Tag: talk


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You may not know the technical term, but I’m guessing many reading this will know the sensation: skin hunger. Humans are social animals, and one of our social needs is touch, and the (hopefully) pleasant sensation it brings. Expanding that into sexual desire, for most people, is also something craved, and the lack of it can lead to terrible psychological distress. So why shouldn’t people be allowed to pay for these services, and for someone to provide them, without shame or moral quandry? What happens between consenting adults is no one else’s business – but what happens when sex, which can be such an intimate act, is a business?

Sophie Hyde (52 Tuesdays, Animals) once again turns her deft hand to people exploring their freedom, sexuality, and sexual desire in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande. Written by Katy Brand, starring Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack, this is an absolute banger of a (almost complete) two-hander, addressing sexual needs, sexual awakening, privacy, sex work, and intimacy in all its forms.

Nancy (Thompson) is just passed 60 years of age, recently widowed, recently retired, and as she readily admits, has lead a very mundance life. Her job was dull, her children bore her, she doesn’t seem to feel the loss of her husband. But she does feel the loss of time, specifically time devoted to her own sexual pleasure, which has been decidely absent her entire life. Enter Leo Grande (McCormack), a sex worker Nancy has hired. Leo has a varied clientele with a variety of needs and desires, not always centred around sex.

Leo Grande isn’t just a person, of course, but a performance. Leo knows that his clients each want a different experience; each experience requires a different Leo to perform for them, and, like any good sex worker, Leo knows his job well. He doesn’t always get it right at first, but he has a talent for sensing what his clients want. And he knows that, while Nancy craves the kind of sex she dutifully lists for him, she always wants intimacy of the more cerebral kind, that leads into good sex.

Leo Grande 2.jpg

Leo knows that Nancy needs care and confidence; he provides that to her. And even though she knows that she is paying him for this service, the result is the same. Almost every scene happens in one hotel room, almost in real time, and yet Hyde never allows us to be bored. With as much intimacy (arguably more) than a live theatre piece, we are privy to how Leo learns and teaches, and how Nancy adapts and grows. It’s a quiet joy to watch Nancy and Leo talk at one moment about blow jobs, and the next about the lies Leo tells his mother to protect her from the truth of his profession.

Even if Nancy thinks she’s educated and a feminist, she still has some rather arcance ideas of how women should behave, and how she thinks Leo should feel about his job. Even if Leo thinks he’s just performing a service, he often fails to see the effect that service can have in a negative way. Brand’s script does not shy away from a bit of skewering of heteronormativity and the rigid moral structure most cultures have placed on sexual pleasure and its connection to sex work, the need that most humans have for touch and connection.

It won’t come as a surprise that Thompson shines in this role, mixing her comedic and dramatic talents to portray a somewhat atypical character for the actress, with a bravery to showing this woman’s most vulnerable side almost immediately. McCormack more than holds his own; he shows Leo’s journey as the opposite, at first keeping his mask firmly in place until this maddening client forces it off him. Hyde knows exactly how to place these characters before the camera, allowing them to be free in their discoveries, both good and bad.

With a fierce honestly and a dry wit, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande asks us all why we can’t enjoy touch, sex, pleasure, the way we want (safely, consensually), with or without strings, as human needs demand. Deceptively nuanced, it asks us to confront our own ideas of what makes us strong and happy, and how we view those who sell this kind of service.

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande

  • Emma Thompson
  • Daryl McCormack
  • Isabella Laughland


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How To Talk To Your Partner If Endometriosis Impacts Your Sex Life

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Chronic pain is one of the most prominent symptoms associated with endometriosis. While not everyone experiences these symptoms, the NHS reports that pain during sex, lower back and abdominal pain, and pain during day-to-day activities are all commonly linked to endometriosis. 

You may have noticed changes in your libido or your desire to have sex if you know it will be painful. Alternatively, the pain you experience may make intimacy feel like something that’s simply off the cards. And having to explain this to your partner in a non-judgemental and clear way can feel impossible. 

28-year-old Bella was diagnosed with endometriosis two years ago. However, she says since she was a teenager she’s had to manage chronic pain and it’s impacted her relationships. “My chronic pain has played a part in every sexual relationship I’ve had. I remember wanting to meet someone at college so badly but knowing if I was to be intimate with them it would hurt,” she says. “Sex almost became a mental block in my mind because it’s like I had to weigh up if it was worth the pain.” 

While endometriosis symptoms can vary, trying to manage chronic pain alongside the stress it can put on your libido and mental health is no small problem. It’s estimated that roughly one in ten women and girls of reproductive age has endometriosis globally. 

“Growing up I was terrified to speak to my friends about how I couldn’t sleep with my boyfriend and the prospect of an orgasm felt like a distant dream,” says Bella. 

However, couples counselor and relationship therapist Jo Nicholl explains some ways that you can approach conversations about sex and intimacy when you experience chronic pain, including the importance of your own sexual wellness and relationship with yourself. 

How can pain impact your sex drive? 

Your sex drive may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think about how chronic pain can affect your life. However, the links between pain and your libido can be complex. You may not want to be intimate with your partner due to the pain itself. If you feel low, exhausted, or anxious because you have to manage symptoms, that may also decrease your libido. Medication and stress may also be factors. 

“Physical pain or trauma affects the nervous system and our mind in a way that will block the positive hormones released when we feel romantic,” says Jo Nicholl. “In other words, it is like a huge internal diversion and pre-occupying.” 

If you associate being physically intimate with a partner with pain then it’s very likely that you’ll avoid it. A study published in the Clinical Journal of Pain found that 73% of people they spoke to who experienced some form of chronic pain said they encountered various sexual complications because of it. The research outlined that while some people struggled to become aroused or didn’t enjoy some positions, others said they were scared their pain would be exacerbated by sex. 

This is something that 25-year-old Cora can identify with. “To put it simply, I stopped having sex for two years. All of my ideas about sex and sexuality were wrapped up in feelings of trauma,” she says. “I’d just been diagnosed [with endometriosis] and was only beginning to fully understand my management options. Sex felt like it was doing more harm to me than pleasure. I totally lost my sensual side.”

Due to the fact that she experienced such intense pain when she had penetrative sex, Cora decided to remove that part of her life and self. However, Jo Nicholl explains that your sexual relationship with yourself is just as important, if not more important, than your relationship with a partner. 

Connect with your own sexuality 

Trying to approach conversations about pain and sex can be difficult with a partner. But Jo Nicholl explains that reconnecting with your own sexuality and sensual side is “very important.” 

You may wonder what reconnecting with your own sexuality might practically look like. It could be setting some time aside to truly look after yourself, learn about yourself, and/or engage in self-care practices that work for you. This could be lighting candles and taking a bath. Learning more about pleasure through books and podcasts may also make you feel more connected with yourself. 

“My friends laugh at me when I talk about this but after my endometriosis diagnosis, I had a complete sexual re-education. I simply couldn’t carry on how I was. I didn’t enjoy sex or intimacy. It’s something I equated with pain,” says Cora. 

However, she reached out to her doctor who initially put her in touch with a sex therapist and trauma specialist. From that point, Cora worked with her team of specialists on a pain management plan that worked for her and she started to explore where her fear of physical intimacy stemmed from. 

