Sex on film versus sex IRL: what's the difference?

Sex on film versus sex IRL: what's the difference?

Jun 22, 2023Team NORMAL

We won’t deny it: we love seeing sex and sexuality represented in pop culture, and we’re usually the first to tune in to any film or television show that boasts a really good sex scene.

And why not? Human sexuality is fascinating and unique, and we’re always keen to see how creators represent this strange and wonderful aspect of life on the screen.

But we also know that the way sex looks in pop culture is often totally different to how it looks in real life. No-one in The White Lotus ever had to stop mid-nooky to change a condom or grab a sip of water, and we don’t recall anyone in Bridgerton having to shout, “Wait, you’re lying on my hair!” pre-orgasm. And we reckon that scene in Don’t Worry Darling would have been a lot different if Harry Styles asked Florence Pugh to jump into the shower and freshen up a bit before he went down on her at the dinner table.

With that in mind, let’s look at some of the most glaring ways in which IRL sex is totally different to sex in pop culture.




  • Sex in film and TV can be entertaining and fun
  • However, there are huge differences between IRL sex and on-screen sex


In pop culture… everyone leaves their clothes on.

In real life… you can get undressed (or at least get comfy).

Isn’t it strange how two characters in a film can be having what looks like the hottest sex ever…while wearing their underwear and most likely a bra? We know that sex scenes are often shot with the actors still wearing their underwear to prevent the film from getting rated MA15+ or R18+, but still. We don’t know many people who want to leave their bra on a second longer than necessary, so wearing one during sex feels a bit unnatural. That having been said, if you’re someone who experiences issues around body image,body dysmorphia or body dysphoria, wearing a bra and underwear during sex might feel more comfortable than the alternative. Our advice is to ditch the underwire and tight cotton, though, and grab a loose and comfy tee.


In pop culture… nobody uses lube.

In real life… it’s a must!

We’re big fans of lube (so much so that we made our own). It can make penetration easier (and for anal it’s a necessity), but it can also be super fun to use for oral and masturbation. So why do we never see anyone in a film or TV show say, “Hang on a second—that feels great, but let’s add some lube.” Pop culture would have us believe that everyone, everywhere is lubricated at all times and ready to go—in fact, we have a sneaking suspicion that the reason why some people can be resistant to using lube is because they’ve never seen it in films or TV series and as such, weren’t aware that it’s actually really common to use. Even in those moments where you just have to have someone, we still recommend taking a second to grab the lube.


In pop culture… nobody talks about contraception.

In real life… you should take a minute or two to have the chat.

Okay, Leslie Knope does throw a bunch of condoms into an audience of senior citizens in an episode of Parks and Recreation, but we can’t think of many instances in which contraception is discussed calmly and sensibly between adults prior to having sex. Of course, contraception has been used many times for comedic effect (Elaine’s diaphragm falls out in Seinfeld, Carrie gets hers stuck in Sex and the City) but it’s super uncommon to see two adults take a moment before sex and say, “Do you have a condom?” “Yep, I do, let me put it on.” We’d be even more excited to see a conversation about contraception choices:

“Actually I can’t use a lot of condoms because I have a Latex allergy, but I’ve been trying this new brand—let me know what you think. Otherwise, we could just do oral tonight if you felt more comfortable…”


In pop culture… talking to a doctor about sexual health is so awkward.

In real life… it doesn’t have to be!

Who remembers that film Knocked Up, where Katherine Heigl’s character visits the gynecologist and he looks directly between her legs before commenting, “Well, you do look a lot like your sister.” Film and television would have us believe that getting a sexual health check-up is a painful and embarrassing experience that often involves a whole lot of uncomfortable double entendres and awkward run-ins with nurses. Although we know that many people have had less-than-ideal experiences with doctors and other medical professionals, there are heaps of friendly, safe, and informed doctors out there who’ll do their absolute best to make sure that your next sexual health check-up is quick and painless.

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