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New Survey Shows the 5 Things Hollywood Gets Most Wrong About Sex

Don't forget the foreplay!

It's no secret that romantic movies often give people unrealistic expectations about love and relationships. But a new survey by the online medical website Zava shows just how deep the discrepancies are between the way sex is portrayed on screen versus how it plays out in real life. The website surveyed more than 2,000 British people and analyzed 50 films with iconic sex scenes—such as Fifty Shades of Grey and Ghost—to see how movie sex and sex in reality compare. Unsurprisingly, it turns out Hollywood is getting a lot of things wrong, from the demographics to the protection to the foreplay. Here are the top 5 things you're being misinformed about when it comes to sex on the big screen.

Movies rarely show older people having sex, even though they're definitely doing it—and better!

Old Allie and Noah embrace in a scene from The Notebook, what hollywood gets wrong about sex
New Line Cinema

The Zava survey found that while cinema may favor the young, older couples are having a lot more sex—and better sex at that.

According to their findings, 43 percent of people over 55 say they are having orgasms during intercourse, and that figure rises to 52 percent if they engage in foreplay beforehand. That's quite the contrast from the 26 percent of 16 to 24 years olds who can say the same thing.

Clearly, there are benefits to being older, wiser, and more experienced when it comes to sex, like Allie (Gena Rowlands) and Noah (James Garner) in The Notebook (pictured here).

Movies rarely show safe sex, even though people are using contraceptives.

Julia Roberts wears blond bob wig and holds condoms in Pretty Woman, things hollywood gets wrong about sex
Buena Vista Pictures

The Zava survey found that two percent of on-screen encounters depict safe sex, but in reality, 20 percent of the people interviewed say they use condoms. Like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, there are more "safety girls" in the real world than Hollywood would make you think.

Movies barely show foreplay, which is much more common in reality.

Demi Moore with cropped hair in white shirt sits at pottery wheel with patrick swayze behind her in ghost, things hollywood gets wrong about sex
Paramount Pictures

Only 27 percent of on-screen sex scenes show couples engaging in foreplay prior to sex, whereas, in real life, 69 percent of respondents said they usually or always set the mood first (like Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze in Ghost, pictured here).

This can serve as a potential issue in the bedroom, especially for women, who typically need more engagement prior to intercourse in order to achieve the desired levels of sexual arousal.

"When it comes to orgasms, and female orgasms in particular, arousal is key and this often takes time," Denise Knowles, a licensed relationship counselor at Emotional Insights, said in a press release about the Zava study. "By just jumping straight to the 'main show,' movies may be giving people unrealistic expectations when it comes to arousal and how long it can take."

Movies show a disproportionate amount of female orgasms.

Meg Ryan throws head back while faking orgasm, things hollywood gets wrong about sex
Columbia Pictures

While 39 percent of on-screen sex scenes show a female orgasm, only 19 percent of women say they always climax during sex, the Zava survey found. (By comparison, 77 percent of males say they always orgasm during sex.) This could potentially give both men and women unrealistic expectations and could also cause sexual insecurity for both parties, especially given that 24 percent of women surveyed said that they've never had an orgasm during sex at all.

Additionally, the dramatic way in which the orgasm is often portrayed can become a source of confusion for couples. "I often ask women, 'How do you know if you've had an orgasm? What were you expecting?'" Knowles said. "A lot of women are waiting for that When Harry Met Sally earth-shattering moment [pictured here]. When, in reality, they may have already experienced an orgasm that just didn't meet their expectations."

And movies make simultaneous orgasms seem far more common than they actually are.

Ben and Mrs. Robinson in bed in The Graduate, things hollywood gets wrong about sex
Embassy Pictures

On screen, 30 percent of couples climax at the same time. And when you look at the aforementioned data—19 percent of women climax every time during sex versus 77 of males—that just can't be true. (Not every couple can be like Ben and Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate, pictured here.)

With all this in mind, it's no wonder that only four percent of Zava survey respondents said Hollywood's portrayal of sex is realistic. The results show that as pleasant as these sex scenes may be to watch, they're certainly divorced from reality.

And for more on how movies and TV shows are ruining your sex life, check out this study saying One in Four People Would Rather Watch Netflix Than Have Sex.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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