With recent online discourse surrounding sex scenes in media, You star Penn Badgley has chimed into the conversation with his own experiences.
There’s no place like Twitter when it comes to discourse, and over the past few years discussions about how sex is depicted in movies and TV have become a rather hot topic.
With opinions varying from sex scenes being pointless to sex on screen violating the audiences’ consent, even actors have started getting in on the discussion.
The flames have only been fanned by recent statements made in an interview by actor Penn Badgley. Badgley may be starring in the erotic – and often erratic – thriller You, but it seems like he himself isn’t very much into sex scenes on screen, even calling them “disturbing.”
Sex scenes are a “mercurial boundary” for Penn Badgley
In an interview with Variety, Badgley discussed his discomfort with sex scenes, “having done a fair amount of them in my career.”
“It’s not a place where I’ve blurred lines,” he said. “There’s almost nothing I could say with more consecration. That aspect of Hollywood has always been very disturbing to me – and that aspect of the job, that mercurial boundary – has always been something that I actually don’t want to play with at all.”
Of course, being on You means that Badgley, who stars as the “romantic” lead Joe, has had to continue doing sex scenes, which he admits he’d rather not: “It’s important to me in my real life to not have them.”
The actor even said that he’d discussed his discomfort with You showrunner Sera Gamble, ahead of Season 4, and changes were then made for him: “I told her kind of my desire, and she immediately was accepting and responsive.
“I’m always very practical. I said I know it can’t be none, because there’s something coded into the DNA of the show, and I signed the contract, and so it is what it is but as little as possible would be my preference.”
Penn Badgley worries sex scenes may border on infidelity
One significant reason why Badgley doesn’t like doing sex scenes is that he feels they infringe upon real-world relationships.
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In Badgley’s case, the amount of sex Joe would have in You made the actor uncomfortable in regards to his marriage. When asked to expand upon this, Badgley explained: “My fidelity in my relationship. It’s important to me. And actually, it was one of the reasons that I initially wanted to turn the role down. I didn’t tell anybody that. But that is why.”
Badgley has been married to Domino Kirke-Badgley since 2017. Turns out, she actually “encouraged” him to play Joe, “and I wasn’t going to listen to anyone more than her.”
While sex scenes may be seen as inappropriate to some, those lines get even more blurred when it comes to underage characters. Not only that, but underage actors being involved in sex scenes calls into question the ethics of the industry as a whole.
Badgley, who began his career at age 12, has his regrets about being a child actor. His first movie credit was the 2001 cult film The Fluffer, and according to him, “when I read the script, neither my agents, my mom, nor I knew what a fluffer was – and I was the first one to find out because I read the script first.”
To him, that represents everything wrong with oversexualisation in media, “that is a microcosm of the whole thing! Should a 12-year-old be…? Let’s go ahead and just say no.”
On an episode of his own podcast, Podcrushed, Badgley also discussed his unease with the show he is arguably most known for, Gossip Girl. To him, while it was bad enough that adult actors were playing teens – teens that drank and had sex in limos – it would have been even worse had the actors actually been the age of the characters they were playing.
“You wouldn’t want to watch it!” he exclaimed, “I don’t think we realize how upsetting it would be to see teens drinking and having sex.”
With shows like Euphoria following in this pattern, it seems clear that this topic of discussion is only going to continue into the future, for better or worse.
You Season 4 Part 1 is currently available to stream on Netflix. You can check out the rest of our You coverage here.