13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes
Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"
The tattooed woman caresses a pipe between her lips and bears a seductive look in her eye. She wears a low-cut, fur-trimmed vest, and her breeches are unbuttoned to reveal not only that she goes commando, but that she’s not a slave to Brazilians either. And there’s something there in that painting, titled “Portrait of Ms. Ruby May, Standing,” that artist Leena McCall say got it branded “disgusting” and “pornographic” — and removed from the Society of Women Artists’ 153rd annual exhibition at the Mall Galleries.
Was it the pose? Was it the pubes? The Mall Galleries has thus far declined to state the specifics of what got the painting deep-sixed, but issued a statement that “The Mall Galleries played no part in its selection or hanging. As an educational arts charity, the federation has a responsibility to its trustees and to the children and vulnerable adults who use its galleries and learning centre. After a number of complaints regarding the depiction of the subject and taking account of its location en route for children to our learning centre, we requested the painting was removed.” But the Society of Women Artists says, “We thought the painting was beautifully executed and the composition was much admired. We saw nothing wrong with it; had we, the piece would not have been selected. We hire the gallery space from the Mall Galleries for the period that the show is on. The gallery took it down without seeking our approval.” The exhibit closed Saturday.
The painting appeared at the show’s private viewing late last month, where McCall proudly snapped a photo of the painting hanging in the gallery amid several landscapes. She says that the painting of her friend — who runs sexuality workshops and coaching sessions — was intended to explore “how women choose to express their sexual identity beyond the male gaze.” Ironically, the Guardian reports that the Society “was permitted to replace McCall’s work with another less provocative nude: one where the model wasn’t tattooed and standing hand-on-hip, all unbuttoned.”
The exact nature of McCall’s claim that the work was called “pornographic” and the context for her assertion has not been made clear. What is clear, however, is the Mall’s stated concern for “children and vulnerable adults” and “complaints regarding the depiction of the subject.” Yet what exactly does that mean, coming from a place that says its goal is to “champion new contemporary figurative art by living artists,” with an aim to “promote, inspire and educate”? And the Mall’s reaction is strange coming from a venue that just this past May included a nude — and pubes-sporting – painting of Cambridge University don Victoria Bateman in a portrait exhibition, a painting she commissioned because she wanted “to also make sure that we show women as they truly are.” Who thinks anyone going to look at art needs to be protected from nude women? Right now, families are running all around an enormous naked woman, her breasts and vulva prominently on display, in an old sugar factory in Brooklyn. That’s art.
Perhaps the issue with McCall’s work, then, wasn’t its nudity, or even hair, but the near nudity. The work is certainly of a provocative nature – and Ruby May’s partially clothed body seems to hold more erotic promise than a straightforward nude. It evokes the sprawling, semi-clad women of Egon Schiele and the frankness of Courbet’s “The Origin of the World,” a painting made intimate not just by the subject’s spread legs but her hiked-up clothing. It has traces of Manet’s “Olympia” in its DNA, a painting so scandalous when it was first unveiled it was criticized for “inconceivable vulgarity” — perhaps because the model kept her jewelry and her slippers on. Ruby May also recalls, more recently, Richard Avedon’s iconic photograph of Cat Power, brandishing a cigarette and revealing a peek of pubic hair from beneath her unbuttoned jeans. The photo, by the way, originally appeared, without apology, 10 years ago in the pages of the New Yorker.
A naked woman is a powerful thing – but naked women appear all over the art world. A woman undressing – a woman with a cool eye and low-slung pants – well, that’s apparently unsettling. It’s not just art galleries, either – note how Instagram has bikini girls galore but famously can’t quite abide by a peek of hair creeping out of a bathing suit. It’s a suggestion of something more potent than straightforward nudity. It’s not shy or vulnerable. And though she may have been all too, too much for the Mall, Ms. Ruby May has already achieved exactly what art is supposed to do – she’s made viewers think and talk, while admiring her undeniable beauty.
Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"
Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"
In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.
Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"
Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.
Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"
We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?
Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"
On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).
Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"
Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.
Tad and Loreen, "The Return"
The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.
Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"
Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.
Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"
While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.
Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"
As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”
Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"
Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?
Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"
Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.
Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"
There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.