How The Deuce Avoided The Male Gaze In This Pivotal Sex Scene

Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
The Deuce has already proven that it's more than just a show about sex, or porn. It's a show about power struggles; it's a show about women; it's a show about aggression; it's a show about the mob; it's a show about business; it's a show about the seventies; it's a show about New York; it's a show about an entire world. That's what makes it so good.
Another thing that makes this show stand out is the way it applies the female gaze to the sex it does show. Creators David Simon and George Pelecanos have been outspoken about their commitment to bringing a diverse staff to the project, and half of the eight episodes are directed by women.
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The latest installment, "What Kind Of Bad," directed by Uta Briesewitz, featured a scene in which sex worker Candy (Maggie Gyllenhaal), sleeps with a man she's dating. Still unsatisfied after he orgasms, she turns on her side to finish the job herself. It's a scene that in someone else's hands could have seemed exploitative or lascivious. But in an interview with Vulture, Briesewitz — who, after working with Simon on The Wire, has directed for shows like Orange Is The New Black and Jessica Jones — said that she actually shot the scene twice because she felt the first take didn't have the right tone.
"What was very important was how her date was responding to it," she said. "In an early rehearsal, he had a little bit of a perked-up position behind her and he was watching her. And that felt too voyeuristic to me and I told him to just lean back. Don’t lurk. Don’t stare at her too much. It is such a private moment, but she is not sharing it out of a motivation for shared intimacy. It’s just a necessity, and possible sexual frustration, and she is just taking care of herself."
Briesewitz also gave a tip on how to tell if a sex scene is directed by a man, recalling an anecdote from when she was a cinematographer working with a male director.
"The director was about to direct a sex scene and he was incredibly nervous, and I just asked him: 'Why are you so nervous directing a sex scene? It’s not you up there who has to do it!' she told Vulture. 'And then he turned around, he said to me: 'Yes, but you don’t understand, me blocking the scene reveals everything about me!' You know, when he suggests the position. Since he said that to me, I always wonder when I see sex scenes, oh, that was directed by a man! Because very often you feel like the positions that are being chosen are positions favored by men. Yes, it does reveal something about you."
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There you have it: Men, if you want to avoid getting stuck in the male gaze, maybe try a new position once in a while. Here are a few suggestions.
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