What We Can Learn From This 'Friends with Benefits' Sex Scene

At this point, it’s common knowledge that the film industry has all sorts of problems with representation; from blatant whitewashing to inherent sexism, Hollywood has a lot to fix. But one error they make is something we don’t often talk about, largely because the conversation remains taboo, even in modern dialogue. That topic is sex. Lots of sex. Most movies, especially romantic comedies, aren’t complete until the leads end up naked in bed.

Now, there isn’t a problem with showing sex in movies. But there is an issue with how movies portray it. If you’ve seen Fifty Shades of Grey, you’ll know what I’m talking about. “Making love” is filmed to be this momentous act, full of elegance and grace, where a couple just knows exactly what they want and has no problem effortlessly achieving the perfect sexual climax. But what’s left out of these scenes? A lot of things. Most of all is communication. In movies, no one talks about what they want, how they want it or if they even want it in the first place; it all just sort of happens.

And that, right there, is problematic, because it builds up this ideal version of sex in our minds, where the moment is supposed to be fluid and beautiful, a place where there is no room for our questions or hesitations or worries. Or mistakes. All of the things that are most natural about sex are taken out of the picture in Hollywood.

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I’ve thought about this for a while, and as an avid romantic comedy binger, I spend a lot of time judging the sex scenes in films. But when I came across the movie Friends with Benefits, I found a pleasant surprise. The sexual relationship between the two main characters, played by Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis, was actually realistic and so far from the norm. And while I’m not saying this scene is at all the most representative or doesn’t have it’s own set of problems (it’s still lacks diversity in sexual orientation, skin color, body size, etc.), but it does teach some lessons that I think we all could benefit from.

First, and most importantly, throughout the entire exchange, Timberlake and Kunis are communicating. They are chit-chatting away, directing each other to what feels best for them, and not being afraid or ashamed to make special requests for their own satisfaction. They’re being explicit and ensuring that they each derive pleasure from the experience – which is the ultimate goal of sex, after all.

Another thing: they’re not afraid to be silly. The moment isn’t about pure romantic gestures or sensuous touching. Don’t get me wrong, that’s all fine and dandy, but it’s also important to be comfortable enough with your significant other that you can awkwardly sing "Third Eye Blind" without fear of losing the sexual chemistry.

A thing to note, perhaps, is that within the plot of the movie, Timberlake and Kunis are having sex as friends, not as a couple – hence the title Friends with Benefits. The notion of casual sex is important in itself, because it refuses to slut-shame Kunis, as is what often happens in society when a woman is more sexually liberated.

Additionally, this foundation of friendship is what makes their sexual relationship so successful, in a sense, and allows them to form such a deep sense of comfort. Of course, not everyone who has sex, couple or not, is going to be able to communicate as well as they did – but it’s still a good starting point and a solid example, especially for encouraging people to not be afraid to express to their partner what makes them sexually satisfied.

There is a sex scene, later in the movie, that looks pretty much like every other rom-com – the romantic montage, dramatic music, the whole sha-bang. But this scene also coincides with the downfall of their successful relationship – only after that night do they start to have problems. Therefore, the movie (probably unintentionally) shows how important communication is for a sexual encounter!

I’m sure there are plenty of movies out there with better representations of sex than Friends with Benefits – this is just one film that caught my attention. Hopefully, the kind of communication expressed in this flick will soon become common and the problematic norms surrounding taboo sex culture in society will be broken down, bit by bit.

Image Courtesy of GIPHY