feature

How to Survive a Sex Scene

Pin it

 PERSONAL ESSAYS








How to Survive a Sex Scene by Ben Weber  


Don’t get me wrong, it’s not exactly torture. But shooting a sex scene isn’t a walk in the park either. It’s true, you actually get paid to make out with incredibly hot women, but simulating sex is hard work and often just as nerve-wracking as the real thing. As an actor on Sex and the City, I got to shoot sex scenes with two different women. It sounds like a dream, but I can honestly say that the first
thing I felt when I read the words “their underwear comes off” wasn’t elation. It was fear.


    

The following is a brief account of my forty-eight-hour fumble through on-screen romance:



Day One,
6:30 A.M.


It’s a disconcerting sight for any actor to arrive on the set and discover an empty closet. This is my first clue that working on Sex and the City isn’t going to be like other acting gigs. When I played a tornado-chaser in the special effects-laden Twister, I got to wear lots of clothes. They gave
me shoes and socks, nice pants, a bright orange windbreaker and duplicates of everything in case I spilled or got dirty. Now, staring at the naked hangers in the closet, I’d give anything to see one of those bright orange jackets.

Instead, there’s only a white robe slung over the door, a pair of flip-flops stuffed into the pocket.


    

Before I can address the lonely white robe, I notice a stack of official-looking paperwork on the coffee table. It’s a nudity rider for me to sign and return to the producers before the filming can start. The document includes legal definitions of words like “nipple” and “ass.” By agreeing to it, I am essentially signing my skin away. I do a quick count of the number of people in my family who actually have HBO and decide the damage will be minimal. Plus, I need the money. John Hancock.



7:15 A.M.


The director and executive producer of Sex and the City, Darren Starr, knocks on my door and asks me if I’m comfortable with the day’s proceedings. I lie and tell him I am. I want him to think I’m a team player, game for anything, including baring what is legally termed my “ass.” Darren, sensing nervousness, asks if I wouldn’t be more comfortable wearing boxers during the scene. More false bravado on my part — I tell him I’m going naked. “You sure?” he asks. “Positive.”



7:40 A.M.


A costume lady appears at my door with my “wardrobe” — a scrap of pink material roughly the size of a cocktail napkin. She stretches it over my

privates and attaches it with evil double-sided sticky tape. The tape pulls at the hairs below my belly button and on the inside of my legs. Walking is excruciating.


    

The purpose of the flesh-toned cocktail napkin, which looks like a giant CigaRest patch over my crotch, is not explained to me. Of course they can’t show male frontal nudity on Sex and the City. (It’s not a legal thing — witness the dicks in HBO’s numerous sex documentaries — but more the “oooh, gross” factor that still rules sitcoms, even on cable.) But what’s the point of wearing a patch? You can’t show that either. I look like a neutered cat.


    

I learn later in the day that the patch is for my own modesty. I’m told that actresses wear swimsuits in shower scenes for the same reason — it’s more comfortable than going naked.



8:25 A.M.


A P.A. knocks on my door and escorts me to the set. I’m the only one wearing a robe and flip-flops. The crew — mostly twenty- or thirty-somethings in T-shirts, shorts and comfortable shoes — doesn’t seem to notice me.


    

At the same time, there isn’t any place I can stand where I’m not in the way. Large men wheel a bed into place, a woman hangs curtains, a team of technicians works on a lighting grid overhead.


    

I suddenly wish I had something important to do, like hammering nails.



8:55 A.M.


My co-star arrives wearing an identical white robe and flip-flops (what she’s wearing underneath is a mystery). I’m glad to see her even though we don’t normally have much to talk about. Our chemistry sucks. She’s a terrific actress, but working on scenes together has been trying — I’ll make a joke and she won’t laugh, she tells me something “hilarious” and it isn’t. Earlier in the season we’d been scripted a kiss; that alone took at least fifteen takes. Today could kill us.


    

We run lines together. She knows all of hers. I stammer and stumble my way through mine. I’m a slow study and always have been. In an eighth grade production of Deadwood Dick I tucked a copy of the script in my bootleg in case I drew a blank on stage.


    

I finally give up and cheat, reading my lines straight from the script. My co-star seems perturbed, like she’s afraid I might be learning disabled or have A.D.D. I bury my face in my lines and go over the whole scene again by myself.



10:40 A.M.


After botching the dialogue for the third time in a row, the director calls “cut” and the production comes to a halt. I’ve ruined another take.


    

The scene calls for me and my co-star to snuggle naked in the afterglow of our first fling. In the series I’ve been pursuing her for months, but she’s rebuffed my every advance because I’m a young, geeky, Internet guy and she’s a confident lawyer. The scene opens with me saying, “God, that sex was, like, so great.”


    

But I keep dropping my lines because I can’t stop staring at my co-worker’s breasts — each nipple is covered with a small Band-Aid. Obviously she’s made some amendments to her nudity rider: she won’t show her boobs. But you can’t show a woman in Band-Aids either. It’s an attempt at modesty, failing miserably, but I guess she’s sticking to it. Or vice versa.


