Let’s talk about sex (and movies).
Review aggregation site CherryPicks, which amplifies female-identifying and non-binary voices, is launching a podcast centered on women and sex onscreen, titled “CherryPop,” with hosts Beandrea July and Meg McCarthy.
“In film criticism, it’s not talked enough about the relationship that women have with sex, with their sexuality, with their self-exploration,” CherryPicks director of production McCarthy tells Variety. “And, as women, we identify so much with the way that we’re portrayed in film and television — which, as we know, is not always correct. We’re just trying to debunk some of those myths; like the myth of virginity, the myth of the three-stroke orgasm, which we’ve seen in countless movies, and trying to break down the stigma around female pleasure, too.”
McCarthy says her film and sex education both started when she was a young girl and would hide behind the couch as her older brothers stayed up late watching movies.
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“They’d watch all these amazing movies like ‘Alien’ and that’s how I learned to love film, but whenever I would see a sex scene, I immediately was like, ‘What is this? There’s something wrong with this,’” McCarthy recalls. “And I think that we’re first exposed as young women, a lot of times it’s when we’re up too late and we catch something we’re not supposed to see. So it’s more about that feeling of shame as a kid, as a young woman.”
Though she loved “Dirty Dancing” and “Titanic” as much as the next young woman, McCarthy says films like those gave her the wrong impression about sex. “I truly thought that sex was this magical, romantic, easy, always pleasurable thing, and I feel sort of led on by movies and television.”
“We can’t sort of miss the fact that for most of cinematic history, it’s been a certain kind of director [or] writer determining what the narrative is,” July adds. (The culture writer and audio producer’s earliest and most memorable experience was seeing “Boyz N the Hood” in the fourth grade, with her friend’s mother covering their faces with a windbreaker).
But as the industry opens up to become more representative and inclusive of female-identifying and non-binary creators, the team believes that now is a great time to talk about what’s going right and what’s going wrong when it comes to the portrayal of sex onscreen.
The first six episodes of the podcast will roll out weekly with guests, including Sasheer Zamata (“Woke”), “The Morning Show” actress Bel Powley, and “Yes, God, Yes” star Natalia Dyer and director Karen Maine, discussing the best and worst sexual firsts in film — including their first time having sex onscreen, first time filming a sex scene, first same-sex experience, first time “doing it well” and sexuality onscreen for women over 50. The launch of the new show follows CherryPicks’ weekly film horoscope podcast, “Cinemastrology,” as well as the platform’s Instagram Live series “CherryChat,” which McCarthy also hosts. Debuting Oct. 4, the series will be available on iTunes podcasts and Spotify.
“Empowering women to share their perspective and voice is one of the main directives at CherryPicks, so we created ‘CherryPop,’ a podcast which allows our audience to welcome much-needed healthy dialogues around the female sexual experience as it pertains to film and television,” CherryPicks CEO and co-founder Miranda Bailey said in a statement. Bailey and Rebecca Odes founded CherryPicks in 2018.
McCarthy and July began workshopping ideas for a podcast about a year ago, aiming to focus on a very specific subject matter versus creating another “chop-it-up” style show. July was particularly inspired to dig into the topic of sex in movies after reading a piece written last summer by the Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday about how sex scenes are disappearing from movies.
“Personally, I’ve always kind of been on this soapbox of ‘sex scenes are really lazy and poorly done in general and in movies,’” July explains. “I thought [Hornaday’s piece] was interesting because the sex scenes that are there tend to be either the sort of simulated sex — where they wake up under the sheets kind of thing — or the ones that actually show something, it just feels very one-sided or just not true to the range of what’s possible in real life.”
The team also plans to examine the double standard in the industry — and the ratings system — over portraying male versus female sexuality on screen. When asked if they’d tackle movie moments like the battle over “Blue Valentine,” which the MPAA almost rated NC-17, July says, “Female pleasure seems to send things to hell, and obviously, the reverse with [the male orgasm] is barely PG-13. But we’re just definitely curious about what that double standard is about. And we have some ideas.”
But as much as the podcast will analyze the ways movies and television have gotten it wrong when it comes to women and sex, the team is excited to highlight some films and filmmakers who are doing it right, pointing to classic films like Gina Prince-Bythewood’s “Love and Basketball” or new ones like Barry Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk.”
July heaps additional praise on filmmakers who have found a way to make sex cinematic.
“’Diary of a Teenage Girl’ with Marielle Heller, the way that she shot those scenes, — in the hands of another director they could have been a lot more exploitative or even gratuitous,” she explains. “But Marielle is so good at really knowing what the subtext of a scene is and shooting it, not shooting sex for the lowest common denominator.”
“I think the care that filmmakers are taking, especially this new surge of amazing filmmakers, what they’re doing that’s different from, unfortunately, some of the older-school, directors that we all grew up on, and how harmful and hurtful that was to our sexual expectations,” McCarthy says. “Hopefully now there will be a new generation who can look to movies that do a really nice job at that. I’m mostly excited about kind of educating some gals, guys and whoever, on how these films can be educational and also pleasurable and enjoyable at the same time.”
Listen to a teaser of the podcast below: