When’s the last time you watched a sex scene and thought “Yep, that looks about right”? Chances are, you haven’t often experienced the common movie representation of sex: a candle-lit, slow motion montage of airbrushed close-ups and simultaneous orgasms that seems as though it should be accompanied by an Enya soundtrack. Even though popular culture overwhelms us with sexual images and messages daily, real, authentic accounts of sex are hard to find. The silence, or non-representation, around real sex creates stigma and a culture of misunderstanding. And for filmmaker Melissa Tapper Goldman, that is a huge problem.
This skewed representation of real sex versus unrealistic sex can cause some serious consequences. Tapper Goldman labels these consequences “the cost of shame,” which she defines as “the harm that is done by stigmatizing women’s sexual experiences and encouraging silence.” In an interview with Salon, Tapper Goldman elaborates on the real "cost of shame”:
So what do we lose when we can’t talk about sex openly? For one, shame gets in the way of actually enjoying our sex lives, which I feel totally indignant about. But there are other more lethal costs, like so many women not believing that their experiences or health or even consent really matter to other people. How comfortable do we make it for an 18-year-old in Mississippi to ask her doctor for birth control or her pharmacist for Plan B if she chooses to have sex?
In an effort to fight back, Tapper Goldman created the website Do Tell where women are invited to share their real-world sexual experiences with one another. The website prompts:
Please share a story about your sexual self, up to 350 words. Why? Because we live in a sex-saturated culture with precious little honest and authentic discussion of sexuality. Because speaking our truths, with all their complications and imperfections and beauty, challenges a culture of shame that impacts us every day. Because our voices and our histories matter.
And women have been sharing their stories about their first times, their best orgasms, and sometimes, their sexual traumas. These voices breed understanding and a community where shame is not allowed.
So next time you see a Hollywood sex scene, remember that it is nowhere near to normal….who really plays Enya during sex anyways?
Image: Meg Wills/Flickr