“Once I’d spoken to my therapist and started to read more about pleasure I realized that every sexual act I’d engaged in, in my life, had been done first and foremost for the other person,” she says. “Sex had always been painful for me but I learned that I deserved pleasure and I didn’t have a hope trying to communicate this to future partners if I couldn’t even face it myself.”

Use open language 

Once you feel ready to open up a conversation with your partner about how your pain may be impacting your libido, Jo Nicholl outlines that there are some conversational rules you can follow so no one feels like they’re being judged or blamed. 

“Always start with ‘I feel….’; help them immediately know it is not their fault and also in what way you need their support,” she says. “As it is likely they may want to fix it and that is often not what is needed.” 

By saying “I feel” you’re letting your partner know exactly what struggles you’re facing and how your symptoms are impacting you without pointing a finger. Similarly, they can’t argue with your feelings because they’re yours and yours alone. 

“It never occurred to me that I could have a conversation about not wanting to have sex and it not end in someone feeling rejected,” says Bella. “I’ve had past partners accuse me of using my chronic pain as an excuse not to be intimate. I’ve had people question my feelings and experiences. It wasn’t until I met my current partner that I realized I could let the person I love in and walk them through why I struggle to be physically intimate sometimes.” 

It often takes two to tango, and as you outline what you’re feeling, ask your partner to do the same. They’re as much of an active participant in your relationship as you are, so it’s good to hear their experience, too. “Talk about your feelings first and let them know that it is your stuff and that you find it hard to talk about this kind of thing sometimes,” says Jo Nicholl. “Ask them what their experience is. For example, ‘I am not feeling very connected to myself right now, how are you feeling?’ ‘I love being with you and my mind is really busy at the moment and I am struggling to stay present.’” 

And don’t be afraid of therapy

Whether it’s for yourself or for both you and your partner, any trauma you have surrounding sex because of pain is something you can bring to a registered sex and relationship therapist. Jo Nicholl highlights that if you’d like help in communicating how your chronic pain means you don’t always want to be physically intimate, then a therapist may be able to aid you in overcoming any communication barriers you have with your partner. 

“Therapy is always something I’ve done alone. It’s been a solitary activity for me all of my life. However, it wasn’t until I saw a sex therapist with my partner that I realized how much of my diagnosis he really understood,” says Bella. “I always felt like I had to fight my corner to justify my pain. But my partner’s main concern was the things he could do to make sex and intimacy a more pleasant experience for me and something I could start associating with love.” 

Similarly, Cora explains that sex therapy has played a fundamental role in understanding pleasure and worth. “I now know I deserve to have the kind of sex that doesn’t hurt me and therapy has armed me with the words I can use for future partners,” she says. 


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Corrie’s Sally urges Brits to talk about sex lives after ‘controversial’ storyline

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Following her character’s impotence storyline in Coronation Street, Sally Dynevor, who plays Sally Metcalfe in the show, reckons more people should discuss their private lives

Sally Dynevor urges more Brits to talk about sex

Corrie star Sally Dynevor, who plays Sally Metcalfe in the hit ITV soap, believes Brits should talk more about their bedroom antics.

She’s been speaking out as her character struggles with husband Tim’s impotence, following a recent heart operation.

Sally, who will celebrate her 60th birthday next year, says of the storyline, “It’s quite an important story because a lot of men get impotence at this age, and he’s also had a heart bypass.”

She adds, “Sally and Tim [played by actor Joe Duttine] are known for running off and going upstairs and not coming back until later on. Now they can’t do that.”

The couple will see a sex therapist, a part of the story Sally has enjoyed filming as she believes we don’t talk about sex enough.

Sally reckons more Brits should be talking about their sex life


Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)

The actress is one of TV’s best loved stars



She says, “We don’t talk about sex a lot in this country. I was surprised at the script, I kept thinking, ‘Can we say this at this time of evening?’

‘Are we allowed to talk about this?’

“I’m very happy doing it, but it’s not something we’ve done before. It seems quite controversial. I’m hoping people do reach out to me about the storyline. With my friends we talk about the menopause, but never about those other things.”

Sally’s on-screen partner Tim has been struggling with erectile dysfunction



For 36 years, Sally has been one of the most beloved faces on our TV screens – and she has become one of Coronation Street ’s ultimate matriarchs.

She’s acted her way through three weddings, two births and countless catfights.

Her character’s cheated and been cheated on, fought cancer and delivered some of the most withering lines in the history of the soap – a long way from her first day on set, playing a punk with a contract for just four episodes.

But after almost four decades on the box and having raised a family with her off-screen husband Tim, 60, there’s still no slowing down for Sally – she’s feeling sexy and ready for what’s to come.

She’s one of the show’s stalwarts


Guy Levy/REX/Shutterstock for BAFTA)

“I’m 60 next year,” she says. “I do feel sexy. I never worried about 50, but I am worried about 60.

“Why am I worried about 60? It’s just a number. I think it’s because of the perception of what a 60-year-old should be. I want to do more now. You kind of have to prove that you can do more as you get older, don’t you?”

Sally says working with rising stars keeps her feeling young, and she hopes to carry on in Weatherfield for many years to come – much like her Corrie co-star Bill Roache, 90, who plays Ken Barlow.

The actress is part of number of juicy storylines



She explains, “We’re working with young people all the time and they bring so much to the table. When you’re sitting around talking to young people they make you feel excited.

“It’s been 36 years [that I’ve been] on Corrie. I hope that I’m a lifer like Bill. I love the fact that he hasn’t retired and he doesn’t feel a need to retire. If you have a job you love then you need to work as much as you possibly can. I’m terrified that if I retire then I will slow down, and I don’t want that. I want to carry on.”

Sally is mum to two daughters, Phoebe, 27, and Harriet, 18, as well as son Sam, 25.

Phoebe is now enjoying her own fame for her role in Netflix hit Bridgerton and is currently the talk of Tinseltown.

She’s a proud mum of three



Since her kids moved out, Sally has been exploring the world a little more.

“Recently, I went to Rome and got the train to Florence and it was so easy to do that,” she says.

“I need to travel more. I would like to do America and Japan.”

She adds, “Now our kids have left home it’s our time, we’ve got more time, it’s our time to travel.

My friends keep saying, ‘Are you going to retire?’ And I’m like, ‘No, I want to do more.’”

And we’re in no doubt that the actress will continue to embrace what life has to offer. “I’m having a great time,” she says. “I don’t want it to stop.”

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How to talk to your kids about real sex and porn

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Emma Thompson has said young people’s expectations of sex “can be very disturbing indeed”.

The actress (63) has spoken out about the “easy access” to pornography and the pressure on young girls, ahead of the release of her new film Good Luck To You, Leo Grande, about a widow hiring a young sex worker.

Speaking to Sky News about attitudes towards sex in her daughter’s generation, Thompson said: “I think some things are worse, when I hear stories in schools about boys and what they expect from girls…

“If you talk to young people about their sexual knowledge and what they expect, and what they think sex is, it can be very disturbing indeed, and I think can interfere with their sexual development.”

Emma Thompson suggests porn could be having a detrimental affect on kids (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

In a study conducted by the NSPCC in the UK, nearly half (48 per cent) of 11-16-year-olds surveyed had seen online porn.

And American organisation Youth First suggests the average age a child first sees online porn is 11 years old.

Over the past year or so, conversations about sexual harassment and assault in schools have opened up – particularly thanks to Everyone’s Invited (everyonesinvited.uk), a place for survivors of sexual assault to share their stories – showing how widespread the issue was in schools and universities.

