6 Reasons Movie Sex Is Ruining Your Sex Life

Updated: Jul. 31, 2023

Why Hollywood's hot, steamy sex is leaving you and your partner cold.


You need a perfectly put-together Hollywood bod

When movies get hot and steamy, it can look picture perfect. You rarely see the mess—or even the laughs—that make a real-life physical connection so special. Actors with personal trainers, stunning lighting and directors carefully posing them make it seem easy.  “Some people feel inadequate, comparing themselves to movie stars, despite the fact that many actors look like the rest of us when they’re not made up,” says certified sex therapist Grace Landes. “We only see actors at their best, with their hair done, and in great clothes, or naked, in perfectly staged angles, and elegant lighting.” If viewing those svelte, stunning bodies tears you down instead of revving you up, you’re not alone. According to the Deseret News, men, as well as women, experience body image dissatisfaction, when they compare themselves with Hollywood hunks.

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Everyday life doesn’t bleed into the movies

Not only are characters in movies better looking than the rest of us, but their homes are more fabulous too.  When movie scenes heat up in the bedroom, characters aren’t tripping over dirty laundry on the floor. When lovers slip into a bubble bath together on screen, there’s no grime around the drain.  Most of us have to juggle our sex lives with the rest of our lives, and that means planning for laundry, cooking, childcare and earning a living. Movie sex is unfettered sex, which is out of reach for many people. “It’s not rare for a couple to come onto my office and use a movie as a reference point for how they wish their sex life operated,” says Chris Donaghue, PhD, author of Sex Outside the Lines: Authentic Sexuality in a Sexually Dysfunctional Culture. “Hollywood’s depiction of sex in movies is typically centered around big, bold acts of love and attraction. Characters in film have no boundaries, whereas typical couples have finances, careers, and family, which may all limit the magnitude of their sex lives. In film,” he adds, “none of these constraints exist, and it can make the average, American couple feel negative about their own sexuality.”

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All it takes is a sidelong glance

Ever hear of foreplay? Most Hollywood directors haven’t. Characters on film are always ready, all the time, to jump in the sack. They don’t need to get in the mood, shave their armpits, or reach for the K-Y jelly. They never lose their erections prematurely, feel pain during intercourse, or have post-menopausal dryness. Manual stimulation? Unnecessary. Connecting emotionally? A waste of time. All movie characters have to do is see each other from across a crowded room, and boom, it’s orgasm city. This Hollywood-like depiction of sex couldn’t be farther from the truth, and leaves many people feeling inadequate and wondering what’s wrong with them. “In movies, it’s quick and easy, and two people always want the same thing, at the same time, all the time,” explains Landes. “I can’t tell you how much pain these comparisons cause people who don’t fit that profile. It can be demoralizing.” One way to combat these feelings is by focusing on sexual intimacy, kissing and other sexual play, rather than on the epic, movie-style version of the Big O.

Here’s How Long Foreplay Should Last, a Sex Therapist Says


You’ve got (adulterous) baggage

Hot Hollywood sex often centers around a couple that has just started their sexual relationship. Rarely do we see established couples gloriously intertwined in decadent sex. In a movie if someone gets hurt in a relationship they typically move on, but we know real life can be more nuanced. These feelings tend to invade the bedroom, damaging many people’s sex lives.

Among the biggest intimacy killers is adultery. “Too many people think they have to end a marriage when they discover their spouse is having an affair, just because they saw that in some movie. Affair discovered, new start, everything easy,” says Landes. “In real life, people recover from affairs, work hard to rebuild their relationships, make tough decisions, and in general, muddle through life’s ups and downs pretty well, unless they’re comparing themselves to an unattainable ideal, such as we often see on the big screen.”

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No glove, no love—unless you’re on the silver screen

In movies, condoms rarely make it into sex scenes. In real life, this omission can result in sexually transmitted infections (STIs), unwanted pregnancy and even increased levels of sexual pressure if one partner feels uncomfortable proceeding without a condom. According to the CDC, one in five people in the US have a STI, which can have serious consequences for long-term health.

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That broccoli you ate made you a little bloated

Human beings have human bodies and sometimes, those bodies produce less-than-sexy smells, sights and tastes. Morning breath, post-workout sweat, and the occasional gassy oops may not fit Hollywood’s definition of hot, but these all-too-human vulnerabilities can bring us closer to our partners and help them see and love us, warts and all. They may even help us to love ourselves a little bit more, when we can let go and be ourselves, rather than a celluloid version of who we think we should be in bed.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest