It’s fair to say that a major part of the now-infamous Don’t Worry Darlingdrama earlier this year stemmed from the movie’s sex scenes.
In case you somehow managed to miss it all, ever since filming wrapped in February 2021 it had been hotly rumored that the film’s director, Olivia Wilde, and lead actor Florence Pugh were embroiled in a messy feud.
The speculation came to the head in the lead-up to the film’s release this September, starting when Florence contradicted everything that Olivia had said about the movie’s raunchier moments.
Olivia kick-started the Don’t Worry Darling sex scene discourse in a December 2021 interview with Vogue, in which she admitted that one of her biggest aims in the psychological thriller was to make sex scenes good again.
“I kept saying, ‘Why isn’t there any good sex in film anymore?’” Olivia explained, going on to say that she sought inspiration from other movies set in the same era that were “really sexy in a grown-up way.”
The director then said that she wanted her audience to “realize how rarely they see female hunger, and specifically this type of female pleasure,” which was reflected in the release of the movie’s first trailer in May.
The teaser included an attention-grabbing scene that saw Florence’s character Alice receive oral sex from her husband Jack (Harry Styles).
And Olivia appeared to be thrilled by the public reaction to the trailer, especially when it was praised for passing “the Clit Test,” which celebrates media’s acknowledgment of the clitoris, rather than the vagina, as a source of pleasure.
When the Clit Test’s Instagram page championed Don’t Worry Darling for passing its test in the trailer, Olivia proudly reposted it to her own social media account and wrote: “We love the @clit.test!”
Olivia later revealed that she’d initially fought to have even more sex scenes in her film’s trailer, and was left “upset” when the Motion Picture Association didn’t allow it.
“I do think the lack of eroticism in American film is kind of new. Then when it comes to female pleasure, it’s something that we just don’t see very often unless you’re talking about queer cinema,” she told Associated Press at the time.
Olivia then boasted about wearing the MPA’s reaction to her depiction of “female pleasure” as a badge of honor, adding: “I mean, people are upset with me already over this. I think it’s a testament to the film. We want to be provocative. The idea is not to make you feel safe.”
But in August, Florence shared her discomfort at the hypersexualized way that Don’t Worry Darling was being marketed. She told Harper’s Bazaar: “When it’s reduced to your sex scenes, or to watch the most famous man in the world go down on someone, it’s not why we do it. It’s not why I’m in this industry.”
She then referenced the casting of Olivia’s then-boyfriend, Harry, in the movie as she explained: “Obviously, the nature of hiring the most famous pop star in the world, you’re going to have conversations like that. That’s just not what I’m going to be discussing because [this movie is] bigger and better than that. And the people who made it are bigger and better than that.”
Days later, Olivia totally contradicted Florence’s point of view in her own profile with Variety. The interview was heavily focused on the movie’s sex scenes, and even highlighted Olivia’s preoccupation with representing "female pleasure" in the opening paragraph.
“It’s teatime in London, and Olivia Wilde is talking about the O-word. No, not the Oscars, but her approach to sex scenes in her new movie, Don’t Worry Darling,” the Variety piece begins. “‘Men don’t come in this film,’ she declares over cucumber sandwiches and scones at Claridge’s, just blocks away from Buckingham Palace. ‘Only women here!’”
Olivia later tells the publication: “Female pleasure, the best versions of it that you see nowadays, are in queer films. Why are we more comfortable with female pleasure when it’s two women on film? In hetero sex scenes in film, the focus on men as the recipients of pleasure is almost ubiquitous.”
She then said that Don’t Worry Darling’s sex scenes are “integral” to the story, explaining: “It’s all about immediacy and extreme passion for one another. The impractical nature of their sex speaks to their ferocious desire for one another. I think it’s integral to the story itself and how the audience is meant to connect to them. My early conversations with the cast were all about how the audience has to buy into the fantasy.”
So when the movie was finally released three months ago, many viewers were shocked to discover the truth about the sex scenes — and be warned, there are major spoilers ahead.
It is true that there are two sex scenes between Alice and Jack in first 30 minutes of Don’t Worry Darling that end with her having an orgasm. But a big twist toward the end of the film makes these scenes much more sinister.
Viewers were horrified to learn that the 1950s-style suburbia where Jack and Alice live is actually a virtual reality, and that Jack is forcing Alice to be there against her will.
In the shocking reveal, Alice can be seen tied to a bed after Jack drugged her and forcibly immersed her in the simulation.
It is then confirmed that the men in the virtual reality are only there part time as they have to work in the real world to pay for the experience. The women, however, never leave. It is insinuated that some of the men even kidnapped women they didn’t know and forced them into marriage in this fake reality.
While Jack and Alice are confirmed to have been married before he forced her into the simulation, it is made abundantly clear that Alice did not consent to taking part in it and is being held in the virtual reality against her will.
This automatically means that Alice was not able to give informed consent during the earlier sex scenes, which is far from the concept of “female pleasure” that Olivia had prided herself on.
“Is anyone gonna talk about how dwd was marketed as being a movie about female pleasure and then was about a woman who was kidnapped and forced to live in a simulation and was unable to consent to any of the things happening to her including sex,” one person tweeted after watching Don’t Worry Darling.
Someone else echoed: “Watched Don’t Worry Darling last night and I’m not sure why Olivia Wilde was touting the movie as being about female pleasure when it’s literally about rape. The women can’t consent so there’s no pleasure without that. Rather than being subversive, it’s just tired tropes.”
“Olivia wilde is so wrong for marketing and promoting don’t worry darling as a movie about female pleasure and the fact that she got away with doing that makes me so uncomfortable knowing the sex isn’t even consent if the character is in a stimulation and being forced to be there,” a third person agreed.
“There are no sex scenes in Don't Worry Darling despite the promotion because the woman whose pleasure is centered upon is unknowingly in a simulation, therefore she cannot consent,” one more wrote. “There are scenes of sexual assault and coercion, nothing sexy about that.”
And actor Maisie Williams has now addressed the situation on her movie podcast Frank Film Club, which she cohosts with casting director Hannah Marie Williams and filmmaker Lowri Roberts.
Speaking in a recent episode, Hannah instigated the conversation by saying: “I wanted to start with the use of sex in the film's marketing and what you thought of that.”
“Because in the trailer, they're getting it on. Sure. And when the film was first coming out, Olivia Wilde spoke a lot about it being about female pleasure onscreen, which is a little bit contradictory, I think, when we're talking about them being imprisoned in this world that they're having sex in,” she added.
Maisie, who first shot to fame playing Arya Stark in Game of Thrones, replied: “It's not an integral part of the story at all. And the fact that it was used as a way to market it about it being about female pleasure. ... I don't think that's what this film means by any means.”
She also suggested that the scene was included in the trailer to entice Harry’s fans, sharing: “Plus, you have the duality of knowing the biggest star in the world is going to be like going down on a woman. And it's like lots of young girls' dream.”
Lowri also agreed, adding: “[Sex] is a strange thing to hook onto. Like, it does draw an audience in who fancy Harry Styles in a not very good way. Especially having now watched the film and knowing what the twist is, I do think that linking the film in its entirety to being about female pleasure is actually not quite right. And I don't know that they should be saying that, because that seems a bit strange. He's holding her there. That doesn't sit well with me.”
Maisie went on to say that Olivia’s repeated comments about female pleasure actually ended up taking away from the real meaning of the movie.
“I think that Olivia Wilde... I think one of the first quotes about this is, like, ‘No male orgasms in this film, it's only about female pleasure.’ I think that, coupled with seeing the shot in the trailer of that explicit scene of Harry Styles, the biggest star in the world… I think that it did undercut everything that it was truly about or wanted to be about,” she said. “The things that it wanted to be about - I don't know if it even was about those things, but it wasn't marketed as such either.”
Interestingly, just weeks after Don’t Worry Darling’s release, Olivia seemingly tried to U-turn on her multiple comments about the sex scenes in an interview with Elle.
Speaking in October, Olivia said: “It’s interesting because Florence very wisely pointed out that a lot of attention has been given to the sex scenes. And I think she’s so right.”
“I completely agree with her that it’s overshadowing everything else that the movie’s about, which is so interestingly ironic because one of the uses of sex in Victory is as a tool of distraction,” she went on. “When Florence pointed that out that this film is so much bigger and better than just the sex scenes, I was so happy that she said that because I feel the same way.”
Suffice to say, people were completely baffled by Olivia’s new stance and called her out for failing to acknowledge the role that she’d played in leading the conversation around the sex scenes.
“The only person that made don’t worry darling all about sex and female pleasure was olivia wilde and now she’s backtracking saying that she agreed with florence even though she continued to make those comments after flos statement???” one person wrote.
“Why is olivia wilde trying to gaslight the entire population,” someone else questioned. A third tweet read: “Olivia wilde was literally the only person talking about the sex in don’t worry darling. she brought it up in every single interview and now she’s trying to say that the sex overshadowed the film? she is so embarrassing.”
And it was quickly theorized that Olivia was changing her approach due to the backlash that her comments were receiving now that the movie’s twist had been revealed.
“I wonder how much of her backtracking is related to how, once the film was actually released, these scenes of ‘female pleasure’ were overshadowed by everyone realizing that they are not, in fact, consensual sex scenes (since Florence's character did not actually choose to be there),” someone asked.
“I’ve lost so much respect for Olivia. I think she realized that once people saw the movie and the context of these sex scenes, the promotion based on them was extremely gross and exploitative,” another wrote.