So, how can parents and carers educate children on what a healthy relationship looks like, what consent really means, and the realities of pornography?

Put consent and pleasure at the forefront

According to GP and sexual function expert Dr Anand Patel, who works with Lovehoney (lovehoney.co.uk), “There is a misconception that if you start talking to kids about sex too young, they will want it. Actually, whether parents want their children to access it or not, they will find that information. It is never too young to start talking to children about consent.”

Sex educator and coach Ruth Ramsay (ruthramsay.com) agrees, saying: “Consent and boundaries are vital life skills children should be learning. By the time kids are ready for early sex education, it should then simply be a case of applying these lessons to sex.

“The same goes for pleasure; from their earliest days, children should develop an understanding that their bodies are something that gives them pleasure, and it’s a safe place to explore.

“As a sex educator and coach, I see way too often in my work with adults, how damaging it is to leave pleasure out of sex education. If we don’t understand sex is meant to feel good to us, as well as our partners, we’ll put up with negative experiences and behaviours.”

Talk to them about the realities of porn

Billie Eilish opened up about her experiences with porn in 2021. Photo: Ian West/PA

In 2021, singer Billie Eilish spoke out about how watching violent pornography at a young age “destroyed her brain”, and affected her first sexual experiences.

Speaking on SiriusXM, she said: “As a woman, I think porn is a disgrace. I started watching porn when I was like 11, and I didn’t understand why it was a bad thing. I thought that was how you learned to have sex.”

Ramsay shares that “porn is not intended to be sex education, but it’s the primary source of information for children and teens who are not receiving this information anywhere else.

“A metaphor which I find works for both kids and adults is: you wouldn’t expect to learn to drive by watching The Fast And The Furious, and in the same way we can’t learn how to ‘do’ sex by watching porn. Let them know its not ‘real’.”

There has been a push in recent years for more ethical, feminist porn, from creators such as Erika Lust, revolutionising the way porn is consumed and made.

Tailor conversations about sex to your child’s age – but be frank

There are different conversations about sex to have with your child at different ages, but Ramsay suggests honesty is the best policy – and to keep an open dialogue.

“There’s no one ‘conversation about sex’ to have with kids at one age. It’s a topic that builds. For example, as babies are growing into toddlers and learning about their bodies and names for body parts, correct names for genital anatomy should be included in a matter of fact way.

“When the child is older, if they don’t know the right names for their body parts, or feel their bodies aren’t a source of pleasure, they cannot practise informed empowered consent.”

Encourage question asking

Being able to have a calm and open conversation will help your kids feel more comfortable

Ramsay wants to see kids feeling more comfortable asking questions, particularly about something they may have heard at school, or seen in porn.

“Making sex a shame-free topic creates the space for kids to ask questions naturally,” she says. “However, they may be picking up shame messages from society and from other children, so reminding them, ‘Any time you want to ask me anything about sex, feel free’ is important. If they ask something you don’t know the answer to, don’t be embarrassed – say you’re not sure of the answer to that, and suggest you look it up together.”

Open communication will empower you both, and will hopefully stop your child turning to porn for their sex education.


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What Are Adolescents Really Looking for in the Sex Talk?

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Research has demonstrated that sexual communication between parents and adolescents is instrumental in improving adolescent sexual well-being (Astle et al., 2022; Widman et al., 2016). For parents, it can be a precarious situation. As Gagnon stated, “Adults are caught in an impossible situation. On the one hand, it is important that children should not do anything sexual before they are supposed to; on the other hand, adults should play some positive role in developing children’s sexuality” (1977:79, italics in original).

If parents do not take an active role in their children’s sexual development and socialization by talking to them about sex, their children have other options to go to for information, and not all of those options are beneficial. Participants in a study centered on sexual self-development (Wahl, 2020) reported sources of sexual knowledge other than parents. These sources included:

  • Friends — who were noted as being just as ignorant in matters of sexuality as they were
  • Sex education in school — which was not comprehensive and focused on STIs and abstinence
  • Books and magazines
  • Television
  • Movies
  • The internet (non-pornography)
  • Online porn — which often provides an unrealistic view of sexual behavior
  • Porn (non-internet-based)
  • The media
  • Trial and error — which placed respondents in sexual situations that were physically and mentally unhealthy

Source: Anastasia Shuraeva/Pexels

It is not a question of whether parents should take an active role in their children’s sexual development—it is necessary. The bigger question (and one many parents probably have) is what precisely do adolescents want from the sex talk? This is a question posed in recently published research.

Astle, McAllister, Emanuels, Rogers, Toews, and Yazedjian (2022) reported on the parent-child sexual communication in focus groups consisting of 38 college-aged emerging adults. Of this sample, 50 percent of the participants were female. Participants reported that the sexual communication they had with their parents was infrequent and dominated by the parents, with sexual topics not being addressed in an in-depth manner. Topics that were largely brought up in the conversations included the sexual history of the adolescent, birth control, contraception, abstinence/delaying sex, and parental experience. Missing were frank discussions about sexual desires, abortion, masturbation, and sexual satisfaction, as is often the case.

Participants noted that the sexual communication took several forms, which included:

  • Closed communication — The most common form of communication reported involves infrequent, often brief communication that allows for little involvement from the young person and does not present information that is helpful.
  • Open communication — The least common form of communication involves a reciprocal discussion.
  • Absent communication — Described by participants as communication where nothing is learned.
  • Awkward communication — Awkwardness was cited as a reason why adolescents did not want to participate in parent-child sexual communication.
  • Use of scare tactics — The use of fear to detour children from sexual behaviors and select sexual values.

Participants in the study by Astle et al. (2022) offered suggestions for improvement in parent-child sexual communication. First and foremost, they noted that they wanted their parents to have been more open and supportive in the conversation, regardless of their sexual history or decisions. Respondents in the focus groups also acknowledged that they felt more comfortable talking to parents of the same sex. Boys talking with their fathers and girls talking with their mothers may be instrumental in avoiding awkward communication.

Female participants in the study had a higher appreciation for their parents’ personal experiences being included in the conversation. They noted that hearing and learning from those past experiences aided in their own sexual decision-making process. Next, scare tactics were deemed to be ineffectual. Not only are scare tactics inadequate, but they can also serve to derail reciprocal dialogue and diminish the level of trust essential to the sexual conversation.

And finally, participants discussed that they wished the parent-child sexual communication had taken place earlier in their adolescence. They suggested that a good rule of thumb for the conversation to begin would be at middle school age when the sexual environment is beginning to expand exponentially for young people.

Talking about sex with your children in an open, trusting, and supportive environment increases their focus on sexual health, provides for mindful and informed sexual decision-making, and aids in the prevention of risky sexual behavior. It may not be a welcome or comfortable conversation, but when the discussion is truly reciprocal and takes into account the needs of the adolescent, more responsible and favorable sexual outcomes are generated and sustained.


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A Phone Sex Operator Shares Tips for Mastering Dirty Talk

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After getting off the phone with Shadow Priest, I take a deep breath and mutter, “Phew. Flustered, flustered, flustered.”

Our relatively vanilla conversation wasn’t Shadow Preist’s usual phone call fare, and he is anything but a religious figure fixated on salvation. Shadow Priest is a phone sex operator specializing in getting guys off with the sound of his low baritone voice and masculine dominance.

