In recent years, there has been an upswing in the representation of LGBTI people featured in major Hollywood films.
According to GLAAD’s 2019 Studio Responsibility Index, 20 (18.2%) of the 110 films counted contained LGBTI characters. This is a 5.4% increase from the previous year.
But when it comes to the romantic lives of these LGBTI characters, many directors shy away from showing these sex scenes.
For example, disappointed fans lamented the anti-climactic sex scene in 2017’s Call Me By Your Name. Elio and Oliver start having sex but the camera pans to the window and then cuts out, despite an explicit description of their sex in André Aciman’s 2007 novel of the same name.
So we asked LGBTI people about the first same-sex sex scenes they saw and how old they were. We also wanted to know how the sex scenes impacted their life.
Game of Thrones (2011-2019)
John Moore, 22, from London, said the first same-sex kiss he saw on TV was through the character of Teddy in 90210.
But some of the first same-sex sex scenes he witnessed on TV was on Game of Thrones, when he was 15 years old. It was a moment between Ser Loras Tyrell and Olyver, but Moore’s mother was also watching along.
‘[I] was watching them on screen talking,’ Moore told Gay Star News. ‘Mum came in and asked what it was, and I was like: “Oh these guys like each other”. Then BAM — sex.
‘It was awkward and I remember faking that it was gross but obviously [I] was enjoying it somewhat. Mum laughed and said it was a bit graphic, but said nothing else.
‘I felt like I was more sure of who I was as it was something that made me feel hopeful and represented,’ he said.
For trans woman Juliette, 26, from Washington, seeing trans character Nomi Marks (Jamie Clayton) onscreen with Amanita Caplan (Freema Agyeman) played a role in helping her come to terms with her own gender identity.
‘At the time I was watching Sense8,’ Juliette said. ‘I was still unsure of my identity, but I was still experimenting with it.
She then added: ‘Most trans girl or trans lesbian representation at that time had been limited to exposure to pornography. It was strange to see something sexual but not sexualized.
‘What stood out to me was how Nomi and Amanita were having penetrative sex. So often, trans women are pressured to not do that because penetrative sex is too “straight”.’
She said she still thinks about that scene years later, ‘as it became more and more cemented in my head that I am a girl.’
At Home With The Braithwaites (2000-2003)
When Sarah, 26, from Coventry, watched British comedy-drama TV series At Home With the Braithwaites, the affair between teenager Virginia Braithwaite and her married neighbor Megan opened up her eyes.
At the age of eight, it was her first introduction to same-sex female relationships.
Sarah explained: ‘There wasn’t one scene that I remember over any others apart from that they were very open about Virginia being a teenage lesbian and that she was having an affair with the older female neighbor, Megan.
‘It was my first major introduction to gay relationships and showing women loving women relationships in a normal but sexual way. At the time, I didn’t understand why I loved it so much but looking back on it now it’s so obvious,’ she said.
Footballers’ Wives (2002-2006)
29-year-old Stefan Evans, from Manchester in the UK, said he had his ‘sexual awakening’ at the age of 14 through watching Footballers’ Wives. It was a drama series about the women of the Earls Park football team.
There was a sex scene between soccer players Conrad Gates and Noah Alexander.
‘My mother was definitely in the room,’ Evans said. ‘It was the first time I’d ever seen two men (attractive athletic men at that) going at it like straight people on TV.
‘The hushed silence and awkwardness from family felt loud. In a way, I was trying to figure out what they thought of this.
‘For me, it was exciting, I wanted to see more. I finally realized, I’m very gay,’ he said.
For Niall Hamilton, 24, from London, watching Torchwood’s Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) and Captain John Hart (James Marsters) kissing ‘awoke’ something in him.
‘I was 12 and it awoke something inside so strong,’ he said. ‘They only made out then started fighting but it was all I could think about for weeks.’
Alex MacCuish, 22, from Yorkshire, said Torchwood also contributed to his sexual awakening, when he was just nine years old.
Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd) passionately kisses Captain Jack Harkness in season two, episode three — The Last Man.
MacCuish said: ‘His leather straps started me on my fetish journey.’
But I’m a Cheerleader (2001)
The sex scene in the 2001 film But I’m a Cheerleader is ‘burned’ into the brain of Therin Stapp, 31, from Rhode Island, USA.
