The 5 Best Sex Scenes on Film

One of the most salient critiques of modern mainstream pornography is that it generally revolves around the subjugation of women. Some of these women could earn Oscars for their dramatically faked orgasms, which help normalize the idea among viewers that all women are as subservient and sexually eager as those in porn. Of course, some of us are, but give us a break! This led to the creation of more feminist-minded porn, made by women and men who do not believe in the concept of censorship to subvert mainstream modes of pornography, but in creating an alternative for sex-positive voyeurs.

With that in mind, we were interested in exploring the idea of feminist or sex-positive sex scenes in progressive mainstream films, and how they’re presented. It’s slightly more SFW (slightly!), but here are some of the best rated-R examples of awesome sex scenes in lefty-leaning films:

1. Don’t Look Now

A complex look at a marriage as it implodes after the loss of a daughter, this 1973 film is actually more famous for its sex scene: Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie in then-explicit passion, filmed through innovative jump-cuts by director Nicholas Roeg. At the time it was highly controversial, not just for its graphic nature but for the rumor that Sutherland and Christie were actually full-on doing it in the film (something both later denied, though it was restated in Paramount exec Peter Bart’s book, Infamous Players: A Tale of Movies, the Mob and Sex). But more importantly: the scene featured a still-rare cunnilingus scene, which for some reason barely happens on camera. Perhaps it was graphic, but we can’t help but wonder if the fact that the scene was about loving parity is what made it so objectable to a room full of dude producers. Just speculating! Watch below (NSFW)!

2. Coming Home

As the Vietnam war wrapped up, pop culture was beginning to look at its impact in real-life ways. This 1978 film starred Jon Voigt as a veteran who returned a paraplegic, and Jane Fonda as a war wife who reconnected with him, a former high-school classmate, while volunteering at the VA hospital. The film realistically examines the psychological ramifications of Vietnam, including how women dealt with their husbands’ absence—and how an able-bodied woman can find the greatest passion of her life with a man who has become disabled. A good example that sexual pleasure is as much psychological as it is physical.

 3. Brokeback Mountain

Clearly the 2005 Oscar-winning film about the love affair between two closeted cowboys in Wyoming was a feat—based on a short story by Annie Proulx, it revealed a secret and beautiful possibility of love in what is often viewed as a heteronormative existence. When two ostensibly straight leading men (Jake Gyllenhaal and the dearly departed Heath Ledger) united, it was viewed as groundbreaking (and was for the mainstream, even though gay actors portray straight every single day). But the portrayal of love in two tents in the dark was beautiful, and probably one of the most straightforward gay love scenes in a mainstream/critically acclaimed movie ever. Watch it here (totally SFW).

4. Boys Don’t Cry

Ditto with Boys Don’t Cry, the dramatization based on the tragic true story of Brandon Teena, the trans man who was brutally murdered in Nebraska for being who he was, portrayed by Hilary Swank. Before his end, he had a brief love with the cis woman Lana Tisdel (Chloe Sevigny), and the film portrays it as a tender moment in which two people were sharing young love, regardless of how they identified. Watch here.

5. Secretary

In this film, Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader play out a classic sub-dom relationship, with tasks and spankings and classic mental mind-fucks. There’s a lot that’s hot here for those who are into S&M, but once they break it down and Spader’s character lets himself psychologically submit, the love scenes get way more lovey—and Spader’s devotional surrealism comes to a head after he bathes and pleases her in a way no feminist could be mad at. Watch here (site NSFW).


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