The portion of the conversation that got me flustered, knocking me off my professional groove, was asking Shadow Preist to give me a taste of the voice his clients hear when calling his NiteFlirt hotline for some personalized attention. That’s when his voice got dangerously low, clearly enough to make anyone lose their religion and relent to the dark side of desire.

If anyone is an expert on the power of voice and sexual suggestion, it’s Shadow Preist. Not only has he been a professional phone sex worker for 13 years, but he’s also a certified clinical hypnotist, using the power of suggestion to help submissive men channel their desire. And the power of his skills is strong. During our call, he tells me about this one time he hypnotized a play partner, making her orgasm by playing with a clit he “placed” on her forehead.

If you want to up your dirty talk skills, there’s no one better than Shadow Preist to consult. Here’s his expert advice on how to make your partner get all flustered with just the sound of your voice.

How did you get into this profession?

I was already a BDSM Master—basically, a person who takes the lead in a kinky sex scene—and a girlfriend who had been involved in phone sex on Niteflirt recommended it, so I gave it a try. Gay guys have always loved me, so “gay guys looking for a BDSM Master” was my natural niche. I got a good response and decided to stick around.

What makes someone “good” at talking dirty?

Listening. The first thing to do is listen to your partner’s fantasies. What do they think about when they fantasize? What words do they use? Paying attention to your partner is the most basic and most important skill.

What’s your #1 tip for someone who wants to improve their bedroom talk?

Think VAK: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Describe things in terms of what they see, hear, and feel. When you use all three, you create an immersive world.

How does someone channel a sexy voice?

First, relax your body and speak from your belly. The voice is an instrument, and we can all learn to play it. The key is resonance, and resonance happens when the body relaxes. I like using yoga’s Warrior Pose to stretch the muscles from the hips to the throat. It really helps open the voice and give it greater resonance. Second, slow down. Nothing in sex is a race, so take your time. Third, get confident. When someone is enthusiastically consenting to a sexual conversation with you, you already know they want you. Let that feed your confidence.

What’s something almost everyone likes to hear from dirty talk?

“Yeah, that’s right.”

While fantasies vary greatly, letting people know when they’re on the right track helps them relax into the moment. You can also use affirmation to train your partner by giving them affirmation when they’re doing something that works for you. They’ll become more confident, you’ll have more fun, and that becomes a positive feedback loop.

What’s the biggest mistake people make when talking dirty?

Clamming up about what they really want. Look, I’ve got two balls, but neither of them are crystal. I can’t bring your fantasies to life if you don’t share them with me. Open up and we can have a lot of fun.

On the other side, when you’re leading the conversation, the biggest mistake is not listening. Resist having an agenda and prioritize being in the moment with your partner.

How can a person become more comfortable talking dirty in the bedroom?

Deliberate practice. Let’s get real, you’re not going to read the perfect book and suddenly become a Cassanova. It takes practice, and it takes failing and being willing to fail. Those who can take the risk of making a fool of themselves can master many things, but that’s the price. So get in there, start doing it, and pay attention to the results you’re getting. Notice your partner’s reaction, then do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. Gradually, you get better. It’s like they say in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: “A black belt is just a white belt who never quit.”

Do you have a go-to line when you don’t know what to say?

“What do you think about when you touch yourself?” Again, their fantasies are fodder for great sex talk.

What should you do if there are awkward moments?

Breathe. Center yourself. Remain calm. It’s only sex. This is play. As you do that and relax, you can drift back to something that was working earlier or try out something new.

Once and for all: Should men moan?

If they like, absolutely. What they shouldn’t do is force it because they shouldn’t be acting. Acting, or faking it, just isn’t conducive to a great time for anyone. Even as a professional, I’ve learned that I do my best when I stick to what’s natural for me.

How do you ask for consent when talking dirty without ruining the vibe?

I like to talk a bit before we really get into it to see what they’re into. If there’s going to be anything that would be somewhat “out there” during the scene, it’s best to discuss it then. But if you’re already in the scene and you’re feeling like it could go a given way, you could phrase it as a possibility, not as an action. Something like, “You’re such a naughty slut, tell me something, do you need…?” is much better than “And then I bend you over and…”

Why do you think phone sex is still popular in the digital age?

Connection. You can only watch porn in a dark room for so long before you remember that sex is something where a little company is kind of nice.

In terms of phone sex, should you really ask a person, “What are you wearing?”

Only if they’ve invited you to. Most times, people aren’t getting dressed up to talk on the phone. Keep it in fantasy. Maybe try to ask “What would you be wearing if…?” so they’re not lying and not breaking state. In other words, if they’re describing some incredibly hot outfit they’re supposedly wearing, but they’re sitting around in sweatpants, they might be rolling their eyes. That’s not helping them get into a sexy state of mind.

What’s a good way to start a sexy conversation on the phone?

When people call me, they’re already horny. And that means they were thinking of something that got them horny. So I’ll ask what that was. If that wasn’t flying, I’d start by asking them what they fantasize about. When a person describes their hottest fantasy to a non-judgmental, sexy-talking listener they find attractive, you know they’re going to start getting horny.

Should you ever send emojis in text-based dirty talk?

There’s no clear answer here. Read your partner. If they send emojis while they’re turned on, then emojis won’t be a mood-killer for them. But I wouldn’t be the one who starts with emojis.

Is phone sex cheating?

It depends on your relationship. And that being said, there are a lot of guys who only manage to keep it together and stay good partners because once in a while they scratch this itch. When they do that with professional phone sex workers on Niteflirt, they aren’t pestering their partner for something their partner isn’t interested in, it’s not moving toward wrecking a home, and they never bring home an STD. So, perhaps the course of wisdom is, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

What’s the most common fetish you come across in your work?

Guys who want me to use hypnosis to turn them into my willing slaves. Every flirt on Niteflirt has a niche. Since I’m a hypnotist who uses hypnosis to turn guys into my willing slaves, I get a lot of those.

I get people who are nervous about hypnosis. The first thing I do is figure out whether it’s something they’d like to try and are just scared or if they simply don’t want to. If they don’t want to, I drop it. I don’t proselytize for it or pressure people into it. Now, if they’re nervous but curious, I let them know the difference between what people think it is and what it really is. You’re not truly unconscious during it, more like relaxed and intensely focused. And that means that if I were to try to put something in your head that you didn’t want there, you’d be able to open your eyes and terminate the session.

It can be intimidating, the idea of being out of control and not knowing what the hypnotist is putting in your mind or not knowing what you’ll do once you’re hypnotized. Of course, that fear and surrender is part of the appeal. Naturally, it would be wise to know the person you’re playing with.

What’s your most memorable phone call?

Probably the one where a devoted slave begged me to order him to pay the $2,000 for me to become a certified clinical hypnotist. I did, and he did. More than the money, that makes you realize just how much this means to some people.

Has your job impacted the way you think about sex?

Of course. In the 13 years I’ve been doing this, I’ve seen that having “uncommon” fantasies is not at all uncommon. I’ve learned that people have a psychological need to be seen. Not even accepted, just seen. To have these parts of them that they hide away in the shadows really be seen by another human being. It can be incredibly liberating.

What do you like most about being a phone sex operator?

