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'Sally4Ever': Why graphic sex scenes on TV still make us cringe

Why is it we don't cringe at explicitly sexual content in movies or even porn, but we do on TV shows including 'Sally4Ever' and 'Orange is the New Black'?

"Literally insane", "Laughing, cringing, hiding, dying", "maniacal, ridiculous, disgusting brilliance", "brilliantly perverse comedy", "painful", "cringe-worthy", "what the f***?" are some of the reactions you are going to repetitively come across when you browse through people's reactions of Julia Davis' recent HBO hit 'Sally4Ever.'

The network not unknown to graphic scenes especially with incest plots on 'Game of Thrones,' A.I playthings of the rich in 'Westworld,' or even millennials' sex life in 'Girls', was handpicked by viewers to point that Sally4Ever's lesbian sex scenes of scissoring, breast slapping and Coprophilia was a bit too much even by HBO's standards.

Note that in 2011, the very first episode of 'Game of Thrones' gave us scenes unknown to television and in less than a decade, oral sex, orgies, bare breasts, penises have become a TV norm. In 2013, another period drama which revolved entirely on sex was Showtime's 'Masters of Sex,' which was also considered an accustomed watch.

So, why is 'Sally4Ever' "outrageous" (another adjective used) and cringe-worthy? Six episodes in so far, the show has not featured a penis yet, which was actually unlikely before 'Game of Thrones' did it on TV.

I even observed that most of the reviews I've penned on the show featured the word "cringe." This automatically directed me to question what is it about graphic sex scenes that make us cringe? Could it be because it's dark comedy, motley mixed with extreme graphic scenes, which by its own individual rights is supposing to be baffling, that bringing the two together isn't turning into a homogenous blend of what we call an acquired taste?

Sally4Ever airs every Sunday on HBO

Casually asking my colleagues why they think we cringe at explicit sex on TV while browsing porn may not evoke the same reaction, got me mixed opinions. Some pointed out that we are conditioned to believe that on TV, the characters are developed on all levels, especially emotionally, and we expect their intimacy to take place behind closed doors.

Think of it as your parents having sex. You would prefer not to believe it despite knowing you are a product of an intercourse. In the same manner, the characters you meet on TV grow on you as someone personal. So, you would like to see them develop, grow, be happy and have sex behind closed doors.

When we first meet Sally, we are extremely sorry about her mundane dull life with her fiance David, so when she meets Emma, we are happy about her whirlwind romance. So, when we see the explicit sex she has with Emma, especially extracting tampons from Sally's vagina, we are shocked because that's not something we expected, not from TV and also, we did not know Sally was on her periods!

Others also opine that sex in 'Sally4Ever' borders on fetish, be it with dusters or feces and the exaggerated characters especially David seeking gratification in blowdrying his penis. So naturally, something unexpected and abnormal shocks the viewers; and it keeps shocking the viewers until it becomes a norm.

'Game of Thrones,' with season 8 coming next year, is the proof of it. 

What is called to be the "golden age of TV drama" has standardized explicit scenes on small screens but compared to films, the audience still lags behind. For instance, Davis exclusively told Meaww, 'Blue Is the Warmest Colour' inspired her to film the pilot sex scene of 'Sally4Ever,' but take in mind the reaction the film and TV show got, despite featuring similar lesbian sex, the reception was vastly contrasting.

This may also be because the ideal inception of TV was to be a family activity, unlike films that demand moviegoers make an individual decision on getting the movie tickets; which also implies the moviegoers had a choice to see or not to see, while the TV viewers watched what was on the channel.

Given that the TV was housed, traditionally, in the living room and not in separate rooms, was kind of like an assurance TV was for everyone and what is shown on TV is a decent watch ideal for family viewing.

In the mid-1970s TV became more sophisticated and complicated as protests from the Christian right forced the Federal Communications Commission to call for a "family viewing hour" during the first 60 minutes of prime time, but the action was ultimately overturned in court in 1977.

During the same time, David Chase created 'The Sopranos' with a lot of sex and 'The Bada Bing!' strip club introduced nudity on TV. This was all established by HBO and ever since, the late 1970s, adult content has been a norm.

Now, with a plethora of shows featuring a lot of adult content such as 'Grey's Anatomy' which showed us cunnilingus scenes and serious lesbian relationships before 'Sally4Ever' did, comes a question of degree. Even with 'Orange Is the New Black,' which more humanized lesbian sex, there were times when people pointed at something cringe-worthy, and, as atrocious as it seems, the comments were directed at women's body sizes.

This is what I mean. People are not cringing at the TV because what they see is off-limits. It is not. They have pretty much watched the same thing on a movie or a porno, but what makes TV an outrageous platform is the mindset that TV is supposed to be for everyone, despite living in the age where every room is entitled to its own TV screen.

The progress of television has surpassed the mindset of its viewers and just like how it should be; people get used to it! But first, they might just tweet about it!