Reforms to rules in casting performers and filming intimate scenes have been proposed by actors union Equity in order to safeguard sets from predatory and demeaning behaviour in film and television production. In response to the on-going harassment scandal, proposals have been raised in order to protect performing workers from being put in compromising and uncomfortable positions in the workplace. Prompted by complaints of humiliation (Jennifer Lawrence spoke of being made to stand in a nude line-up) and peer pressure (Salma Hayek claimed to have been pushed into performing a lesbian love scene), the rule changes seek to ensure ‘best practices’ in production and have offered up, amongst others, the banning of nudity in auditions, kissing with tongues on camera and the covering of genitalia in sex scenes.
“We can’t turn film shoots into pathetic male fantasies either”
In production intimate moments are filmed on what is called a ‘closed set’, where only essential personnel (director, cinematographer, boom operator etc.) remain to allow for as much privacy as possible. With this practice there shouldn’t be a scenario where the performers are uncomfortable, yet it happens frequently. There’s a simple solution – ban sex in film and television. But then you lose the humour, the artistry and the freedom of expression on screen. Sex is part of life – we shouldn’t censor it. To that end, we can’t turn film shoots into pathetic male fantasies either. Reforming the rules only goes so far whereas a cultural reformation can fundamentally alter the expectation and by extension the practices in the workplace environment. There’s an unwritten rule in screenwriting where if your project is close to selling but the buyer is stalling, shoehorning a sex scene into the work will usually close the deal. To use a known expression; sex sells. If you want to protect actors in the workplace – stamp that theory out of the film and television industry and entertainment culture. Sex doesn’t even really sell – quality performance, good writing and smart filmmaking do. Sex and the City isn’t a sex show, it’s a sitcom. A dramedy. When Samantha seduces the farm boy by accidentally squirting milk from the cow’s teat onto her face it’s using sex for the sake of humour, not using sex to guarantee profit. Sex sells is an ignorant oversimplification.
“Sex doesn’t even really sell- quality performance, good writing and smart filmmaking do”
Protection from shaming, abuse and manipulation is imperative for everyone in all places – not just actresses in the Hollywood workplace. Legal paperwork undoubtedly should be introduced to protect the rights of performers. To what should be the outrage of all; anyone who works on or visits a set signs a complex binding contract protecting the secrecy of the production, but aspiring actors can be asked to strip naked in the producer’s trailer without any meaningful checks or balances. This needs to change – but so can audience expectations. We know why we want to free the nipple, we all agree me too – maybe its time to talk about the true artistic value of sex in entertainment from the consumer perspective, and question whether sex is really what we’re being ‘entertained’ by.
Last modified: 3rd March 2018