    

The sheet that covers us proves to be surprisingly difficult to wrangle. If I move it too low, my gender patch is revealed. Too high and it covers too much of our faces. If I can’t even spoon convincingly, how am I going to fake sex? The director finally puts me in boxers and forgets about the sheet altogether.


    

The addition of boxers — even small ones — does wonders for my ability to recall lines. The rest of the day goes smoothly despite the fact that I no longer feel part of the team.

     

  






 PERSONAL ESSAYS



How to Survive a Sex Scene by Ben Weber  


Day Two, 5:30 P.M.


My girlfriend wants to visit me on the sound stage. I tell her no way. She says that she’s just curious, but I know that the moment another woman removes her clothes (and mine), trouble will start. So I tell her that she’ll just have to wait until the episode airs. I’m vague on when that will be.

    

Today my co-star is a tall, thin actress with beautiful long brown hair. She is

the woman I’ve been screwing around with (okay, the woman “Skipper” has been screwing around with) while in ardent pursuit of the hot lawyer chick. In today’s scene, while I am having sex with the tall brunette, the lawyer will call and invite me over. I’ll drop everything and go.


    

This is the young actress’ first sex scene and she’s freaked. It’s my first time faking making love on camera too, but I earned my stripes yesterday, heavy petting in the patch (witness the hairless strips on my inner thigh).


    

As a result of yesterday’s trial by fire, I’m cocky as hell. I even attempt to make conversation with the crew, but no one feels like chatting. Except for a sound guy with plumber’s crack who tells me he “likes my work.” I have no idea if he’s serious.



6:15 P.M.


No patch today. The director tells us that the audience will only see the upper halves of our bodies thrusting and grinding. I wear a pair of boxer shorts with the fly sewn shut to prevent any impromptu entrances or exits. All is safe and secure.



6:30 P.M.

Lying on top of the nervous actress I try to make small talk before the camera rolls. “So, who’s your agent?” I ask.


    
She is also wearing a pair of Band-Aids on her chest and seems a
little upset with the situation. “I only agreed to do this episode,” she tells me, resting under my full weight, “because my manager said they weren’t going to show me topless.”


    

I decide not to point out that she is not topless, but in fact wearing Band-Aids. Perhaps in legal terms this is “topless” and she does have a case against the producers. I’m hoping this doesn’t lessen her enthusiasm for the scene: I’m on my way to being the envy of all my friends.



7:05 P.M.


Like two prize fighters, we return to our respective corners after each round in the make-pretend sack. Her corner is a trio of make-up women who huddle around, coifing and powdering. My corner consists of the sound guy, who may or may not have been making suggestive comments to me, and a P.A. with badly thinning hair. The bell rings, the camera rolls, and we go back at it again.


    

Simulated sex is just like real sex, except that none of your parts actually touch. Even though I’m bumping and grinding, I’m doing it about three inches below her pelvis. Because my hips are off camera, it looks like we’re getting penetration. Three inches north, however, and I would receive a very unlusty punch in the face.


    

We’re also kissing “passionately” in the scene. On-screen kissing is a little harder and more noisy than real kissing. There’s a lot of smacking and sucking. I don’t know if she is normally this percussive with her husband, or if she’s doing it to upstage me. I start making my noises louder: “Ugh . . . ohh . . . ahh.”


    

The strangest part of pretend-romance is when the director calls cut mid-take and the lusting gets turned off like a faucet. The actress and I are left starring at each other, lips raw, jaws aching, with nothing to say that isn’t technical sounding. “Can you be careful?” she asks me. “I think you’re blocking in my key light.”


    

The director calls “action” again and we start getting down like two wind-up toys in the bottom of a sock. We rub and kiss and undulate, all without a hint of arousal. I have nothing close to a boner while we grope and grab. It seems impossible, I know. But imagine making a sex video with your girlfriend or boyfriend. Now add thirty strangers with bad hair and beepers, lights powerful enough to keep Yankee stadium ablaze and a camera the size of a small automobile. Also factor in that your sex movie isn’t for private use, but to be shown on a cable network that reaches an audience of millions (including your mom).



8:45 P.M.


It’s finally a wrap. I’ve done my last soft dry hump for the day. I can go home. The leggy actress and I share parting words that are as limp and passionless as the scene we just finished. “Nice work,” I tell her. “You too,” she says. As we head our separate directions, we skip the goodbye hug-and-kiss and settle on a firm handshake. See you next time.



Two Months Later


I’m watching the episode. My girlfriend is happy for me only because I’m in a lot of scenes, not because I get it on with two other women. When my sex scenes come on she shakes her head a little and emits a grunt that says I’ve gotten away with murder.


    

But the scenes work. After some tight editing, all that sheet wrangling and dry humping and make-believe kissing looks like a real sex scene — complete with a smoky musical score.


    

The only hint that this is my first bedroom gig is that I’m out of shape. No one on TV is flabby. I have a bulging gut and no muscle. I vow to join a gym if my shirt is ever to come off again.


    

And it looks like that next disrobing might come soon. My latest role is in a movie and I play a gay guy. I haven’t finished reading the script yet, but if I have to make out with another man it might require a full-time acting coach and cue cards. A little protein powder wouldn’t hurt either.

  

     









©1999 Ben Weber and Nerve.com