You’ve probably seen a lot of sex scenes in your life, but see if you can remember actually enjoying any of them.

I’ve come to the conclusion that sex scenes basically suck, based on some inspiration by Ridley Scott. When asked why he never films sex scenes, he replied “sex is only fun when you’re doing it”.

Yes, yes, exactly right!

Think about why you watch a film. There may be many reasons, but I bet you haven’t come to see things that you would rather be doing than watching a movie. We watch movies primarily to see people suffering, not having fun.

The reason why we can tell someone is going to die when we see an idyllic scene is because there is no good reason to show something idyllic unless it is to be disrupted somehow. Idyll is boring. Film-goers want murder, violence, sin, anything bad.

Stories usually begin with some kind of equilibrium, usually everyone is happy or reasonable happy given the circumstances, and then some event provides disequilibrium. This even sets up the main story thread that is concluded and we arrive at equilibrium again; then the story ends.

There’s a reason why we say “and they lived happily ever after” at the end of the story. Once people are happy, we are no longer interested in hearing about it. The whole point of hearing a story is because there has been some kind of conflict or suffering involved, and when it has been resolved, that is the end.

Sex scenes are inherently undramatic because they are usually mutually pleasurable for the participants. They do not advance the plot or character in any way. One may as well show a title card saying “and then they made love”.

The final straw was when I recently saw Stanley and Iris, in which Al Pacino holds his head yelping as he climaxes with Michelle Pfeiffer. Then, without getting out of bed, they both dig in to a lamb roast. Has anyone got any idea what the dramatic purpose of that was?

Since we as the audience are not participating in it we feel like an unwilling voyeur, tapping our fingers on the armrest until it finishes. It’s a dysfunctional way of story-telling and adds nothing to the experience.

There is value in seeing violence as graphic as possible. In fact, film-makers simulate it to look as real life. But when it comes to sex, they have to disguise and distort it as much as possible.

They almost always skip the awkward rumblings and logistical instructions. We hardly see anything because if it looks too real, it will get charged with pornography. Therefore we end up looking at a pair of shoulders moving up and down. We only seem to hear breathing and not the other less flattering sounds.

Possible exceptions to the rule may include Lolita, in which our main man Humbert Humbert who whilst making love to his wife gazes longingly at the picture of his step-daughter. Here is where the film gets close to shocking in what is largely a tame film considering the source material’s reputation. Also, there was a lot of value in Tyrannosaur’s sex scene, as we see the anguish in Oliva Colman’s face as she is compelled to give consoling affection to her wretched husband.

These scenes work because they depict conflict, even if it is just in the mind of the character.

What also works is sexual tension. I love scenes that depict two characters in a conflict, and you sense that there is attraction between them both. The drama comes from the uncertainty about who will make a move, if anyone, and the implications an affair would have on the rest of the story. We don’t actually need to see them have sex. It is far more powerful for it to be portrayed using wry glances and indirect questions.

Cinema is the art of subtly, and sex scenes are not subtle. And they’re boring. And they make you wish you were somewhere else. Film-makers would do well to delete them.