a movie as a reference point for how they wish their sex life operated,” says Chris Donaghue, PhD, author of Sex Outside the Lines: Authentic Sexuality in a Sexually Dysfunctional Culture. “Hollywood’s depiction of sex in movies is typically centered around big, bold acts of love and attraction. Characters in film have no boundaries, whereas typical couples have finances, careers, and family, which may all limit the magnitude of their sex lives. In film, none of these constraints exist, and it can make the average, American couple feel negative about their own sexuality.”

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Couple embracing in bed
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You want to do what, where?

The recent sexual-bondage trend in movies, set off by Fifty Shades of Grey, may be liberating for some but uncomfortable for others. The movie’s popularity has left some men and women feeling bad about themselves for not being open to sadomasochism. If that sounds like you, it may help to remember that movie sex has very little in the way of real-life consequences, and often portrays sexual exploits that are daunting, unrealistic or even scary for lots of people. “Movies are a great escape, a cheap, 90-minute vacation,” says Landes. “They become harmful when people think they’re real, and try to reproduce what they see on screen.” There’s nothing wrong with experimenting, and trying to spice things up with your partner. Just don’t assume you need a blindfold, handcuffs, or rough play to have wild, adventurous, satisfying sex.

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Couple engaging in foreplay
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All it takes is a sidelong glance

Ever hear of foreplay? Most Hollywood directors haven’t. Characters on film are always ready, all the time, to jump in the sack. They don’t need to get in the mood, shave their armpits, or reach for the K-Y jelly. They never lose their erections prematurely, feel pain during intercourse, or have post-menopausal dryness. Manual stimulation? Unnecessary. Connecting emotionally? A waste of time. All movie characters have to do is see each other from across a crowded room, and boom, it’s orgasm city. This Hollywood-like depiction of sex couldn’t be farther from the truth, and leaves many people feeling inadequate and wondering what’s wrong with them. “In movies, it’s quick and easy, and two people always want the same thing, at the same time, all the time,” explains Landes. “I can’t tell you how much pain these comparisons cause people who don’t fit that profile. It can be demoralizing.” One way to combat these feelings is by focusing on sexual intimacy, kissing, and other sexual play, rather than on the epic, movie-style version of the Big O, that actors always seem to have.

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Happy couple spending morning together
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You’ve got (adulterous) baggage

Hot Hollywood sex often centers around a couple that has just started their sexual relationship. Rarely do we see a twosome who has been together since forever gloriously intertwined in decadent sex. On the screen, if someone gets hurt in a relationship, they typically move on. Not so in real life. Even the healthiest couple on the planet have resentments that need to be worked out. Some hold grudges. Others keep calm and carry on, despite hurts that never heal. These feelings tend to invade the bedroom, wrecking many people’s sex lives. Among the biggest intimacy killers is adultery. “Too many people think they have to end a marriage when they discover their spouse is having an affair, just because they saw that in some movie. Affair discovered, new start, everything easy,” says Landes. “In real life, people recover from affairs, work hard to rebuild their relationships, make tough decisions, and in general, muddle through life’s ups and downs pretty well, unless they’re comparing themselves to an unattainable ideal, such as we often see on the big screen.”

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Red, blue and yellow condoms
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No glove, no love—unless you’re on the silver screen

In movies, condoms rarely make it into sex scenes. In real life, this omission can result in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), unwanted pregnancy, and increased levels of sexual pressure, if one partner feels uncomfortable proceeding without a condom, and the other still wants to have sex. In 2015, the CDC reported that STDs are on the rise. STDs can have serious consequences for long-term health, and may even affect newborns if a pregnant mom is infected. This phenomenon may, in part, be placed at Hollywood’s door. Teens and young adults are one of the demographic groups most likely to get an STD, and are highly influenced by what they see on the big screen.

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Young couple in bed
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That broccoli you ate made you a little, you-know-what

Can you imagine a gassy, post-chili-and-beans Ryan Gosling, getting it on with a delicately burping Rachel McAdams, during one of their steamy scenes in The Notebook? No? Neither could Hollywood, and of course, fans everywhere would have gone running for the movie theater doors had those scenes been shot that way. Human beings have human bodies and sometimes, those bodies produce less-than-sexy smells, sights and tastes. Morning breath, post-workout sweat, and the occasional gassy oops may not fit Hollywood’s definition of hot, but these all-too-human vulnerabilities can bring us closer to our partners, if they love us, warts and all. They may even help us to love ourselves a little bit more, when we can let go and be ourselves, rather than a celluloid version of who we think we should be in bed.

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Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

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