Comfortable and Furious

Icky Sex in Movies: Part One

Sometimes it’s hard to believe what other people get up to when it comes to their nether regions. The early twentieth century child killer Albert Fish liked to soak balls of wool in lighter fluid, shove them up his bum and set fire to them. That was when he wasn’t driving needles into his groin and eating shit, not necessarily his own.

Hmm, maybe Fish is too extreme to be a good example. Fact is stranger than fiction and all that, but the movies still do their best to serve up sexy stuff that can result in one long grimace.

Child’s play: Violet and some Southern gentlemen in Pretty Baby (1978)

Now I’m not a parent, but I suspect a brothel probably isn’t the best place to raise a sprog. Violet’s mother, however, is a dyed-in-the-wool whore so I guess you have to make do with what you’re given. Plus, it’s 1917 New Orleans and attitudes toward those darling little kiddiewinks were a tad different than today. And so the angel-faced Violet (Brooke Shields) is already used to seeing rutting couples, men dropping their strides left, right and center, and the odd childbirth.

Still, you’d think mummy might raise an objection or two when it came to the selling of your cherry, especially if you’re only twelve. ’Fraid not. Oh well, at least the other whores are on hand to pass on some tips. “You’ve got to give him the idea that you don’t know nothing,” one tells her. “It should be like a rape.” Mild disagreement ensues. “You don’t know,” another says. “Could be a different kind of guy. Someone that wants her to act like she wants it.”

Violet, with her reddened lips, ringlets and white veil, is then paraded before a bunch of distinguished dinner guests while holding a sparkler as a band plays whatever music is appropriate for the purchase of a juvenile hymen. “The finest delicacy New Orleans has to offer,” the wizened brothel madam declares to a round of applause.

Let the auction begin!

“Don’t we get a look before we buy?” a gentleman calls out.

“You can look all you want,” the madam replies. “Just don’t break the merchandise.”

Bidding starts at a hundred bucks but when the price quadruples a fight threatens to break out. Violet is looking less sure now. After all, four hundred is a lot of dough and it’s a whore’s job to please her man in bed. Who needs such pressure? She gulps down a mouthful of whiskey and tells her imminent john: “I can feel the steam inside me right through my dress.” Any further small talk appears unnecessary so he picks her up in his arms and heads for the bedroom as if carrying a bride across the threshold. The losing bidders look on at the departing couple. “Let him have his young peach,” one muses while running a hand over the shoulders of the adult whore standing alongside. “I like my fruit ripe.”

Don’t Snicker(s): Nicola in Life is Sweet (1990)

Even before we get to her memorable sex scene, Nicola (the tremendous Jane Horrocks) has already distinguished herself as the most annoying of sulky brats. There’s the handwritten sign on her bedroom door that states Private Keep Out and when she does emerge from its fuggy interior it’s only to complain, sulk, sneer and insult her family. This might be an acceptable phase if she were fourteen but this jobless, impossibly thin, twitchy chain-smoker (who likes two baths a day) is twenty-two.

Something’s not quite right, you know?

After yet another sullen outburst in which she brings everyone down but refuses to leave the front room, her ‘goody two shoes’ twin sister asks: “See? You wanna be with us. So why don’t you just act normal?”

We start to get a better understanding of the situation when a family friend tells Nicola she’s a ‘really attractive girl’ only to be met with the reply: “No, I’m not. I’m too fat.” Later that night she pulls out a locked, battered suitcase from under her bed and starts stuffing herself with chocolate and crisps. Not that this intense nocturnal ritual gives her any joy. Half an hour later she’s forcing herself to vomit.

Her unnatural, deeply troubled relationship with food comes into its sharpest focus when her unnamed lover (David Thewlis) pops round when the family is out. She initially calls him a ‘middle class wanker’ before urging him up the stairs. As with all her other relationships, there’s no tenderness or connection. When she pulls out some scarves, he merely tuts and says: “Jesus, not again. It’s boring.” He desists, though, and in the next scene we see Nicola tied to the bed, her non-existent chest covered in chocolate hazelnut spread as he messily licks it off. “Don’t stop!” she pleads when he slows down, but he half-complains he’s full up. “It’s not a joke!” she shouts into his smeared face.

No, it’s not a joke, but what to make of a bulimic that connects food and sex? The girl hates food, hates her body, yet can only obtain a jagged, superficial form of sexual pleasure from covering herself in the very thing she despises. What on Earth does it mean?

Beats me.

All I know is it’s a funny, disturbing scene that tells us the deathly pale Nicola is lost, adrift on a sea of pain and so brittle she might snap if she ever tries to walk outside in the sunshine where normal people go about their mundane, sandwich-eating ways.



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