While it’s a lot of work, it’s also a lot of fun. I get to let my sadistic, dominant side out and have a lot of fun with it. Where else can you demean your customers and have them love you for it? It also gives me the chance to do something I really shine at. The book Drive lists doing what you’re good at as a major motivator toward success and satisfaction. You’re always learning if you want to do well as a phone sex worker. And it’s helping people. There’s a healing aspect to being seen and exploring your fantasies. So many of my callers report just being happier and more engaged in their day-to-day lives.

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INTO THE VOID: Let’s Talk Werewolf Erotica With Mallory O’Meara

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Welcome to Into The Void, a weekly pilgrimage into, well, whatever happens to be going on in the horror-obsessed (and unfortunately opinionated) mind of Scott Wampler, officially licensed opinion-haver and co-host of the FANGORIA Podcast Network’s The Kingcast. All sales are final. No refunds will be issued.

Some years ago, I crossed paths with an author by the name of Mallory O’Meara. She’d just written a helluva book called The Lady from the Black Lagoon, and our shared love for all things Creature-related resulted in us becoming very fast friends. In the time since, Mallory’s become one of my best friends, a regular fixture on The Kingcast, a sounding board for my stupidest ideas, and a seemingly bottomless source for great recommendations – movies, books, you name it. A thing worth knowing about Mallory O’Meara is, she’s never wrong.

A month or so ago, she was once again berating me for not having read one of her favorite books, a bit of werewolf romance/erotica by the name of The Last Werewolf. I’d never actually read any erotica before – much less werewolf erotica – and after mowing through the book in a few sittings, I couldn’t help but wonder why I’d waited so long. In fact, I wondered about a few things, actually, and so I very graciously invited Mallory into The Void to discuss my reaction to the dirty little werewolf novel she’d recommended.

FANGORIA: Well, well, well. If it isn’t James Beard Award-nominated author and slide whistle enthusiast Mallory O’Meara. How did you get in here?

Mallory: It seems like I got in here because you were too much of a coward to write about horny werewolves on your own.

Yes, I was, in fact, hoping to talk about this horny werewolf novel you recommended, Glen Duncan’s The Last Werewolf. Let’s start there – you are a master book-recommender, are you not?

It’s true. It’s one of my many superpowers, along with super strength and being a slide whistle virtuoso. I am simply one thousand book recommendations in a trench coat. Now, you had never read an erotic horror novel before, correct? What made you want to try this one?

Well, you were very adamant that this would be a good fit, your previous book recommendations have all turned out to be great, and the idea piqued my interest precisely because I’ve never read any erotica before. Plus, it has a werewolf in it. What made you think I would respond to this one, in particular?

“Adamant” is such a kind word for “Mallory bullied me into it.” Now, I didn’t set out to convert my dear friend Scott Wampler to the world of horny spooky books, but I knew you would love the voice. Besides all the things going into various holes, erotica and romance writing have some of the strongest character work in the entire literary world.

The character work here was very strong, particularly that of The Last Werewolf’s lead character (and titular werewolf), Jake. I was very taken with the way this one blended together a pseudo-noir caper, grisly horror, and, in spots, something that felt almost like a spy thriller – what with all the gadgets and burner phones and what have you. And, yes, the hole-play.

So much of horror is imbued with sex, nudity, and overall horniness that I’m surprised more horror film fans aren’t reading horny horror books.

Right. And this sorta brings up a point I’ve been considering since reading this one: Why aren’t more dude horror fans – or, hell, just dudes in general – reading erotica? Like, guys’ll find any reason to get horny about pretty much anything, but I find it intriguing that the only people I know who read erotica are ladies. This is anecdotal, of course, but I’m wondering what you make of that.

Well Scott, have you ever heard of sexism? It’s a bummer!


For decades and decades, maybe even a century or more, romance and erotica have been billed as “women’s fiction”, and anything being marketed to or created by women is usually looked at as an inferior thing. Romance/erotic books are looked down upon as lesser forms of literature simply because they’re made for women, and they generally center on a woman’s experiences and feelings. Because of this, and some unconscious—or even conscious!—bias, many men avoid reading things that are “for girls”. Which, of course, makes them cowards. Now, The Last Werewolf is by and about a man, but I think it’s a great entry point for those looking to see if erotica is for them.

I’m trying to figure out why I never waded into these waters myself, and I don’t think I have a good explanation for that. I think I just sorta figured, well, if I wanna get horny and possibly get off in the process, there are easier methods than reading a book. But in reading this, I realized that I was just straight-up limiting my arsenal. It was quite a thing to experience! I feel dumb for having waited so long.

You are dumb, but I still love you. That’s what friends are for, to get you to read about werewolf dicks. I am thrilled this book has broadened your literary horizons. Stretched them, if you will. If someone loves films like The Hunger, Jennifer’s Body, American Werewolf in London, and When Animals Dream, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be reading either horror romance or erotic romance books.


Did your perceptions about these types of books change while you were reading, if you had any prior perceptions at all?

I don’t think I had any real perceptions in place, but I was legitimately impressed by how well-balanced this one was, and how well-written. I didn’t think you’d recommend a shittily-written book, obviously, but I was pretty struck by how measured it was.

Correct. I only recommend certified … wait for it … bangers. Many notable film critics have pointed out the depressing dearth of sex on screen in recent years. I think it is our right, nay, our duty, to keep the spirit of sexy horror alive and seek it out on the page. Do you think you’ll dip into more horny horror books in the future? Now that you’ve got your … toe wet?

Oh, absolutely. I think, for reasons I’d rather not state explicitly because they would count as spoilers for The Last Werewolf, that I’m probably gonna set aside the other two novels in this trilogy for the time being, so I am in the market for further recs along these lines.

One of my recent favorites was The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller. It’s a very spicy romance wrapped up in a genuinely scary haunted house story. Red-hot boning and a fascinating ghost legend? What’s not to love? In my TBR (to be read, for non-nerds) pile of sexy horror books, I have The Other Side of Midnight by Simone St. James, another sexy ghost book. As in, there’s sex and there’s also ghosts, not that people want to fuck ghosts. Although I have recommendations for that, too! I also have Pleasure Unbound by Larissa Ione and Angels’ Blood by Nalini Singh in the pile, both books about demon banging that come highly recommended.

(Taking notes)

You don’t need to take notes. I just wrote that all out for you.

Ah! So you did! OK, here’s a question that newcomers like myself might have: Is there any way to gauge how spicy these books are upfront? I’m guessing it just comes down to knowing the writer’s work and knowing how far they’ll dial up the horniness.

It depends on how the book is categorized. If it’s a romance, you’re guaranteed a love story, some sex/sexy scenes, and a happy ending (both kinds). If it’s an erotica, the focus is mostly on the sex itself, with everything else as secondary. If you’re just starting out, looking for horror romance is probably the way to go.

I would like the horniness dialed up to 12, please.

Then you want erotica. Erotica is full blast, no-holds-barred filthy horniness.

This is excellent intel, and my team will be carefully considering my next move on this journey.

Be honest, Scott. Is your team just a box of tissues and a pump-action bottle of Vaseline?

They have names, you know.

I don’t need to know the details of your little kinks, my friend. Call them whatever you want.

Very well.


What would you say to fellow horror fans who have never read any horny scary books?

