Pretty much everyone knows the following situation: As a young person, you sit on the couch in the evening with your parents and watch a movie. Then it happens: a sex scene. The reaction of most people at that moment is pretty much the same: Dismayed silence, just don’t look and hope that it will be over soon.
But how are such extremely intimate scenes filmed and how are affected actors prepared for them and protected from unpleasant situations? They certainly won’t actually sleep together for the scene! Or are they? To reassure you: No, they don’t! They are not allowed to!
We explain exclusively how producers make sex scenes in movies:
Until 2017, hardly anyone thought about this topic; until then, people talked about it behind closed doors or on the sly.
Since #metoo, everything has changed. Since the Weinstein scandal was uncovered, people began to think more carefully about sex scenes in films, or topics such as sexual abuse or sexual harassment, and to discuss them in public.
While women all over the world made their stories available for everyone to see under the hashtag “Metoo”, film productions quickly drew consequences to avoid such scandals in the future. In America, anyway, Germany and Europe are still lagging behind a bit.
Sex scenes protection through coordinators
In order to protect actors and actresses from sexual assault and to ensure that they feel comfortable during the filming of sex scenes or similar, intimacy coordinators on the film set are becoming increasingly relevant, and in America are now even mandatory. This also applies to films that do not contain intimate scenes, which is relatively rare.
With success, because the number of assaults seems to have dropped, at least one hardly hears anything about this in the media.
In the meantime, as already mentioned, at least one person, a so-called intimacy coordinator, must always be brought onto the film set in America. His or her job is to ensure that the actors concerned feel comfortable in intimate scenes and do not overstep their own boundaries, as well as to find a difference between the “professional body” and the “private body”.
But what exactly is an intimacy coordinator? An intimacy coordinator is an expert on questions such as, “What is allowed to be shown of the actor*s body?” Or “Who is allowed to be on set when explicit nude scenes are shot?”
They are responsible for working with the actors to establish their personal boundaries, as well as coaching them to maintain their boundaries and communicate clearly!
Intimacy coordinators are also responsible for coaching the director and the actors in open and respectful communication, without which it simply doesn’t work in the first place.
Such scenes are not for everyone in everyday life and therefore have to be treated and communicated in a very special way. Often, however, they are booked to date only for the pre-products to coach the director and crew, because during the shoot there is high time pressure and then there is simply no time for it.
There are strict rules and requirements for filming intimate scenes. For example, the actors’ genitals must not touch under any circumstances during a simulated sex scene. To make it look to the audience as if the actors are really making love in the film, there are choreographic tricks and appropriate costumes.
Also specified is the so-called “closed set”. This means that only the minimum required crew may be present during the shooting of a nude or sex scene, for the protection of the actors. After all, who likes to have sex when hundreds of pairs of eyes are watching, whether real or simulated? Nobody! It also reduces the likelihood of sexual assault or sexual harassment.
But what if it gets too much for the actors during the take, if they feel completely overwhelmed at that moment? For their own protection, in such scenes the affected actors have the option of stopping the take at any time and taking a time-out. Until they feel ready to shoot the scene again.
While “normal” scenes can be improvised here and there, a nude or sex scene MUST be planned and choreographed down to the smallest detail. Under no circumstances should there be even the slightest bit of deviation from the plan in order to simply eliminate possible harassment and assault in these situations.
As mentioned above, the actors’ genitals must not touch each other. To still make the scene look as realistic as possible, there are various techniques, costumes and choreographic tricks. During a sex scene, “vagina patches” or “penis stockings” are often used to avoid touching.
In addition, make-up artists use full-body make-up for such scenes, which resembles a spray tan and feels like a second skin for actors, so that their “private body” remains protected under the second skin (“the “professional body”).
In sex scenes that are supposed to look “violent” (e.g. by using whips or the like), so-called “body doubles” are often used so that no one suffers serious damage and the actors’ privacy is not violated. Through later editing of the scene, this double is no longer noticeable to the viewer and it appears as if a real person had actually acted in this scene. Should any kind of sex toy find its use in a sex scene, the director passes this on to props, which has its own sex toy department specifically for such scenes (not a small one, mind you). The selection of the sex toys takes a little time, as there are partly hundreds of pictures with a huge selection of the crew available…A true paradise for all sex toy lovers.
It’s similar with nude scenes. Much of what the viewer sees in the final result is not real at all. Limited to one example: pubic hair, whether on a man or a woman, is not real in any case! For this the prop has “pussy wigs”.
While, as already mentioned at the very beginning, intimacy coordinators are mandatory in America since 2017/2018, Germany hangs back. Because in this country they exist, but on film sets they are not yet mandatory. Until they are, it’s only a matter of time, as demands from actresses are becoming clearer and louder. More and more actresses are being trained as intimacy coordinators for a year, because sexual assault is also an issue in this country and the protection of actors and actresses is more important!