Once upon a time, in a more prudish Hollywood, it was considered risqué to show couples sleeping in the same bed. Sex was a sacred act, and any intimacy between characters was only implied but never shown.
Cue the sexual revolution in the 1960s and, suddenly, Hollywood no longer treats the subject of sex with careful reverence. Performers’ bodies are now seen as a decoration to be consumed for one’s viewing pleasure — a mindset that has placed an unfair amount of pressure on female actresses.
Actress Salma Hayek recently opened up about the stress of filming her first sexually explicit scene with co-star Antonio Banderas in the 1995 film “Desperado.” During an interview published Monday on actor Dax Shepard’s podcast, “Armchair Expert,” Hayek revealed that she did not know beforehand that the role required her to be that vulnerable on camera.
“The love scene was not in the script,” Hayek said. “It was demanded by the studio when they saw the chemistry, and I had a really, really hard time with that.”
In the scene, Hayek and Banderas make love before the villains show up to kill them. The studio likely intended it to be a fun, memorable moment, but Hayek admitted the stress of the shoot made it hard to feel any enjoyment watching the scene post-production.
While the scene was filmed on a closed set, which provided Hayek with a little privacy, she was still afraid of being naked on camera for the first time.
“So, when we were going to start shooting, I started to sob, and I said, ‘I don’t know that I can do it, I don’t know that I can do it, I don’t know that I can do it.’ I said, ‘I’m afraid, I’m afraid,’” the actress said.
The actress clarified that her distress had nothing to do with the director or her co-star, however.
“One of the things I was afraid was Antonio, because he was an absolute gentleman and so nice, and we’re still very close friends — but he was very free. So it scared me that for him, it was like nothing. And that scared me because I’ve never been in front of someone like that,” she said. “And I was so embarrassed that I was crying.”
“But I was not letting go of the towel. And they would try to make me laugh and things. I would take it off for two seconds and then I started crying again. But we got through it. … We did the best with what we could do at the time.”
As the Sanford Meisner method of acting teaches, actors must “live truthfully under the imaginary circumstances.” When the camera started rolling, Hayek said she tried to live as Carolina so she could do the scene, but she could not stop wondering what her family would think of it.
“When you’re not you, you can do it. But I kept thinking of my father and my brother, and are they going to see it?” she said. “And are they going to get teased? Guys don’t have that. … Your father will be like, ‘Yeah! That’s my son!’”
Hayek is not the only actress to admit that she felt overwhelmed by the boundaries the entertainment industry was forcing her to cross.
In February 2016, Maxim published 13 stories about female celebrities who struggled with the pressure of filming a sex scene. Some actresses, such as Jennifer Lawrence and Keira Knightley, confessed that they resorted to alcohol to survive the experience.
Actresses are not the only ones harmed by these degrading scenes, as thousands of men and women devour entertainment with gratuitous sex and female nudity. It would be one thing if the intention were to tell a story but, more often than not, the purpose is to portray women as objects of titillation.
If Hollywood still wishes to maintain its feminist credibility, it should start producing media that clarifies the naked female form is not an object for sale.
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