Why Can't Dudes Have Sex in the Popular Movies?

If you fly a lot, you’ll either be caught up on your fine literature reading or more likely on the comedies that are available in the iTunes store, home of DRM and overpriced rentals. (Also home to movies that are difficult to watch on planes, because suddenly there’s boobies on your bright portable device and you’re like “Oh my God, there’s an eight-year-old about 20 inches behind me.”) After the comedies that launched a thousand post-“Are Women Funny” magazine pieces, then in the iterated form of “Are Women Box Office” magazine pieces—those would be about Bridesmaids and then about Anna Faris, because of course we’re all so very concerned about box office, since we’re all Hollywood executives—there’s a weird moment now when it’s not really clear what comedy is and what comedy is okay and what’s a boy comedy and what’s a girl comedy, which all ends up meaning that dudes can’t really have sex in movies anymore.

This current weirdness might end up helpful for us real people; the gendering of box office is totally a question for marketers and studios and trade paper journalists, not the vast majority of us who actually just like to go see movies that we like. Why should I care if women have to “coerce” their boyfriends to attend a movie that stars a lady? Why should I care if something is a “bro” movie!

For the “spate” of lady comedies, Bridesmaids was back in May and Bad Teacher came in June and What’s Your Number? was in late September, all being followed up by the artsy pedigreed version of the foul-mouthed lady genre, Young Adult, arriving in a week.

For the boy movies, well, August brought The Change-Up, which borrows the conceit of a magic fountain (I knowwww) from When in Rome (garbage) to create wonder and mishap! Hoo boy! In which: a dumb skeevy dude and his married overachiever best friend change bodies and the loser guy learns about how to succeed and the overachiever dude learns to mix things up and amazingly, they both totally avoid having sex with people because the screenwriters would find it un-overcomeable. It’s ridiculous; it’s like, one minute the skeevy dude in the married dude’s body is like “I’M GOING TO BANG YOUR WIFE” and then he’s overcome by feelings and can’t and the uptight dude in the player-dude’s body is like “I’M GOING TO BANG THIS HOT WONDERFUL CHICK” and then he just can’t because of also his feelings.

So… somehow, no one ends up having sex.

Lots of everyone criticized the (actually rather delightful!) Anna Faris vehicle What’s Your Number? for being sex-negative and slut-shaming and whatever (I mean, sure, the point of the movie was that she was kind of a whore for having slept with 19 people, which, haaaaaa, uh oh am I in trouble) but in the end at least she could have sex. (To be fair, her romantic attachment object in the film also has the sex with people, or at least we see ladies regularly leaving his apartment, but that’s evened out by her having “been around.”) And in Bad Teacher, our striving lady hero totally does her financial-romantic target but it’s only because she seduced him and she gets to have sex with him because he wasn’t The One For Her Anyway and meanwhile the whole movie the Right Guy For Her remains chaste to get her attention. She can do dudes, or at least Timberlakes, and actually does, but The Right Guy can’t.

Weirdly, when you start to look at it, it starts to seem like men cannot have penis-in-vagina sex in pop movies pretty much! For instance, the only real sex that happens in either Hangover movie, as far as I can recall, and admittedly it’s a bit of a blur, is in the sequel, directed by Ang Lee’s son (oy!), when the groom of that movie’s bachelor party has sex with a prostitute. A male prostitute, as it turns out! Penis-in-vagina for men is a dealbreaker: somehow, test screenings or something have convinced Hollywood that the audience (either the men in it or the women in it or both) will totally reject men actually having sex. Even (especially?) in the rom-coms; the formula there of sleazy dude plus lady prevents Josh “Snacky” Duhamel from having sex in Life As We Know It, whereas uptight K. Heigl (blurgh, crazy eyes!) shacks up with some dude while she’s on hiatus from her Unexpected One True Snacky Love—despite that he’s supposed to be the one that’s “been around.” (This is pretty much exactly what happens in The Ugly Truth, too! AKA, the last movie in which Gerard Butler will ever be hot.)

I’m sure there’s a thousand exceptions that I’m totally forgetting. But somehow there’s become this thing where it’s a total betrayal that no one can write their screenplay out of if dudes have sex. Good news though: now Gerard Butler will solve all that with 2012’s Playing the Field, sure to be nominated for zero awards. Here is the studio summary: “A former professional athlete with a weak past tries to redeem himself by coaching his son’s soccer team, only to find himself unable to resist when in scoring position with his players’ restless and gorgeous moms.” Wow, it sounds like he’ll actually maybe have sex in it, before he gets reformed. Likely however no plane ride is boring enough to make me watch that.