#Opinion

Why A Calling Out Of Hollywood’s Sex Scenes By Big Stars Is Momentous

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Salma Hayek on sex scene, Desperado: Salma Hayek calling out sex scenes in Hollywood and the discomfort surrounding it is a significant moment. With a big industry name like her drawing attention to something that often goes missed in the production, distribution and enjoyment of cinema, a renewed spotlight has been cast on female agency and safety on film sets.

In a recent podcast, Hayek opened up on crying the entire time while filming an uncomfortable sex scene in her breakout 1995 film Desperado. Her revelations didn’t come across as allegations, though, since she mentioned no one “put pressure on her” and it was her own embarrassment that caused her to feel that way.

Salma Hayek on sex scene: Discomfort in the absence of pressure

Keira Knightley impressed on something similar when she recently said she would no longer do nude scenes directed by men. Over “horrible sex scenes where you’re all greased up,” the Atonement actor said she’d rather go bare for the “journey of motherhood and body [acceptance]” directed by a female filmmaker.

Although these women haven’t pinned allegations, their remarks are telling of the dynamics in place between an actor and her job.

Does the industry demand too much from its artists? Are expectations being fulfilled at the cost of personal comfort? How much of these expectations are built from norms devised by the male gaze? Will calling out this discomfort herald change in film shoots?

Salma Hayek Sex Scene: Where’s The Female Agency?

In a world that has partially broken through the daunting levee of harassment with movements like #MeToo and Time’s Up, it’s no secret anymore that the film industry (across countries) is a place that has bred misogyny for years on end. When the Weinstein Effect kicked off in the US in 2017, abuse in the industry was addressed on a notable scale.

It resulted in allegations surfacing against James Franco of him not having used the vaginal guard while instructing female students on sex scenes. It gave rise, once again, to the fact that Maria Schneider was not informed of the “rape scene” between her and Marlon Brando in Last Tango in Paris. 

It even prompted Hollywood to legally require the presence of intimacy coordinators on set to ensure a smooth, comfortable and safe process. Alicia Rodis, HBO’s intimacy director, pressed on the need for “nonnegotiable” safety during sex scenes as during action stunts. Because why not? Does filming intimacy not put physical, mental and emotional facilities at stake too?

With Salma Hayek on sex scene in spotlight, will change come soon?

Will it set off a domino effect in Bollywood, where intimate scenes are guided by and catered to the male audience primarily? Kriti Kharbanda has been known to walk off a set for a scene she didn’t agree with. Priyanka Chopra has opened up on Bollywood and its obsession with “chaddi-show” and Hollywood’s with “boobs.”

Even with the Salma Hayek sex scene making noise, even as other women talk, even as certain changes are made – to films, to the industry itself – the question of how much applied change it will bring still remains. Because the underlying issue is of a patriarchal, overpowering male gaze that dominates the filmmaking process and the weight of the commercial sellability of nudity. A weight women have to bear. 

Views expressed are the author’s own. 

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Why A Calling Out Of Hollywood’s Sex Scenes By Big Stars Is Momentous
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