New Study Confirms That Sex on Screen is Unrealistic Especially When it Comes to Orgasms, Foreplay & Safe Sex

ZAVA, the UK online doctor, analysed 50 popular movies with iconic sex scenes such as Fifty Shades of Grey, Ghost and Pretty Woman to understand just how realistic they are.


  • 39% of on-screen sex scenes show a female orgasm but only 19% of women say they orgasm during sex
  • 27% of movie scenes show foreplay but 69% of Brits say they have foreplay every time, or most of the time, when they have sex
  • Only 2% of on-screen encounters depict safe sex, but in reality, 20% of people use a condom
  • Just 4% of Brits think that Hollywood’s portrayal of sex is realistic

21 May 2019: ZAVA, the online doctor, offering fast, convenient and reliable access to advice, testing and treatment reveals its latest research today. Their new analysis of 50 films, combined with the opinions of more than 2,000 survey respondents, shows that there are huge differences between how sex is portrayed on screen and what happens in reality. Just 4% of Brits think sex in the movies is realistic. The biggest disparities lie with the representation of female orgasms, the practice of safe sex, and foreplay. The full study is illustrated in ZAVA’s latest graphic here.

The study of 2,000 Brits reveals that 66%of people think the portrayal of sex in movies is somewhat, or very, unrealistic and now ZAVA has the research to prove it.

On screen, 2 in 5 women (39%) reach climax in comparison to 1 in 5 (19%) in reality. This is potentially damaging for females as almost a quarter (24% ) of women have admitted that they have never had an orgasm during sex which could encourage some sexual insecurities.

What’s more, 30% of the films analysed show the couples climaxing at the same time. Again, ZAVA’s survey results reveal a different story, as 77% of males say they orgasm most or every time they have intercourse, in comparison to just 19% of females. This once again misrepresents the female orgasm, encouraging viewers to believe that women are climaxing when the majority are not.

Whilst the movies often show young, beautiful actors performing the most intense love scenes, ZAVA’s results show that it’s the older generation that experience more pleasure during sex with 43% of over 55-year-olds saying they are having orgasms during intercourse.

This figure rises to 52% if they have foreplay beforehand. This contrasts dramatically with 16- to 24-year-olds, where just 26% orgasm every time they have sex. According to the study, you’re more likely to orgasm more often during sex later in life.

Dr. Kathryn Basford, GP at ZAVA comments:

There’s a pressure for us to perform in the bedroom and always enjoy sex. But, the reality is this isn’t always the case. There's no doubt that this pressure amounts because of what we're seeing on the screen which is potentially damaging for individuals, particularly the younger generation who appear to be experiencing orgasms the least. The sex scenes have a wider impact on couples and relationships which could lead to sexual insecurities because people’s experiences aren’t living up to what they see in the movies.

— Dr. Kathryn Basford, GP at ZAVA

Films are forgetting foreplay with only 27% of on-screen characters indulging before intercourse, whereas 69% of respondents admit to fumbling every time, or most of the time, before frolicking in reality. Interestingly, the statistics show the older you are, the more likely you are to have foreplay before sex with 57% of over 55s going for it, in comparison to just 27% of 25- to 34-year-olds.

Shockingly, only 2% of the sex scenes analysed showed or implied safe sex with the use of a condom. This greatly differs from reality where 20% of Brits say they always use a condom during sex, and 32% use different forms of contraception such as the pill.

Dr. Kathryn Basford comments:

Failing to use contraceptive methods could lead to unwanted pregnancies and the possibility of contracting sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia, and movies are promoting this through failing to show people using condoms. This is worrying as it’s never been easier to practice safe sex. In recent years, a variety of contraceptive methods have become quickly accessible through online doctors such as ZAVA, so even if the films aren’t portraying safe sex, there’s no excuse not to in the real world!

— Dr. Kathryn Basford, GP at ZAVA

For more information on the study’s findings, you can visit ZAVA.

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