What 'TFIOS' Sex Scene Taught One Fan

by Rachel Simon

Of all the scenes Fault in Our Stars fans needed to see in the movie adaptation, the sex scene between Hazel and Gus topped the list. No, not for any weird, pervy reason, but because in the book, the scene is one of the few where Gus stops acting so pretentious and comes across as an insecure, wholly more likable human being. In bed with Hazel, he, a virgin unsure of how to proceed, nervously warns her about his amputated leg; she laughs off his concerns, he relaxes, and they continue on with the act. In the movie, the scene is, thankfully, very much the same — and thank god for that, because for TFIOS fans hoping to get sex advice from Gus, they finally have their chance.

While leading a Fault in Our Stars panel alongside the movie's director and writers at BookCon last weekend, John Green heard many questions and comments from fans, but none were as intimate as the one posed by Robert Berger, a 16-year-old who, like, Gus, has a prosthetic leg. With his limbs revealed in shorts, Berger thanked Green "for answering a lifelong question of mine, which is: whether, during sex, to keep my leg on or off."

Although the crowd broke into laughter and cheers (and plenty of catcalls from female audience members), Berger's comment was serious; people with disabilities like amputations rarely see representations of themselves in pop culture, and Fault took that one step further by showing two characters with physical issues in an act of intimacy. The book's sex scene, while not graphic, doesn't shy away from mentioning Gus' insecurities over his amputated leg or the problems wearing a cannula can cause during an attempt to make out. It's a rare, hugely important depiction of what sex and intimacy can be like for people with disabilities, and, as Berger said, it's as educational as it is entertaining.

Yet as beneficial as it to write such a scene in a novel, even one as widely-read as TFIOS, showing it in a movie theater has an even greater effect. The filmmakers' decision to show the scene nearly exactly as it is in the book means that millions of people will have a better understanding of what it's like to have sex when you're faced with "a touch of cancer" or another disability. And for viewers who, like Berger, have never had a chance to see others with similar challenges portrayed on-screen, watching Gus take off his leg is a major deal. For one of the first times in a major movie, a character's disability isn't hidden, or ignored; rather, it's made a central part of his experience, whether that be walking up stairs or losing his virginity.

For many of us, our excitement over that scene in the movie will be due to spotting the location of their first kiss, or seeing that piece of paper where Hazel makes that famous Venn Diagram. For others, though, the focus will be on watching for whether Hazel takes off her cannula, or learning from the gentle way in which Gus prepares her for what to expect from his amputated limb. All of TFIOS, both the book and the movie, does a tremendous job in giving voices to characters that aren't fiction's norm, but it's this scene, as Berger said, that means the most to so many people.

Image: 20th Century Fox