When it Comes to Sex Scenes, Mindy Kaling Gets It

My introduction to Mindy Kaling was through the NBC hit sitcom The Office. Kaling not only played one of the main characters in the show, but also acted as a writer and eventually a producer. She penned one of my favorite episodes (“The Injury”), and she wrote another episode (“Diwali”) that has my favorite line from the entire series.

I haven’t kept up with Kaling’s career since The Office. However, while researching future writing projects, I planned on skimming a couple of her books. They were easy and enjoyable reads, and I ended up devouring almost the entirety of both volumes. There’s a certain charm to Kaling’s personality and writing style. She’s witty, funny, and entertaining.

One of Kaling’s books, Why Not Me?, has a chapter entitled “I Love Sex Scenes!” In it, she explains why she is attracted to sexually charged scenes: “Obviously, on-screen sex is not actual penetrative sex, but as any religious high-schooler will tell you, simulating sex can be pretty damn enjoyable as well” (p. 91). She even calls the experience “the world’s best job perk” (p. 95).

Kaling describes once being involved in a “particularly involved make-out with an actor who happened to be a married acquaintance of mine. The shot was complicated and the director spent hours shooting it over and over.” During this shoot, her scene partner secretly shared with her how sexually arousing the experience was for him. This private moment was, she says, “the sexiest thing that has ever happened to me” (p. 93).

Because the book as a whole is littered with humorous hyperbole, we need to be careful about taking all of these descriptions in an absolute and literal manner. However, Kaling isn’t lying to us about her enjoyment. She really does like sexually acting out in front of the camera.

With her tongue firmly planted in her cheek, Kaling goes on to say that all actors agree with her and that they’re just pretending they don’t. Now, we know that’s not true (as does Kaling). There are plenty of genuine, heartfelt, and even sometimes heartbreaking testimonies to the contrary. However, I believe Kaling’s point is simply this: she’s not the only one.

And indeed, she is not. Other actors have given similar testimonies (which we will explore more fully in the near future).

The question then becomes, why don’t more actors let on that they also enjoy filming sex scenes? Kaling actually answers that question with four convincing reasons:

1. Creepiness. They fear coming across as “some kind of weirdo” (p. 93) with whom no one will want to work.

2. Vulnerability. If you admit you liked a sex scene and your co-star admits they didn’t, it’s embarrassing (just like it is with actual sex).

3. Significant Others. Kaling says,

Actors are the only people in the world who are allowed to essentially stray from their marriages physically and there are no repercussions. Zero. In fact, if they’re especially good at sex scenes, thousands of people will want to steal them away. If you are the unlucky spouse of an actor, the last thing you want to hear is that, in addition to him getting to fake-cheat on you by virtue of the most unfair loophole of all time, he also really enjoyed it (p. 94).

4. Integrity. Actors want to separate themselves from even the appearance of prostitution. In order to maintain a professional air, “it’s very important for us not to seem like we are being financially compensated for sex acts” (p. 94).

I appreciate Kaling’s frankness, nonchalant though it may be. By sharing her own experiences and thoughts, she helps prove my case: sex scenes are indeed sexual. Some actors may find these scenes disturbing, and others may find them arousing, but that’s how it is with all forms of sex acts. Some find adultery appealing, while others do not. Some find group sex appealing, while others do not. Some find pedophilia appealing, while others do not. Personal preference—or abhorrence—doesn’t change sexual acts into non-sexual acts.
While Kaling and I aren’t exactly on the same page, we can agree on at least one thing: simulating sex will remain sexual as long as it involves…well, a sexual simulation.

So when it comes to the true nature of filming sex scenes, Mindy Kaling gets it. I wish more people did.

Next entry: “But Simulated Sex isn’t Real Sex”