Strapp, who identifies as biromantic asexual, revealed she saw the scene when she was 12 years old and it was ‘magical’.
‘I had seen plenty of straight sex scenes by that age,’ Strapp explained. ‘And had looked at at least some porn, though it wasn’t ubiquitous yet. Based on those experiences, sex really really did not appeal to me.’
She then added: ‘But this scene in But I’m a Cheerleader is magical.
‘It’s probably the first thing that made me feel any sort of desire. It’s all close, warm, pink, with loving touches and soft kisses. And the characters really loved each other, which was important.
‘It seemed like a natural progression, rather than a strange grindy digression. And I had no idea sex could be like that,’ she said.
My Brother… Nikhil (2005)
John Samuel, 34, from France, said the 2005 film My Brother… Nikhil, based on a true story about a swimmer in Goa, India, ‘moved’ him a lot.
The swimmer, Nikhil, finds out he is HIV positive and then suffers terrible stigma from his local community.
Samuel explained: ‘The major scene starts when he knocks on the door of his boyfriend, Nigel and asks whether he can stay there with him. There are scenes of hugs and physical contact (Nikhil places his head on Nigel’s shoulders), but nothing beyond that.’
He then added: ‘This film moved me a lot, since I was searching for such a loving partner.’
Jennifer’s Body (2009)
Grace, 19, from Minnesota, said she was about 10 years old when she saw her first same-sex kiss onscreen in Jennifer’s Body.
‘I can’t describe the feeling I had but I was mesmerized,’ she said. ‘I watched the movie over and over again not understanding why I liked it so much.’
She then added: ‘It’s a scene where the two main characters are having a sleepover and all they do is kiss. That’s literally it. Two girls kissing threw me as a 10-year-old.’
Queer As Folk (UK: 1999-2000, US: 2000-2005)
Domenico Zappone, 25, from Milan in Italy, said the first ever gay sex scene he saw was in the pilot episode of Queer As Folk.
It was a scene where Brian Kinney (Gale Harold) takes Justin Taylor’s (Randy Harrison) virginity in an intimate scene.
‘I remember watching the show at night, because it was so “scandalous” for me and didn’t want anyone in my house to know about it,’ Zappone said. ‘I was just beginning middle school so I didn’t really embrace my sexuality, but it helped.’
Zappone then added: ‘I kinda knew I was different but I didn’t know how to put it into words. That show gave meaning to my frustration somehow,’ he said.
17-year-old Hannah, from North-East USA, only saw her first same-sex sex scene last year in Netflix show She-Ra.
It’s a ‘fantastic show full of representation,’ Hannah, who identifies as biromantic asexual, said. ‘Race, sexuality, gender… every kid can find themselves here.’
She then added: ‘I saw two women being romantic and holding hands. It might not have been much, but as someone who grew up in a homophobic home, this meant a lot.
‘I broke down into tears of joy. It meant everything to me to see just a normal relationship like that.
‘I’ve never felt safe or accepted in my family. But seeing two people on a show I loved being open and free just gave me hope,’ she said.
The Celluloid Closet (1995)
For Stuart Knight, 37, from the Midlands in the UK, the first sex scene he saw was in a film called Priest — featured in the 1995 documentary, The Celluloid Closet.
‘I remember watching it in secret as it was on late and had to tape it,’ Knight revealed. ‘I was 14 and felt naughty, felt dirty but felt it was right.’
He then added: ‘It was slowly afterwards that I realized I was gay and began accepting it. Soon after that, I found it on video and bought it, hid it and watched in secret as [I] wasn’t out then.’
Cruel Intentions (1999)
For 27-year-old Elena Barnard, from Wiltshire in the UK, seeing the kiss between Sarah Michelle Gellar and Selma Blair on Cruel Intentions was monumental.
Elena, who identifies as bisexual, said: ‘I remember thinking “Maybe I can get a girl to teach me how to kiss… you know, for research.”‘
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
51-year-old Marcus Chen (not his real name), from Washington DC, said Brokeback Mountain had the ‘greatest impact’ on him helping to identify his sexuality.
The movie stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger as two cowboys who fall in love and secretly spend numerous weekends away from Ledger’s wife.
‘That movie made me realize that I had a same-sex attraction to men,’ he said. ‘It was years later that I identified as bi.’
What was the first same-sex sex scenes you saw?