“Hey, you know how you love horror?” Yeah. “And you know how being horny is great?” Yeah. “Well, this combines both of those things, and doesn’t skimp on either in the process.” I mean, everything that can be going wrong in the world is currently going very wrong, but one thing I do like about this era is that sex positivity is such a big deal. Time to break free of those chains and embrace being horny and scared simultaneously. No one’s gonna razz you about it! And if they do, my dear friend Mallory (who is extremely strong) and I will stomp their goofy ass for you in public.

Oh yes, one of my hobbies is finding people who make fun of romance readers and stealing their lunch money.


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Penn Badgley And Leighton Meester Talk ‘Gossip Girl’ Sex Scenes

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All our 2000’s dreams came true last week, when Leighton Meester and Penn Badgley reunited for an episode of his new podcast, Podcrushed. Meester was his first guest on the show, with the two discussing everything from the first time they met, to filming those sex scenes on Gossip Girl and how it affected them both.

While the show depicted the lives of Manhattan’s elite, teenage Upper East Siders, the real life cast were actually upwards of 20-years-old. Why? Because they had to film a lot of raunchy shows that wouldn’t have been appropriate (or legal) to cast real teenagers in. That being said, the audience was supposed to believe that they teenagers, with Leighton and Penn both asking the question, is that really okay?

“I’m 20 years old at the time, doing scenes of not just, like, having like sex or like, you know, sexual–like, fantasy stuff,” Leighton explained on the podcast. “And then like, in a bed with someone or whatever. We were 20. So whoever was looking at it, certainly girls that were actually 16, I was playing a 16-year-old.

They’re watching it thinking that is what a 16-year-old looks like. Right now, I’m watching a 16-year-old have sex and watching a 16-year-old in lingerie and their body… but actually, it’s not a 16-year-old. It’s a 20-year-old, but my brain is being told that it’s a 16-year-old. So that like kind of messes with you, too.”

Penn was quick to echo those sentiments, arguing that if real teenagers had been cast in their place, the world would’ve been up in arms.

“To me, this is what I mean. It’s like if we actually put 15 and 16-year-olds in these teen shows and movies that we make, we’d all be like, what the–? You know, it wouldn’t be funny, wouldn’t be sexy. But then we put in people who look like us. And you know, we have to like shave twice a day already.”

It’s not just the sex scenes that the actors believe to be problematic, either. Smoking cigarettes, doing drugs and drinking alcohol throughout your early teenage years isn’t depicting a healthy or idealistic lifestyle for young people, which is something they both still think about today.

Walking into bars ordering dirty martinis and not having any issues with that. Being like: ‘It’s my 15th birthday’. No question from these people at all,” Leighton added.

At the time, Gossip Girl was renowned for its depiction of raunchy, horny teenagers, much to the horror of parents everywhere. Rather than shy away from the bad press, the show actually leaned into it. You might remember the infamous poster used to advertise the show which featured a still from a Serena and Nate sex scene with a Boston Herald headline that read ‘every parent’s worst nightmare.’

Despite how the actors feel about it now, there’s no denying that this show skyrocketed their careers into the stratosphere. That being said, it’s nice to know they can reflect on it with a mature set of eyes, and acknowledge that it might not have been the best depiction of teenage life.

Neither Penn nor Leighton commented on the Gossip Girl reboot which aired last year, but Leighton has made comments in previous interviews, revealing that she “wouldn’t rule out” the possibility of a cameo at some stage. We can only hope for the return of the iconic Blair Waldorf.


How to talk about your sexual fantasies with your partner

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When you’re already comfortable with your partner on matters to do with the bedroom, you don’t expect that you will have situations where you might hesitate to communicate what you want.

But something that people might find hard to approach their partner about is sexual fantasies.

First, know that you are not weird for having sexual fantasies because it is normal. If you want to tell your partner about something new you would want to try, this is how you can have a smooth conversation:

  • Give yourself time before bringing it up

What goes on in our minds isn’t always easy to decipher. One day you might feel like you want to try something crazy in the bedroom and the next you realize that that’s not something that you would actually want to do in real life.

Before you jump into having this conversation, give yourself a minute to see whether you are 100 percent sure that this is what you want. By the time you’re actually having this talk, you will be fully confident to go ahead if your partner is up for it.

  • Be honest about your feelings

When you’re not sexually satisfied in your relationship, things can go south. You shouldn’t feel ashamed for wanting to feel fulfilled so this is nothing to be embarrassed about.

So don’t make it a huge deal when you’re expressing your feelings. If the conversation doesn’t go the way you expected it to, at least you can say that you were being honest about it and you tried.

  • Bring the fantasy up as a ‘by the way

Having a full conversation about it is one way to approach this convo. But, maybe the thing that would work for you is bringing it up as a passing thought to gauge how it’s going to be received.

You can say things like, ‘’wouldn’t it be interesting if we tried…’’ or, ‘’what’s your thought on…’’

This can be something you bring up when you’re in a relaxed mood to take away the awkwardness.

  • Approach a taboo topic carefully

People’s definition of fantasy isn’t always the same thing. For some people, it might be something common like bondage or using sex toys but for others, it’s some seriously freaky stuff.

If what you’re thinking about is something unusual, approach everything calmly. Communicate in detail what exactly you mean, so that your partner can understand you better. I’m sure they will have a couple of questions so, be ready for that.

Regardless of what you would want to talk about, it’s important to make it clear that you’re not pressuring them into anything.

Listen to what they have to say and give them room to think about it if they need to because that also shows you’re not only concerned about what you want.


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The Erotic Thriller Is Still the Best Way to Talk About Sex

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Photo-Illustration: Vulture/Photo by Paramount Pictures

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How’s this for a fantasy: It’s 1988, and you pick up a copy of Mother Jones to read about Fatal Attraction, the blockbuster everyone’s been obsessively talking about. Glenn Close stars as Alex Forrest, a hot, successful book editor who can wear a full-length leather trench coat like a dark angel. She meets Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas), and after one weekend of hot sex, she’s smitten and he’s out the door. What happens next is probably 100 minutes of a man’s worst nightmare: the woman who will not go away. The woman who threatens his happy domestic life with his beautiful wife and child, even though he jeopardized it in the first place. The woman who will boil the fluffy bunny with the same casualness of cooking a box of Annie’s Mac & Cheese.

The article begins with a 16-year-old girl who worked at a movie theater and watched grown men react to the movie by screaming, “Beat that bitch! Kill her off now!” when Close was onscreen. A little further down, you read all about the film’s labyrinthine journey from an idea to a blockbuster. How James Dearden’s original script entered development as a sympathetic portrayal of a single woman until studio execs turned it into the story of a villainous, largely unsympathetic psycho. And then you get to this quote by the film’s director, Adrian Lyne, explaining his take on Alex and her real-life counterparts: single women in publishing who lived in studio apartments in New York (he researched them extensively):

“They are … sort of overcompensating for not being men. It’s sad, you know, because it kind of doesn’t work. You hear feminists talk, and the last 10, 20 years, you hear women talking about fucking men rather than being fucked, to be crass about it. It’s kind of unattractive, however liberated and emancipated it is. It kind of fights the whole wife role, the whole childbearing role. Sure you got your career and your success but you are not fulfilled as a woman. 

My wife has never worked. She’s the least ambitious person I’ve ever met. She’s a terrific wife. She hasn’t the slightest interest in doing a career. She kind of lives with me, and it’s a terrific feeling. I come home, and she’s there.” 

