By the Editors
As we get older it’s only natural that we ask ourselves important questions. Am I the person I thought I would be? What can I do to make this world a better place? Do the sex scenes I loved as a teenager hold up if I watch them today? We at High-Strung place great value on our ability to address all vital questions in order of importance, so naturally we started with the sex scenes.
There is no doubt that as any red-blooded human you know the scenes we mean. That one moment of a movie you watched over and over, rewinding the tape with anticipation or viciously tapping the arrows on your DVD player until you got it just right. The scene you watched alone in your basement or every weekend with a best friend because it gave you a glimpse into the wonderful and mysterious world of sex.
Do these scenes stand the test of time? Are they actually sexy, or just sexy to a 12-year-old who doesn’t know any better? We decided to revisit our all-time favorite sex scenes and reevaluate them with our now adult eyes. To double down on our reviews we asked our resident youth correspondent and millennial tastemaker, Monica Torres, to pass her judgment on the scenes as well, since she timidly admitted that she had not actually seen most of them in the first place.
The clips are not included, just a screenshot, but beware what you scroll through at work. This is x-rated, NSFW content.
“Fear” (1996) starring Reese Witherspoon and Mark Wahlberg
Gabrielle: Leave it to a horror film fanatic to focus her teen lust on a moment in a bad movie about a crazed murdering stalker boyfriend who decapitates a dog. At the time I felt like this scene had everything I loved most: a roller coaster, Mark Wahlberg, and a sexual act that seemed really mysterious and confusing and exciting. Watching it now all I can see is how young they both look and how dangerous and potentially painful it would be to perform this act on a freaking roller coaster. Additionally, the adult in me must insist that they are at an amusement park and therefore there must be children around. Children! I do have to give bonus points for the fact that this is clearly a moment of sexual pleasure and discovery for the female, with most of the focus on her face. Minus points for the creepy pairing of a public teen sex act with a sappy rendition of “Wild Horses” by The Sundays.
Monica: I only watched the trailer to prepare, and I have no plans to watch this movie after seeing this scene of unbelievable sexual acrobatics. The tunes of “Wild Horses” are supposed to make this scene feel romantic, but I felt like there should’ve been horror strings playing for Reese’s vagina. I was deeply concerned for Reese’s cervix on that roller coaster. How could a finger bang on a roller coaster not end badly?! I also don’t buy that she would orgasm in a minute-long ride. Puh-lease.
“Secretary” (2002) starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader
Gabrielle: I was already eighteen when this movie was released, but my level of fascination with it was still on par with the sex scenes that entranced me as a naive pre-teen. Sadomasochism was certainly not something anyone had gone over in sex education, and Cosmopolitan really dropped the ball on giving us a cohesive “Top Ten Ways to Ask Your Boyfriend to Spank You” list. It helped that I was (and still am) in love with James Spader, so even though I felt slightly confused by the eroticism of “Secretary”, I still swooned every time he was on screen. I would watch this movie late at night because that was the only time it would air on TV, but I never really discussed it with people. Nowadays, with the success of crap books like “Fifty Shades of Grey”, it would seem that sadomasochism is a bit more mainstream, so going back and watching “Secretary” feels a bit less scandalous. I still find it incredibly enjoyable, sexy, and intriguing. But to be fair I never really stopped watching it.
Monica: I wanted to watch the rest of the movie! The spanking scene was hawt and intense, and I noticed that unlike every other sex scene the High-Strung ladies and I watched, we did not talk through this one. His hand possessively cupping her butt over her pencil skirt as she’s bent over a desk is an arresting image. Like, arrest me for my impure thoughts! As a literary nerd, I first learned about this movie from a journal’s article that got nominated for an award this year. “Ladies in Waiting” uses the protagonist of “Secretary” as an example of the lover’s fatal identity: “I am the one who waits.” The article’s author Becca Rothfeld argues that waiting, erotic and otherwise, has long been defined as a feminine activity: Maggie Gyllenhaal as “[t]he figure at the desk, with her tattered wedding dress, her throbbing hunger, her clenched hands, could only have been a woman.” Just giving you all some academic thots to chew over as you watch this scene.
As a child of burgeoning social networks, my introduction to BDSM and orgasm denial was not through this 2002 indie film, but through the more nefarious means of creating a fake username, so I could read explicit stories on adultfanfiction.net that were way above my grade level. Ah, the things we do to discreetly learn about sex!
