The word for ‘porn’ in Greek is unsurprisingly ‘porn’. But its vernacular synonym is a word that in reality means ‘tack-on’ or ‘added scrap’. It signifies the common (or at least until recently common) assumption that scenes with explicit sexual activity were there to pad the runtime for a movie or to keep an audience's engagement with the movie in an artificial manner (i.e., relying on something other than the plot and characters).
Along came the (in)famous Game of Thrones and changed all that with the new approach to presenting information, called ‘sexposition’, “the technique of providing exposition against a backdrop of sex or nudity,” as Wikipedia informs us.
Now, as can be imagined, such an approach to storytelling will be met with controversy. Some feel that it's evidence of poor writing (since the author needs to show bewbs to keep people from tuning out of the info being discussed) and some think it's genius, or at least an excellent way to watch porn without being called out about it by mom.
While, depending on the show and the accomplishment of the creators, either might be true, I do believe that sexposition can be a very powerful storytelling tool, if used in context. What I mean by that is that sexposition might indeed be just a trick to keep you watching if the characters engaging in hot steamy action are also discussing something completely irrelevant to said action. Let's face it, unless it's a fetish, it's not easy to wind up talking about how to do your taxes while boning (or while other people are where you can see them).
However, sex and sexual activity is a form of communication in and of itself. From pure true love lovemaking to drunken, carnal, thoughtless sex, there is some form of exposition taking place just by the sex occurring- assuming that it occurs as a natural development in the plot. Characters willing to engage in sexual act have motivations, emotions and even strategies that come attached to it. The way they have sex is also a demonstration of their mood or personality. If they talk during sex, chances are they won't launch into a speech about anything, but the snippets of phrases and words they utter can give an audience an insight into where they stand with regards to the other partner(s) they're with as well as with regards to their own story arc.
The choices they make (or refuse to make) during intercourse are also very important. Whether they wish to stop intercourse, or whether they are forced to again can tell the audience a lot about a whole range of things they are thinking and/or going through, or where they draw any lines, or how intimate or close they actually are with their partner(s).
There was a very interesting movie about an undercover agent who was a very happily married man. When he's back from the undercover job, the first thing we see that tells us he is not going to be the same man with his family is the (not too garishly) different way he tries to have sex with her, which promptly turns her off, and they have an intense row rather than a happy and sexy reunion. I forget the name of the movie though, alas.
The same goes about people talking in a room while others are having the sex. Unless talk is happening in a brothel (and probably not in the brothel's lobby or main room), it will take a lot of careful construction of the scene and special characters to sell the point that they'd be interested in talking about anything else except the people having sex, if at all.
The point I'm making about sexposition in general is that, like all tools in our arsenal as storytellers and creators, it has to be properly used in order to add to a story. And proper use implies suspension of disbelief. If the sex scene + talking between characters is believable, then it's going to work well. If the scene throws the audience out of immersion by having them question why on earth they're talking about things while having sex, then it is used improperly.
Have you ever used sexposition? If yes, how did that work for your audience in your experience? If not, have you considered doing it, or will you do it in the future?
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Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Dec. 21, 2019
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