Well! Despite that quote (or maybe because of it), Lyne’s movies went on to become box-office hits, defining a genre, one that maintained the same casual misogyny in his interview, naturally. In the early ’90s, he cemented his reputation as the erotic thriller guy (9½ Weeks, Indecent Proposal, Unfaithful). The politics of those films never got less icky, but they remained enormously popular before flaming out entirely by the early aughts. And how could you not watch them? They were fun and thrilling and taboo and made for and about adults entangled in very adult situations that allowed them to engage with their sexual desires. Those expressions were maximalist, surprising, ridiculous, problematic, violent acts of straight-up wild fucking, like Michael Douglas and Glenn Close going at it on the edge of the kitchen counter while she splashed his nipples and hers with water from the sink. Or Demi Moore in a threesome with Woody Harrelson and piles of dollar bills (Indecent Proposal) or Linda Fiorentino riding Peter Berg, her “designated fuck,” against a chain-link fence without taking off her heels (The Last Seduction). Or Jennifer Tilly guiding Gina Gershon’s fingers across her breast tattoo just before saying, “Isn’t it obvious? I’m trying to seduce you,” and begging her to kiss her already (Bound). There were so many saxophones, so many extremely long sequences of thrusting against refrigerators or office desks or concrete walls outside buildings. Entwined bodies became wrecking balls, destroying beds and kitchens and anything — physical, emotional, philosophical — in their path.

Now it’s 2022, and Lyne and his soapy psychosexual dramas are back in the public consciousness. In March, he released his first film in 20 years, Deep Water, an adaptation of a Patricia Highsmith novel about a snail-loving husband tortured by the high-stakes sex games his wife likes to engage in; basically a perfect movie on paper. Even though there were early signs of trouble — multiple delays until eventually they bagged the theatrical release altogether — the combination of Lyne; a big budget; and two real, shiny movie stars (Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas) on the marquee seemed to signal a true rebirth of the genre. I wanted to see it, then I wanted to go to dinner and talk about it, then I wanted to go home and bone about it in a way that was maybe inspired by what I’d watched. And I wanted it to be good. Was I asking too much? Absolutely not. We deserved this. It had been so long.

But Deep Water didn’t end the dry spell. The first part of the movie establishes that Melinda (de Armas), a neo–femme fatale, loves dangling her himbo lovers in front of her quietly suffering husband, Vic (Affleck). (But why? To bait him? For the fun of it? For the kink of it?) All of Lyne’s musty moralizing is still here. Sure, it’s an open marriage that seems to prioritize Melinda’s insatiable sexual desire, but the movie’s Greek chorus of men continuously chalk it up to her hysteria. “Melinda is fucked up!” they all cry confusedly. Melinda is also completely financially dependent on her billionaire husband. The ins and outs of their (one-sided, it appears) open marriage go from intriguingly vague to murky real fast, so by the time Vic and Melinda go at it, there’s none of that long-simmering tension that makes these kinds of scenes pop.

It’s a sex scene that feels like the movie is afraid of sex. There is no foreplay, no luxuriating in the act, nothing that feels remotely kinky or surprising. (They try: Melinda asks Vic to “kiss my ass,” a weak gesture toward anilingus.) You can’t tell who is in control, who is enjoying themselves, what this sex means in the construct of their thing (is it a hate fuck? A reconciliatory fuck?). Deep Water doesn’t deliver the two elements that make the genre amazing: hot sex and high-stakes thrills that complicate how we feel about the hot sex.

It was that special blend that made an erotic thriller an erotic thriller. Even when they were regressive, even when they compelled assholes to scream sexist tirades at the screen, the genre offered a window into society’s sexual anxieties. Fatal Attraction ends when Dan’s wife, Beth (Anne Archer), kills Alex in self-defense. As the credits roll, the camera lingers on a family photo on their mantle indicating that all is right. The single woman is dead, and the family unit will survive despite her. Yet the film’s eroticism also came from the idea that the accepted power balance, and everything associated with it — marriages, livelihoods, social order, male dominance — was sitting on a precipice. Everything could go off a cliff at any moment with a flick of a red-nailed finger. So the sex had to be good — really fucking good — to justify risking all of that in the first place.

The lure of the erotic thriller isn’t just in watching something sexually taboo— if I want sex onscreen, I can find it. I can go over to HBO, where it shows 30 dicks a minute in a single episode of a series. (However, if one more person names Euphoria, the HBO show about Gen-Z high-school students as an example of sex that is sexy, I will scream. Euphoria is a show about teenagers.) What I’m missing is the feeling that the sex is not just an act but a manifestation of something we aren’t supposed to acknowledge about the ways pleasure intersects with pain and power. These films dislodged something in the cultural psyche of the ’90s, reflecting the concerns, tastes, anxieties, fears, and politics (good and bad) of the yuppies in the audience. They genuinely turned viewers on and genuinely terrified them.

You can’t just slap the ’90s on a 2020s erotic thriller and expect it to work — they have to be re-created to speak to our specific anxieties. The good thing, for erotic-thriller fans, is that many of the conversations these movies provoked are more unfinished than we like to think.

On any given Friday in 1992, you could choose from a selection of erotic thrillers that rivaled the number of options on a diner menu. You could see Basic Instinct (the Platonic ideal of erotic thrillers), Damage (Jeremy Irons as a British politician who has an illicit, tragic affair with his son’s fiancée, Juliette Binoche), The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (crazy nanny tries to kill wife, seduce husband, steal baby), Single White Female (crazy roommate tries to kill other roommate, steal her life, maybe seduce her too if the filmmakers weren’t cowards), or Poison Ivy (crazy teenage girl tries to kill best friend, seduce her father, kill her mother). Even the superhero movie of the day, Batman Returns, had an erotic thriller hidden in Selina Kelly’s plot line. (The bat and the cat … they fuck.) An embarrassment of horny and problematic content.

This was the peak of the genre. People knew exactly what to expect when they sat down in the cloth-covered movie-theater seats with their popcorn, waiting patiently through trailers: a slightly trashy (or fully trashy), cheap-to-make movie that only existed to tell a story about sex, seduction, and power. The formula is so ingrained in moviegoers’ souls we know intuitively that Black Swan is not an erotic thriller, and neither is Fifty Shades of Grey (but Fifty Shades Darker is). These movies were, as Linda Ruth Williams dubbed them, “one-handed watchers,” films that were propelled by sex, not just movies with sex in them.

The settings were lush, opulent, urban (S.F., NYC, L.A.) or a train ride away from urban (the suburbs). Steamy long shots of gloriously grimy Soho made frequent cameos. They were almost exclusively made by white men (a handful of them, specifically Lyne, Paul Verhoeven, and Joe Eszterhas) and about upper-middle-class, straight white people and their preoccupations; you could generally expect to see Michael Douglas (or a similar kind of male movie star) get led around by his dick while a fantastically dressed variation on the femme fatale had her way with/manipulated/stalked him until she got punished for it in some way (usually death). These women are what make the films memorable. I’ve always responded to their sexual liberation and determination. They said things like “Fuck me, give it to me, I want this, I want that, don’t stop”—all vocal consent and a healthy understanding of their desires. (Necessary when so much of the sex in these movies is tinged with violence.)

