Male dominance in the film industry has historically moulded sexual depictions of women in objectified and degrading ways. It has also perpetuated these attitudes on set. Maria Schneider’s experience, in which she was purposely excluded from the decision to substitute butter for lubricant in her scripted rape scene, demonstrated indifference to boundaries in the workplace. In fact, the intention for director Bernardo Bertolucci was to inspire a genuine emotion of humiliation in Schneider, treating her as a prop on set. The negative psychological impact on Schneider demonstrated the need for safeguarding measures protecting women in the film industry.
Following the viral #MeToo movement in 2017, concerns around sexual assault and manipulative behaviour in the industry were pushed to the forefront. The exposure of Harvey Weinstein unmasked a world of abuse behind the glamorised Hollywood name.
In the same year, intimacy coordinator Ita O’Brien introduced her ‘Intimacy on Set Guidelines’, inspiring a momentous shift in the treatment towards sex on set. New rules were implemented to ensure actors’ consent and set boundaries for their comfort. This shift also impacted the representation of sex on screen. Rather than constituting an entertaining and commodified addition to film and TV, sex scenes were revolutionised as realistic, vulnerable and emotive portrayals of human experience.
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