Deep down in the horniest depths of your soul, you know there’s only one reason to see or read any iteration of the Fifty Shades franchise: the sex. Yes, it’s true the sex scenes written by E.L. James have no shortage of flaws: they’re unrealistic (orgasms every time!), and deeply misrepresent the nature of consent and communication in a BDSM relationship. But for all her shortcomings, at least she manages to convey her female protagonist getting off frequently with a partner who understands how women orgasm. Fifty Shades Freed, the final film in the series, manages to strip the book of anything that would have felt remotely good for a woman during sex. And it's not just cringey for audiences. By reinforcing the idea that getting a woman off takes little to no effort, it’s bad for women, too.
The raunchier moments of the movie start off innocently enough—Ana and Christian romp through Europe on their honeymoon, she gets handcuffed during sex that she seemingly enjoys. But the boning gets progressively worse as the movie slogs on.
Most glaring is the noticeable lack of oral sex for Ana. In the book Christian is constantly lapping at her vag like he hasn’t eaten for days and she is the only item on the menu. In fact, it happens in the very first sex scene of the novel after their wedding.
In the film, cunnilingus is inexplicably absent. Instead what viewers get is some half-assed foreplay involving ice cream. While enjoying a midnight snack, Ana drizzles ice cream on Christian’s chest, leaving a trail all the way down to his crotch, which she promptly licks up. The end result is something I can only describe as a pube job, wherein she nuzzles and sucks up the matted mixture of pubic hair and room temperature vanilla ice cream. What does she get in return? A fleeting moment where it looks like he’s going to go down on her. Except, no! Right as he’s kissing his way up her inner thigh she moans. He stops and warns her not to wake anyone in the house. Then they go straight into missionary. Sorry Ana, enjoy picking pubes out of your teeth.
This omission matters. Only 18 percent of women can orgasm from vaginal penetration alone, but a whopping 81 percent of women report orgasming when their sexual encounters involve oral sex. If this is a series aimed at women, shouldn’t it more realistically depict the ways women actually get off?
And it’s not just the absence of pleasure in the film that makes my inner goddess quietly rage. It’s the inclusion of things that would straight up hurt—and not in the kinky way. For example, after a high-adrenaline car chase, Ana decides to take charge and jump on top of Christian’s boner, which she simply must have immediately. Cool. But not only does she orgasm after approximately eight seconds of writhing on top of him despite data suggesting it can take women twenty minutes to finish, his jeans are so clearly in the way that it would be impossible for this not to feel like chafe-city on her vagina. In the book version of this scene, there’s at least a decent amount of foreplay beforehand where he touches her clit to warm her up, as any self-respecting man would before engaging in sex in an Audi. Ultimately, what should have been a moment of sexual agency for Ana winds up feeing deeply unsatisfying.
And then, the bad sex climax: the butt plug scene.
Back in the playroom, we see Christian open a drawer revealing an array of sterile sex toys that look more like medical instruments. If you are someone who can pick a butt plug out of a lineup, you’ll notice the rather large silver plug immediately. Ana seems to be one of those people, as her face is visibly in shock at the sight of it. She agrees to try it anyway, but all we see is a series of increasingly strained facial expressions as he presumably sticks the thing up her butt. Let’s take a step back. Ana is a butt-stuff virgin. (Lest we forget how concerned she was in Darker, when she thought the ben wa balls were going up her butt). In the book version of this scene, E.L. James is careful to mention how the couple used a shit ton of lube before trying this move. That is not just a minor scene-setting detail: your butt hole does not naturally self-lubricate the way a vagina does. Before anything goes in there, especially if you’re a first-timer, lube is essential to avoid pain or even tearing. Why does the movie version go out of its way to portray sex acts in a more painful manner than they were depicted in the book?
It’s not to say staring at Jamie Dornan’s rippling back muscles or chiseled abs for two hours wasn’t hot. Yes, I got a tiny thrill every time he kissed Dakota’s Johnson’s neck or played with her nipples. These images are erotic. But what’s not erotic is sitting through sex scene after sex scene and thinking, “Wow, that probably wouldn’t feel good.” There’s so much wrong with how we teach young people about sex today as it is. On the whole, women still experience far fewer orgasms than men. We don’t always know how to (or feel safe) conveying to our partners what feels good during sex. This is perhaps due in some part to the unrealistic depictions of sex all around us that serve as de-facto sex ed, like porn and mainstream media. Fifty Shades, a franchise that leans in hard to its sexual themes, had one last chance to adapt some of the book’s rare, more astute understandings of how women experience pleasure. But like any woman trying to orgasm from just a few rushed thrusts, it just couldn’t reach that climax.
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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.