The Realism of Sex Scenes in Movies: Differences and Similarities Revealed

An analysis of Sex on Screen and how realistically it reflects reality

Hot and steamy sex scenes from classic films such as Pretty Woman and Fifty Shades of Grey can set hearts racing from the comfort of cinema seats. You’ve been there, you’ve felt it and most probably experienced the awkwardness if you’re in the room with your family.

There’s also a certain curiosity around sex in the movies that leads viewers to ask “how does this compare to real life?”.

Well, we decided to investigate that last question.

Our 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 as just 4% of Brits think sex in the movies is realistic. Our study reveals that the biggest disparities lie with the representation of female orgasms, the practice of safe sex, and foreplay. Find out more below…

The misrepresentation of female orgasms

Graphs showing how often female orgasms are shown in movies compared to real life.

On screen, 2 in 5 women (39%) reach climax in comparison to 1 in 5 (19%) in reality. That’s a big difference, right?

We’re worried about the potentially damaging effects of this 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. How believable is that?

Again, our 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.

The results also show that it’s the older generation that experiences 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 and contrasts dramatically with 16 to 24-year-olds, where just 26% orgasm every time they have sex. According to our study, you’re more likely to orgasm more often during sex later in life.

Films are forgetting foreplay

Graphs showing how often foreplay is shown in movies compared to real life

Films are forgetting foreplay with only 27% of on-screen characters indulging before intercourse, whereas 69% of respondents said they engaged in foreplay 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. Again proving that the older generation is having more fun in the bedroom later in life!

Scenes aren't showing safe sex

Graphs showing how often condom use is portrayed in movies compared to real life

Worryingly, 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.

Where’s the danger in that? Well, there’s quite a big one.

Failing to use contraceptive methods could lead to unwanted pregnancies and contracting sexually transmitted diseases, that said, it’s never been easier to access contraception and practice safe sex with STI home testing kits.

Similarities on screen

Graphs showing the similarities between different aspects involved with sex in movies compared to real life

Despite there being some huge differences between sex on screen and reality, our research also shows there were some similarities including the number of males and movies stars who keep their socks on during sex - it turns out that more than a third (34%) like to keep them on! On screen, 55% of sex scenes took place in the bedroom which is similar to reality where 50% of Brits admitted that most of their sexual encounters took place between the sheets.


The research was conducted by Censuswide, with 2,034 respondents (who opted into the survey after being made aware of the sensitivity of the survey) between 24th and 29th April 2019. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles. Full movie data and sex scene analysis can be viewed here.

Explore ZAVA services