2022 was a great year for on-screen sex. That’s true across the entertainment industry, but especially in Hollywood. As the advent of streaming services liberated writers and producers from the strictures of broadcast and the Motion Picture Association, creators have inserted more erotically daring storytelling into mainstream works. From Netflix’s delightfully bold teen comedy Sex Education to full-frontal male nudity becoming commonplace on HBO, we’re clearly in a novel era of sexual expression on screen.
Even in this brave ‘nude’ world, a few sex scenes do still manage to stand out from the crowd. This past year was full of very buzzy ones, and though they didn’t all have happy endings, they kept us talking about sex and love, plus our reactions to seeing them on-screen. Here’s an unofficial and non-exhaustive list of sex scenes that were all the rage in 2022.
Euphoria — Season 2, Episode 1: “Trying to Get to Heaven Before They Close the Door”
Season 2 of Euphoria kicked off the year with a bang. Or many bangs, as it were. When mean girl Maddy finds a bathroom at a raucous party, she gets more than she bargained for when she figures out her brooding ex-boyfriend Nate is inside. As she beats on the door with her fists, Nate is actually leaned up on the other side of it with Maddy’s best friend Cassie, furiously fucking her.
But when they realize who’s at the door, the pair scrambles to obscure the betrayal. Cassie ends up hiding in the bathtub while Maddy relieves herself, and the moment becomes 2022’s very first photo meme. Divorced from its context, the shot looks like it’s more likely to come from a horror flick than a sex scene. But, of course, that only adds to the fun, and it helped Sydney Sweeney become a household name this year. Everyone wins! Except maybe Cassie…
Don’t Worry Darling
Some sex scenes get to make their impact in the context of the story, with audiences mostly unaware of them pre-release. Others have reputations that precede them, for better or for worse. On the press tour for this year’s Don’t Worry Darling, director Olivia Wilde stated repeatedly that she wanted to bring “good sex” back to film, and insisted that her sophomore film centered women’s pleasure. Needless to say, expectations were high…
The scene itself is pretty innocuous, with a workaholic husband (played by Harry Styles) going down on his homemaker wife (Florence Pugh) in a lengthy but fully clothed cunnilingus session. The trouble is in the movie’s twist (spoilers ahead): the women in the depicted 1950s neighborhood are all trapped in a simulation designed by their husbands with virtually no means of escape. This renders all of the sex that occurs within this odious realm to be non-consensual, making Wilde’s statements seem painfully aloof at best. She would have been wise to let the scene speak for itself.
P-Valley — Season 2, Episode 4: “Demethrius”
The best thing about a serialized show is how you can get more deeply acquainted with a character over many hours instead of just two or three. By the show’s second season, Pussy Valley’s star stripper Mercedes feels like a layered cake, with new flavors unfolding as you savor each bite. It’s clear that she’s still learning new things about herself too, as a private rendition of “The Mercedes Experience” becomes a gateway to her own desires for once.
When a shoulder injury and Covid-related chaos put a major dent in Mercedes’ income, she begins to dabble in escorting, accepting the offer of “sponsorship” from a longtime patron of the Pynk. Though she’s usually quite adept at not mixing business and pleasure, she quickly finds herself entangled in her client’s marriage when a mutual attraction develops between herself and his wife, Farrah. When they decide to act on that attraction in “Demethrius”, an incredibly hot scene of sapphic bliss ensues. This tryst was as delicious as it was doomed from the start, but just like Mercedes and Farrah did, viewers ate it up and enjoyed every bite.
Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire — Season 1, Episode 1: “In the Throes of Increasing Wonder”
Speaking of biting, the eroticization of vampires has long been the domain of fan fiction and other indie entertainment, occasionally breaking through to large audiences, like with True Blood or Twilight. But rarely has this supernatural genre of sex ever looked so sensual on screen, and part of an unambiguous queer romance to boot. As many “fangbangers” have pointed out, many of the earliest vampire stories had queer subtext, and Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire from AMC pays homage to this history.
In the pilot episode, vampire Louis recounts how he became that way to the titular interviewer. The series flashes back to his natural life as a brothel owner in early 20th-century New Orleans, when he first met a mysterious tourist named Lestat. At first, Louis interprets their instant chemistry as animus, but he’s drawn in deeper by curiosity, until he correctly assesses the energy and yields to desire. One passionate romp and a bloody love bite later, and the pair have formed a deeply intimate bond. Was the levitation a little over the top? Sure, but these two totally sell it.
And Just Like That… — Season 1, Episode 5: “Tragically Hip”
This scene was the first one to be featured in the “Sex Scene Hall of Fame” segment of the LUSTLETTER, POV’s bi-weekly newsletter that launched earlier this year. It was an easy contender for its unique brand of chaos, featuring midday tequila shots, a brazen affair, and a piss-soaked bed (but not in a fun way). Let’s back up: “And Just Like That…” is the sequel series to HBO tentpole Sex and the City, featuring 75 percent of it the OG show’s core cast. (Kim Cattrall is dearly missed, as the show probably has about 75 percent less sex without her!) Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte are still thick as thieves, though their social circles have grown beyond that trio in the nearly two decades since SATC’s conclusion.
But those bonds are seriously tested when Miranda abandons a bedbound Carrie for an illicit hookup in her kitchen. Resting after a recent hip surgery, Carrie is forced to overhear her best friend having a guttural orgasm, hand-delivered by Carrie’s own boss. And that was the least of her indignities. When Carrie was first roused by the commotion in her kitchen, she needed to use the restroom and couldn’t make it on her own. When her attempt to pee into a Snapple bottle misses the mark, Carrie collapses onto her now-wet bed, defeated. It’s an unspeakably cringey moment, but bonding over its absurdity on Twitter was definitely a highlight of the year.