No matter how good the postcoital conversations about the movies were (and they were — these movies sparked excellent controversies and protests and debates), the box office reflected a waning popularity by 1995. You can blame the subsequent, long dry period that followed on one movie. “Showgirls made a real change in the culture,” explains Karina Longworth, the host of the podcast You Must Remember This, the new season of which focuses on the history of sex in Hollywood movies of the ’80s and ’90s. The movie was a team effort by two of the genre’s marquee names, Verhoeven (Basic Instinct) and Eszterhas (Basic Instinct, Jade, Sliver, Jagged Edge), and the first NC-17 movie to go mainstream. Elizabeth Berkley’s flail-acting, and the over-the-top “How did his dick not break?” sex scenes, pushed the genre into the realm of parody. Critics hated it, and it tanked at the box office. (Though the direct-to-video versions were still doing robust business, and now it is considered a cult classic simply for how audaciously bad it dared to be.)

“I don’t think we can understate how it made even the idea of going to see a movie like that so uncool. It made it difficult to take this material seriously,” Longworth says. “You didn’t want to run into your friends at the movie theater and admit you were seeing Showgirls.” The hangover lasted so long she’s not sure if a serious attempt at an erotic thriller could be received earnestly anymore. “I don’t know if people can still be as enraptured by an erotic thriller the way they demand you be. I don’t know if people can not laugh at those things now.”

Since then, the genre has gone flaccid, and like most flaccid things concerning white men, there’s been almost too much analysis of why. We ponder why the genre died every time there’s an attempt to reboot it, no matter how hollow. (In 2013, when Brian DePalma’s Passion came out; in 2015–18, when the Fifty Shades trilogy came out; in 2017, when Unforgettable came out; in 2019, when Netflix released What/If, a gender-flipped TV-series homage to Indecent Proposal. And, of course, we are analyzing it now in the wake of Deep Water.) With every piece that chronicles how they fell off, there’s a plea for them to come back. But like Alex Forrest, we just can’t accept that it’s over.

It’s possible that tastes have changed too much. I love erotic thrillers deeply, but even I can admit these movies are corny. Rewatching the classics feels out of step with our modern self-awareness; they take themselves and their seductions so seriously. Indecent Proposal’s hot-pile-of-money sex scene is hot for the first ten seconds, then the camera lingers forever as Sade’s “No Ordinary Love” swells. 9½ Weeks tried to make emptying the contents of your fridge onto your lover’s body extremely sexy, and at the time, nobody seemed to think it was a bad idea to use Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” during a seduction. Watching some of them, you get the same full-body cringe you feel when you catch yourself making a sexy serious face in the mirror and realize how you look when you’re trying to express desire. We just don’t fuck like that anymore.

The nostalgia bath of it all allows us to enjoy these movies while distancing ourselves from their obvious shortcomings. The focus on white hetero men and their hang-ups. The inability to deal with queerness (Bound is the rare exception) or race (there is no exception). Filmmakers got away with misogyny in a way that would ignite Twitter today. Enjoying Indecent Proposal meant buying into the underlying assertion: “Well, of course that rich white man is very powerful and therefore should get to have sex with Demi Moore.”

It’s easy to smugly acknowledge how out-of-date these movies are. What was considered shocking was born from the kinds of topics that dominated dinner parties in 1991. They didn’t have the same language to discuss slut shaming or the male anxiety over women’s sexual power the way we do now. What was considered taboo onscreen was way more scandalizing in a more sexually conservative climate, one where the AIDS epidemic had led to increased moralizing around sex. Because everything feels so dated, and “of another time,” it’s hard to see the organic sexiness that existed at the time. We can only analyze the power and the politics and the gender dynamics, not the primal reaction.

It also just feels easier to look backward. Because we’ve stopped being able to talk about sex — actual fleshy, part-to-part, carnal enjoyment of sex — seriously. (You could probably trace this back, in part, to the Clinton scandal, a controversy that unintentionally turned the country into prudes.) We can talk about gender politics and sexual politics, cultural criticism of sex, or the danger of sex, or why we should talk more openly about women’s desire, all with deathly seriousness. But it’s hard to have those conversations while being turned on by the act itself, which is what erotic thrillers ask us to do: to watch hot sex and have big feelings about how complicated and messy and fun it can be all at once.

To me, it’s clear we still have a use for erotic thrillers. It’s why we keep reconsidering the old ones. Nina K. Martin, erotic-thriller scholar and author of Sexy Thrills, has argued that people are nostalgic for the way sex used to be portrayed, and I agree. It’s not that we have an entirely new set of anxieties or taboos to explore (though there are certainly some new ones to add to the list). It’s that we haven’t finished the conversations we were having in 1987 and now seem harder to have in the same thorny way. There’s a reluctance in mainstream cinema to discuss the way that sex, power, danger, and pleasure are all twisted up in each other like bodies at an orgy; we’re not supposed to acknowledge the ways in which dominance, or being pursued (stalked), can be thrilling to watch and not just scary. Right now, it’s too hard to examine a feeling of “This is insane and terrifying and probably not okay, but it’s also hot!” even through the distant gaze of fictional characters. It’s hard to look at the darker parts.

At the time Fatal Attraction was written, you could see why my girl Alex was so fucking scary to men and women too. In 1987, the idea of a crazed, desperate single woman who threatened to destroy a blissful domestic sphere felt real to audiences. One of the biggest stories the year prior was a Newsweek cover story that said why a 40-year-old, single, white college-educated woman was more likely to be killed by a terrorist than to marry. With such statistics, it’s easy to create a terrifying narrative about the lengths single career women would take to get a man. (The cover story was retracted almost 20 years later, though are we still over that statistic? I don’t know.)

I recently rewatched Fatal Attraction, and instead of seeing Alex Forrest as a threat, I saw Dan Gallagher as a sinister, arrogant, entitled manbaby. Dan’s actions are easily identified as cruel and callous, and Alex’s motivations make sense from where I’m standing—a time where a West Elm Caleb can’t send dick pics to the same 15 women and get away with it. When Alex asks, “If your life’s so damn complete, what were you doing with me?” the film doesn’t answer, but we know the answer now: whatever he wants to because he can. The film’s premise that Dan is sympathetic doesn’t hold up anymore. Now, during the last shot of the movie — a slow pan over a family photo displayed on a table—you don’t feel a sense of peace because the family unit is restored. You feel a creeping sense of doom because Gallagher got away with it. He’s in black, and he’s set a little bit away from his family; his eyes are hard. The music never settles into less sinister tones. The villain still lives to fuck someone other than his wife again in six months.

So much of Fatal Attraction is outdated, but the core threat is still relevant. (Last year, Paramount+ announced it would reboot the film as a TV show, with Lizzy Caplan in Close’s role. You have to imagine it will attempt to restore the original “feminist parable.”) “There is big ‘Are men okay?’ energy in a lot of these movies,” says Longworth. “And that’s still a question on a lot of our minds.” Maybe, as Martin recommends, we need to toss out most of the playbook. She has some suggestions on how to do it: They should have glamorous set pieces and precisely five sex scenes per movie. There should be a variety of bodies, ages (no teenagers), ethnicities, partners, and intimacies. Fantasies of danger could be about engaging in new sexual practices rather than the fear of being raped or murdered. More sex, less violence.

I think she’s right, and, please, someone, get on it. Because if erotic thrillers are best viewed as a time capsule, I’d hate for people 30 years from now to watch ours and say, “Damn, was anybody interested in fucking?”

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