For many women, it's hard to pinpoint one specific movie that had the greatest influence in
shaping their views of love and sex. So many of the roles for women in film revolve around men and romance that it's nearly impossible to choose just one movie that influenced women's views on romance. Most kids grow up watching Disney movies that usually portrayed a princess who literally depends on a man to save her from some piteous existence. So if you ask a woman what movies shaped her views of love, she might simply say, "all of them."
Yet even if it was difficult for young girls to find a female protagonist who wasn't desperately looking for love, certain movies had more of an impact than others. For me, the film that taught me the most about love was
Titanic. No other movie at the time dramatized love quite like it did. I remember owning the two-part VHS copy of the movie and only watching the first part before the "scary" shipwreck, which happened to have the story of Rose and Jack meeting each other. It also taught me a little bit about sex — the private yet salacious moment when Rose's hand hits the steamy window while "doing it" with Jack was everything that the young me needed to know about copulation (or at least that's what I thought at the time).
I also remember watching
Grease, and getting upset that my parents fast forwarded through the sex scene. Grease also was one of my favorite movies during my childhood, and because of it and Titanic together, I might have believed that sex in cars was more commonplace than it actually is. And when I was a little older, I watched Cruel Intentions, which made me realize that I didn't understand half of what was going on because so much of it referenced things about sex that I knew nothing about.
But that's just my story. Here are the movies that taught 15 other women about sex and love, for better or for worse.
Dawn, 45: 'Sixteen Candles'
"I spent my whole teenage life waiting for Jake Ryan from
Sixteen Candles to sweep me off my feet. Now, as an adult, I’m horrified by Jake bragging how he could violate his unconscious girlfriend '20 different ways if he wanted to.'"
Adriane, 24: '10 Things I Hate About You'
"10 Things I Hate About You taught me that if I was myself to the fullest degree, I would end up finding someone who fit with me (and it's still the hope I hold on to in these lonely times!). Amélie also reinforced this idea for me. Thankfully I had those '90s-2000s movies to counterbalance the many '50s and '60s musicals I watched as a kid. Movies like Singing in the Rain, The Sound of Music, Oklahoma, etc. taught me to be the 'perfect woman' who could have the job, sing the song, find the man, and still look flawless."
Melissa, 24: 'You've Got Mail'
"Any Meg Ryan movie, honestly. She always played characters that were the perfect blend of class and innocence and sex appeal. Impossible to live up to and very impressionable for young women... She also ends up losing or giving up her work completely, in favor of a man, which is f**ked up beyond words."
Dorrie, 26: 'Dirty Dancing'
"Baby's first crush on an older guy, abortion, sex for the first time in an era of taboo."
Ellen, 25: 'Love & Basketball'
"It taught you about friendship beyond just love and attraction, friendship and also growth because they grew up together. Also about having your own identity beyond just your relationship."
Allison, 25: 'The Lion King'
"That's where my mind goes when I think of love."
Xenia, 23: 'Love, Actually'
"There was just different kinds of love. There was the romance between the two little kids, the controversy with the divorce with that one couple. It highlighted different kinds of love and relationships and dynamics and it was very well-rounded — it showed the good and the bad and heartbreak and falling in love, and there was a relationship between the two men."
"David Bowie in
Labyrinth was the first character to make me feel 'funny' in my 'pants area' but I didn’t have a clear idea of what to do with that feeling for a long time."
Kara, 24: 'A Walk To Remember'
"Despite being a cheesy and somewhat poorly made flick,
A Walk to Remember showed me at a young age what it looks like to truly be cherished and honored by a partner. I remember thinking that I wanted to be loved the way Landon loved Jamie and that when you love someone, you put out the effort to do things you know will mean a lot to the other person, even if it's not something that means a lot to you. The thoughtful things that Landon did for Jamie in the movie to show her his love for her, like building the telescope so she could see the comet and giving her her first 'tattoo', taught me that love is not about words but actions. Although Jamie was dying of cancer in the movie, this sort of attentiveness and effort to make someone else feel appreciated and loved is what’s it's all about. No one should settle for anything less."
Miranda, 25: 'Blue Is The Warmest Color'
"I watched this when I was older, and it only was in watching a story of lesbian discovery of sex that I realized the sex I had been having was centered entirely around male pleasure and thus very sub-par for me."
Saved! (the underrated Mandy Moore movie about a pregnant Christian teen) when I was in high school. It’s funny because I wasn’t very religious by any means, but I loved that movie. It taught me that you should always use a condom, even if Jesus comes to you in a vision and tells you to have sex with your closeted boyfriend to turn him straight. And also if you’re genuine and compassionate maintain your truth no matter who or what surrounds you, love follows."
Olivia, 27: 'Real Women Have Curves'
"Real Women Have Curves didn't teach me a lot about the mechanics of sex, but it taught me about self love and how that can affect sex. In the movie, Ana (American Ferrera) learns to love her body, and, while falling in love, gains the confidence to proudly share her body with another person. Watching Hollywood movies, it's easy as a kid to feel like to have sex you must be skinny with a flat stomach and perfect breasts. But Real Women Have Curves taught me that sex and nudity wasn't just for skinny Hollywood stars with six packs; it's for regular people of all shapes and sizes. Not only did it make sex for me as a curvy girl seem more possible in the real world, it also told me that curves and a little fat could be sexy in its own right."
Cassie, 27: 'Austin Powers'
"I remember watching the sexual stuff and feeling both intrigued and repulsed at the same time."
Andrea, 25: 'Like Crazy'
"It dives into the nitty gritty of what relationships are like, warts and all. Most movies show the lead up to starting a relationship. They show the falling in love but not actually the staying in love and making it work. I thought
Like Crazy had an interesting approach to making the relatively monotonous parts of love the focus of the film. [It also] did a good job of showing realistic sex scenes but I think by the time I watched it I had already kind of figured that stuff out. So it wasn’t so much educational as it was like 'yep, I identify.'"
Zoe, 26: 'Splendor In The Grass'
Splendor in the Grass with Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty. Learned a lot about sex, love, power, and sexual repression in that one. It made me realize just how vulnerable we as young women can be (and historically have been) in relationships."
While some women have clearly realized that the movies that taught them about romance weren't such great influences after all, it's always fun to reminisce about which films had the greatest impact on your life.