On-screen sex scenes can be many things. They can be hot, objectifying, awkward, violent, or anything in between. One thing that is consistent in nearly every sex scene ever depicted on film is that they are male-determined images. Men dominate Hollywood both in front of and behind the camera, and so the majority of sex scenes on film are — surprise! — directed and/or written by men, and featuring far more nudity from their female stars than their male ones. Still, there are a few movies that broke the mold this year, whether by putting emphasis on the woman's pleasure, like the female-directed Fifty Shades of Grey, or featuring more male nudity, as seen in Crimson Peak. Some of the very best sex scenes of 2015 happily fit this bill.
Movie sex scenes don't necessarily have to be sexy, but they should be authentic and relevant to the story. The ones I've compiled below not only fit the bill, but are totally feminist, a major change from the "typical" sex scene. After all, more sex scenes feature female nudity than male nudity (a 2015 study by the Annenberg School at USC’s Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative found that in 2014, 26.4% of female film roles featured some nudity, while just 9.1% of male roles did). Movies have traditionally treated female characters as less important than male ones, and sex scenes are no different. And, as the number of women behind the camera continues to be appalling low, a majority of sex scenes in films remain pretty unimpressive when it comes to feminism.
This year, however, seems to have brought about far more female-friendly sex scenes than years past. With that in mind, I've compiled the seven best sex scenes of 2015 in terms of feminism and female empowerment.
1. Fifty Shades Of Grey
Whether or not Fifty Shades of Grey is a feminist film has been a hotly debated topic, with some saying it encourages women to embrace their sexuality and others saying it depicts an abusive relationship masked as female empowerment. Whatever side you're on, I think everyone can agree that the first sex scene in the film, when Anna loses her virginity to Christian, is pretty damn empowering. Director Sam Taylor-Johnson makes sure that the entire focus of the scene is on Anna. It's Anna's desire that drives the scene, and even though Christian is arguably more in control physically, it's only Anna's pleasure that matters. (There is also a shot where you can tell Anna has a little peach fuzz on her thighs, which is a win for women everywhere.)
2. Crimson Peak
The Crimson Peak sex scene might be best known for star Tom Hiddleston's willingness to get naked. It's rare in Hollywood that a sex scene features more naked man than woman, so the fact that Hiddleston reportedly pushed for the nudity is just icing on the cake. But the true merit of the scene lies in the fact that the sex is initiated by Edith (Mia Wasikowska), who, fun fact, keeps her dress on the entire time.
Trainwreck is full of hilarious sex scenes, but the one between Amy (Am Schumer) and Steven (John Cena) has got to be one of the best. Watching John Cena list his workouts as dirty talk would be great on its own, but the scene is also important because it shows a woman who's not afraid to ask for what she wants in the bedroom.
The Divergent series is all about female empowerment, so it shouldn't be surprising that the sex scene featured in Insurgent is initiated by Tris (Shailene Woodley). It's an important scene for anybody who remembers that sex with Four (Theo James) was one of her biggest fears in Divergent. In Insurgent, audiences see Tris put herself out there with Four in a way she hasn't been willing to before. Considering the series began with Tris testing her limits in Dauntless — a task mostly full of stunts and guns — it's refreshing to see Tris apply her fearlessness to her personal life for once.
Brooklyn features another first time sex scene, this one between Irish immigrant Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) and her Italian American boyfriend Tony (Emory Cohen). The scene is short and hardly sexy, but the passion and awkwardness is refreshingly honest.
6. Miss You Already
Miss You Already, about a woman battling breast cancer, Milly (Toni Collette), and her best friend Jess (Drew Barrymore), doesn't sound like the kind of movie that would have a particularly great sex scene. Yet the ones it does show deserve credit for allowing Milly, in the midst of her cancer treatments, to maintain her identity as a sexy woman. A lot of films might shy away from showing an ill woman embracing her body through sex, but Miss You Already jumps right in.
7. Diary Of A Teenage Girl
While some of the sex scenes in Diary of a Teenage Girl are unhealthy, as they depict a 15-year-old sleeping with her mother's boyfriend, one is hugely important. Minnie (Bel Powley) has sex with a boy her own age, and attempts to reposition them so she can get pleasure. It doesn't go quite as planned, but major props to the film for featuring a teenage girl expressing her sexuality and going after her desires so confidently.
Here's hoping these films start a trend of more female positive sex scenes in Hollywood going forward.