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Westworld’s boring orgy reminds us that joyless sex has become HBO’s specialty

The group sex scenes were built to shock us — which only made them more boring.

Neither William (Jimmi Simpson) nor Logan (Ben Barnes) was in this orgy, but a girl can dream.
HBO

With Westworld, HBO has pulled off quite a feat: It made an orgy boring.

A solid chunk of this week’s Westworld featured an ongoing bout of group sex. Anonymous bodies — belonging to park guests and the cyborgs that exist to sexually service them — writhed around in the background while our heroes negotiated with El Lazo, a formidable new villain.

On a show designed to reflect our basest instincts back at ourselves, this orgy was an obvious attempt to boost Westworld’s titillation factor. Murder sprees and robot rape not enough for you? How about a cavernous room filled with a slithering mass of naked bodies getting each other off?

But I watched “Contrapasso” twice — the better to figure out what the hell was going on for my recap — and barely noticed this orgy. I devoted exactly one sentence to it and moved on, such was the depth of my nonreaction.

The thing is, any shock this scene might’ve inspired is dulled by the fact that HBO’s programming has drawn from this well before, and often. As Vulture details, orgies have previously been a salacious feature on True Detective, True Blood, Rome, and, of course, Game of Thrones.

In fact, when a Westworld casting notice came out last year calling for actors comfortable with “genital-to-genital touching, simulat[ing] oral sex with hand-to-genital touching, contort[ing] to form a table-like shape while being fully nude, pos[ing] on all fours while others who are fully nude ride on your back, [and] rid[ing] on someone's back while you are both fully nude,” my reaction wasn’t exactly surprise so much as an exhausted shrug.

It’s become something of a joke how much HBO loves itself some nudity. In 2011, critic Myles McNutt coined the phrase “sexposition” to describe how Game of Thrones structured its storytelling by sandwiching everything with sex. In 2012, Saturday Night Live even did a sketch in which Andy Samberg played the 13-year-old boy in charge of making sure the show always had more gratuitous nudity. (The clip is unfortunately unavailable online due to a rights claim.)

Later in 2012, Game of Thrones director Neil Marshall told Empire Online that an (unnamed) HBO executive producer would lean over him and egg him on to include more full-frontal nudity, and that he “represents the perv side of the audience.” In 2014, True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto told BuzzFeed that there’s a “clear mandate in pay-cable for a certain level of nudity.”

As it turns out, SNL wasn’t all that far off.

Even setting aside HBO’s proclivity for more nudity at all costs, though, there’s another thing about this Westworld orgy that bugs: It was boring.

Like I said before, the orgy in “Contrapasso” isn’t all that sexy. It’s a clump of grinding bodies in which naked women cater to men, women kiss each other while men look on, drooling, and men surely never touch each other. It’s a straight male fantasy through and through.

As Emily Nussbaum wrote over at the New Yorker when Westworld premiered, this is kind of disappointing from a show that says it’s about the endless possibilities of a world without consequences:

It’s baffling why certain demographics would ever pay to visit Westworld. Would straight women be titillated or depressed by cyborg hookers? Why would a lesbian guest — coded, obnoxiously, as less than hot — behave with a prostitute exactly as a straight man would? Where are all the gay male bachelor parties?

Five episodes in, there are still no gay bachelor parties in sight on Westworld — and they sure as hell aren’t in Alonso’s group sex Batcave, where the most basic fantasies rule and no one having sex gets much to say beyond wordless moans.

So if anything, the one thing Westworld’s depressing orgy gets right is that it’s the perfect encapsulation of Westworld — and HBO’s — general portrayal of sex: dull background noise wrapped in a thin veneer of sensationalism.


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