Sex on Film
Sex sells – or at least, films rich in sex-related dialogue tend to do better in the box office. We took a look at 1,223 movie scripts based on blatant mentions of sex and sex-related topics to find out which actors and genres talk the most about sex, how sex mentions overall have changed over the years, and whether mentions affect a movie’s rankings. Pop some popcorn and check out our findings below.
Taking a look at the leading men and women in some of the analysed films, we see that Geoffrey Rush leads the pack with an average of 35.6 sexual mentions per movie. While the majority of the actors studied were male, Leslie Mann, Julianne Moore, and Holly Hunter also made the list. Leslie Mann, a female comedic actor, ranked fourth with a total of 16 sex-related mentions.
Most of these actors star predominantly in comedic films. Michael Cera and Seth Rogen will forever be immortalised as stars of the comedy “Superbad,” and the careers of both have continued along the comedic path. Seth Rogen, in particular, has found his home in the comedy genre. Other actors, such as Tom Wilkinson (23.4) and Ryan Gosling (11.3), star primarily in romantically driven dramas. Who could forget Ryan Gosling’s “The Notebook”?
“Shakespeare in Love,” a romantic comedy released in 1998, ranks highest overall with a total of 147 sex-related mentions. Following close behind is “Anonymous,” a drama released in 2011, with 145 sex-related mentions. “From Dusk Till Dawn” is the only action film that made the list, coming in third with a total of 80 sex-related terms. “Body of Proof” is the only crime film to rank, containing 46 sex-related mentions in full.
Comedy films contained more prevalent sexual mentions than any other genre, with 28.1% of all sex-related terminology found in movies that qualify as strictly comedic. Trailing close behind is the drama category, with a total of 22.79% of all sex-related mentions. Romantic comedy films contained 19.22% of all recorded sexual mentions, bringing comedy, drama, and romantic comedy to a combined 70.11%. Crime films contained 12.93% of all studied expressions, and all other genres rang in well below 5%.
As comedies (romantic and otherwise) make up nearly half of all sex-related mentions, it’s clear that American viewers find humour in sex. Sexual lingo is also prevalent in dramatic films, suggesting that sex (in small doses) undeniably sells – regardless of genre.
Considering the prevalence of sex-related terminology in a variety of films over the years, we can clearly see that the number of sexual mentions began increasing in the mid-1990s and has been on a sharp incline ever since. Focusing on films released in 2011 specifically, mentions of sex-related terms skyrocketed to nearly 600 collectively – this represents the highest number per year. However, the fact that a greater number of films is made each year, along with the availability of current movie scripts opposed to older ones, may be one reason behind this increase.
Most of the films we examined that rated between 5 and 8.5 contained right around four mentions of sex. “Shakespeare in Love” and “Anonymous,” each containing between 140 and 150 mentions of sex-related terms, ranked right around the median rating of 7. “From Dusk Till Dawn,” “Punch Drunk Love,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World,” and “The Sessions” all ranked slightly above this median, and each contained between roughly 60 and 80 sex-related mentions.
As it becomes increasingly clear that gratuitous nudity is not what viewers clamour to see, the mention of sex still proves to be intriguing and prevalent throughout recent cinematic times. Romantic comedies, dramas, and comedic films include the most sex-related terminology by far, and such films tend to be ranked right around the median rating of 7. Films that lack sex-related mentions, regardless of genre, seem to follow no specific pattern as far as ranking (popularity). Leading actors in films with a fair amount of sex-related mentions tend to star in romantic comedies, dramas, and comedies more so than any other genre.
Your Questions About Sex Answered
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We collected 1,223 movie scripts for movies released between 1925 and 2015 and, in those scripts, found the number of uses of various phrases related to sex for each year and for each movie. Note that a mention of sex could be the occurrence of the word “sex” or any of 10 other sex-related phrases. These phrases are as follows: intercourse, lovemaking, making love, coitus, sexual relations, slept with, sleeping with, sleeping together, get laid, and hook up. We excluded other phrases, such as slept together, that had fewer than 10 total mentions across the scripts analysed.
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