Monday, January 24, 2011

Bathroom sex, again?

An irritating Hollywood cliché that needs to stop is bathroom sex. The couple, who have likely just met, duck into a public restroom for frenzied sex. I know what this is supposed to communicate: the impulsiveness of the characters, as they are caught up in the sexual arousal of the moment.  It shows how spontaneous the characters are and how in their aroused state they can’t possibly wait, or take the time to get a room. It worked for me as a Hollywood scriptwriting shorthand the first time I saw it in a movie, and maybe it worked the second time, too. Now that I’ve seen it a dozen times or more, it says something different. It says the screenwriter, or whoever added the scene, is lazy and unwilling to create a new scene, a less generic scene, a scene that will show us something we didn’t know about these particular characters. The bathroom sex scene overlooks the reality of what it is like to be inside a public men’s restroom in the United States. More on that in a moment.

The Social Network is currently winning a considerable amount of critical acclaim (Best Picture: LA Film Critics Association, NY Film Critics Circle, National Society of Film Critics, National Board of Review; Best Picture – Drama: The Golden Globes; etc.). The SF Strangelove capsule review: the opening scene where a fictionalized Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg) has a conversation with his girlfriend and she abruptly breaks up with him is well-done. Credit goes to Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay. The remainder of the film never recaptures this level of interest or energy and is lifeless by comparison. If this movie is about the founding of internet phenomenon Facebook, it left most of my questions unanswered. The corporate shenanigans that are portrayed offer little drama.

The Social Network, alas, has a “sex in a public bathroom” scene. It’s a two-for-one scene with two couples in adjacent stalls. Here, I am compelled to describe why this scene is unlikely and unappealing. The public restroom habits of the United States male make frenzied activity hazardous. Since the floor and most other surfaces will be wet with a generous coating of urine, the fancy footwork these sex scenes require would risk a fall, resulting in a concussion or other serious injury. If the amorous couple survives this hazard then, truly, the sights and smells of the male public restroom will be more than sufficient to quell their ardor. The United States male has not learned the courtesy of flushing when he is done. This problem becomes additive, until with time the amount of waste material is no longer flushable and any attempt to do so will cause it to overflow across the floor. The odors and visual impact of the male public restroom are powerful enough to extinguish any thought of sex, sending even the stout-hearted reeling, fleeing from the sensory assault.


  1. Thanks for the men's room tour, Strangelove for SF. At least now we know why many men prefer to use the great outdoors!

  2. Hi Laurie,
    Men are primitive creatures, barely civilized. The outdoors is still their native home.

  3. Ben Roethlisberger and Larry Craig would disagree with you-- which is another way of making your point.

  4. Paul: I will grant you there is a certain sort that is undeterred. Hopefully they are the exception rather than the rule.