“Y Tu Mamá También” (2001) starring Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna, and Ana López Mercado
Frida: Rewatching these scenes again (five altogether – Gael and girlfriend, Diego and girlfriend, Gael and Ana, Diego and Ana, Gael, Diego, and Ana – WHEW) makes me wonder how this movie had time to develop any plot at all considering they take up so much time having sex. I love this movie for so many reasons, not least because it was my first introduction to the work of art that is Gael Garcia Bernal. The sex itself is so integral to the story – you can practically see the hormones oozing out of these two young men and their sexual interactions with women showcase how little control over themselves they have. When they fuck their girlfriends early in the movie – pardon my language but there really isn’t another word for what they’re doing – they can barely get their pants off before they finish, it’s so frenetic and animalistic. Ana tries to get them to slow down a little bit on their own but ultimately it’s the final scene where all three of them come together that actually feels like sex. For me it still completely holds up as a powerful cinematic feat, but as a teenager I just remember feeling VERY HOT AND BOTHERED whenever I put it on (which I did many times).
Monica: Um, I LOVE how Diego and Gael kiss at the end. Only seeing this film through explicit gifsets on Tumblr, I didn’t know the relationships of the film and I am happily surprised that their queerness was not just subtext. Watching Diego Luna in the cinematic masterpiece on sweaty teen dancing, “Dirty Dancing: Habana Nights,” was my introduction to his beauty as a lusty preteen. I’m going to go immediately correct the fact that I haven’t watched this film. Also, unsurprisingly, I’m noticing that all of the clips Gabi, Frida and Saira have chosen focus on female pleasure and I love that.
“Jerry Maguire” (1996) starring Tom Cruise and Kelly Preston
Frida: Watching this as an adult I can see the scene actually has an underlying meaning and even humor – it’s supposed to be outrageous and a way to show how unhappy Jerry Maguire was in his fast-paced 90’s power agent life, giving weight to why he ended up with sweet, purse-lipped, cute-kid-having Renee Zellweger. But BOY OH BOY let me tell you when this baby first came out I was SCANDALIZED – they are seriously humping. I’m pretty sure I saw “Jerry Maguire” in theaters and then ended up watching it again at a friend’s house when her progressive parents rented it and invited us to watch it with them (what the fuck, guys?) As I already knew what was coming I calculated my trip to the bathroom at just the right time to ensure that I missed having to sit next to Mr. and Mrs. Whoever while watching the titillation unfold. Still pretty hot though.
Monica: I’m the dog with my head cocked, watching two humans make loud noises. I have seen “Jerry Maguire” multiple times and I have NO recollection of this sex scene. Maybe I only watched the parent-approved censored version? Maybe if I watched this back when it came out, I would’ve thought of Tom Cruise as hot, but now all I see is a fervent scientologist jumping on Oprah’s couch. His soon-to-be-ex in this sex scene is supposed to be a villain, because she’s not always stroking Jerry’s ego: “Jerry, there is a ‘sensitivity’ thing that some people have. I don’t have it. I don’t cry at movies. I don’t gush over babies. I don’t start celebrating Christmas five months early, and I don’t tell a man who just screwed up both of our lives—‘oh, poor baby.’” What a hero. Boy bye.
“Blown Away” (1993) starring Corey Haim and Nicole Eggert
Saira: My best friend and I obsessively watched the sex scenes in this horrible movie, starring both the Coreys, which she had on VHS, when we were teens. It took us four years to actually get through the entire film–normally we’d just forward to the “good parts.” Rewatching this for the first time in over 10 years I’m realizing that this is straight up softcore porn, and is probably why we were so obsessed with it. In fact, the only place where I was able to find a clip was on PornHub. From the music to the clothes, the cheap lingerie to the slow-motion thrusting, these sex scenes absolutely do not stand the rest of time. No one has sex like this. No one wants to have sex like this. Also what’s with the dangerous music? And how the hell did my friend have this on VHS?
Monica: I can’t get over the slo-mo thrusting. It feels like the directors just discovered PowerPoint transitions. I do like how he starts out by focusing on her and giving her oral, but he literally licks her vagina for seconds before moving on.
“Cruel Intentions” (1999) starring Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe
Saira: In stark contrast to the sex scenes in “Blown Away,” Annette and Sebastian (Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillipe)’s scene always got to me because it’s so sweet and, in my head, felt real. Also the build up to this “lovemaking” was intense. Would they? Wouldn’t they? By the time they finally do it, I felt just as frustrated as Sebastian! Revisiting this with Monica and the team, I have to admit, it still holds up. Sure, no one’s first time is as perfect as this film makes it seem, but hey, it’s Hollywood and decades later Annette and Sebastian’s romantic love-making still makes my heart flutter (just a little). Too bad Ryan turned out to be kind of a jerk in real life though.
Monica: This is another popular movie I haven’t gotten around to fully watching. But for the record: I was eight when it came out. Later, as a teen who had never been kissed, I definitely remember doing a deep analysis of the kissing scene between Sarah Michelle Gellar and Selma Blair, slightly perturbed at how much spit was being exchanged. It didn’t look fun! This scene of sepia-toned lovemaking between Annette and Sebastian does seem like a relatively realistic depiction of how first times usually go: a little pain, a lot of nerves and anticipation into the leadup, and then —you’re done with the act itself, but not with how long you’ll be obsessing over it.