HomeOur ObsessionsWhy are lesbian sex scenes in cinema still directed by men?

Why are lesbian sex scenes in cinema still directed by men?

Hollywood still has an issue when it comes to dealing with lesbian sex scenes. ‘Blue Is The Warmest Color’ is mired in controversy.

Why are lesbian sex scenes in cinema still directed by men?

In recent years there has been a significant shift when it comes to LGBTQI representation in cinema. Just last year saw an absolute windfall of independent and mainstream releases exploring a breadth of queer stories with joy and diversity. See Luca Guadagnino’s sensual coming-of-age love story Call Me by Your Name and the tense drama of God’s Own Country starring Josh O’Connor (Florence Foster Jenkins).

Yes, 2017 may have been a triumph for gay cinema. However, it’s quite obvious Hollywood still has an issue when it comes to dealing with lesbian eroticism. While straight men remain behind the lens, lesbian sex scenes will continue to range from the gratuitous to the full-on pornographic.

The most obvious example is Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013), a film mired in controversy. The lead stars, Lea Seydoux (Spectre) and Adele Exarchopoulos (Down by Love), both openly vowed never to work with director Abdellatif Kechiche again after their treatment on set.

Meanwhile, Julie Maroh, whose novel inspired the movie, heavily criticized the film for its lack of lesbian involvement. A similar issue arose with Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden (2016), leading Buzzfeed news reporter Shannon Keating to ask the question: “Why do we keep seeing so much scissoring in lesbian sex scenes?” The answer? Because the narrative approached female sexual desire through the context of the male imagination.

Of course it’s not all bad. The erotic romantic drama Below Her Mouth (2016) might not have conjured high praise for its narrative or cinematic technique following its release. However, it did receive nods from the community for its authentic portrayal of lesbian sex. Perhaps this was due to the entire crew being female and director April Mullen creating a safe space for her cast to let the sex scenes happen organically.

In the words of IndieWire writer Jude Dry, “Below Her Mouth is what lesbian porn would look like if it were actually made by lesbians.” Finally, the code has been cracked! However, the fact this is still considered revolutionary shows there’s still a long way to go.

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Daisy Webb is an outspoken, opinionated writer with a passion for all things horror and cult comedy. When she's not watching films, she likes listening to music, cooking too much food, and writing short stories with unhappy endings.

daisyp@filmdaily.co