Natalie Portman's 'No Strings Attached' Sex: Is Hollywood Finally Ditching Its Repressive Attitude?

You may have seen the saucy, sexy previews and ads for the super-hyped new movie, “No Strings Attached.” Paramount is clearly pushing this film, not as just another romantic comedy about women hunting for marriage and men succumbing to its sweet inevitability, but as a daring, edgy, ultra-modern exploration of the “new” relationship models: casual, non-romantic, commitment-free sexual friendships, in which both women and men go in with no expectation of a capital-R Relationship, and no desire for it.

It’s always interesting to see how mainstream media treats gender and sexuality. And as a sex writer with a focus on unconventional sexuality, I’m especially curious when it purports to be shattering myths and breaking new ground. My hopes weren’t high for this one — I’ve seen way too many Hollywood movies titillate themselves and their audiences with transgressive sexual possibilities and then firmly drag everyone back into safe conventionality. But I’ve been wrong before. I’ve gone into more than a few movies prepared to be bored and irritated, and come out surprised and delighted and raving to everyone I know.

Not this time.


Thus begins my latest piece for AlterNet, Natalie Portman’s ‘No Strings Attached’ Sex: Is Hollywood Finally Ditching Its Repressive Attitude? To find out more about the new movie “No Strings Attached” and its take on friendships with benefits, read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!

Natalie Portman's 'No Strings Attached' Sex: Is Hollywood Finally Ditching Its Repressive Attitude?
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11 thoughts on “Natalie Portman's 'No Strings Attached' Sex: Is Hollywood Finally Ditching Its Repressive Attitude?

  1. 1

    I wish you could post your entire piece here instead of sending us to alternet. :S
    I watched “Love and Other Drugs” the other day and liked how the girl was displayed. It wasn’t about marriage and she wasn’t the weak one either.

  2. 3

    Smart business decision on AlterNet’s part, but not so good for us as we have to endure the odious and irrational comments of your religious AlterNet readers.

  3. 5

    Note to self: do not take your friend-with-benefits to this movie.
    (I mean, I don’t usually take much interest in romantic comedies anyway, but if it had been any good it might have been interesting to see Hollywood actually acknowledge that such things exist.)
    I like the movie that you and Rebecca made up much better.

  4. 8

    Oh yay, my pessimistic prediction about this movie was right.
    All I can say is that I’m glad you picked up this topic. A friends-with-benefits relationship seems to be one of those things that only exist in pop culture as straw men. I guess it’s just popular wisdom that they never work out as intended.
    I don’t even mind the “friends with benefits become romantic lovers” trope so much. There are stories I really like that use it. It’s the idea that it’s inevitable that’s the problem.

  5. 10

    I agree whole heartedly, in theory with everything you said, and I’m not going to disagree with anything you said, but I kind of wonder what the point of even deconstructing the movie is.
    I think you are very right about its predictable formula, but its a hollywood romantic comedy and they ALL follow a predictable formula.
    Romantic comedies are NEVER “interested in being authentic, plausible, or connected to human reality” HELLOOOOOO 27 dresses? How to lose a guy in 10 days?? These are not romantic comedies of the artistic and sexual calibre of Shortbus, and I think its weird to lambaste something that never pretended it would meet an unrealistic expectation (i.e. that a movie with Ashton Kutcher would become an anthology of “transgressive sexual possibilities”)
    Big cookie cutter blockbuster movies are never going to be the CAUSE of progress but they certainly are a litmus test for social progress that is actually happening. Just a couple posts ago you were talking about this when discussing Howl. I think its great that the lead female is a) a doctor, and b)not looking to get married and have babies or more importantly c) not waiting for marriage before having sex which believe it or not some teen TV shows still use as a plot device.
    I quite like the plot improvements you mentioned. I think even such a small change would have made a difference in the impression the movie might make on young people, but all and all still reveals a much healthier culture than 27 dresses.

  6. 11

    I kind of wonder what the point of even deconstructing the movie is.

    The point is that pop culture can be a window into regular culture. Analyzing what kinds of stories we pay to see can, I think, show us something about who we are. And in particular, I think analyzing predictable, boilerplate stories that dip a nervously tittering toe into adventure before scurrying back to safety can tell us a lot — both about what we consider excitingly adventurous, and what we consider reassuringly safe.
    No Strings Attached was the top grossing movie the weekend it opened. That should tell us something.

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