Never let it be said that David Lynch takes sex lightly. To quote the man himself: “Certain aspects of sex are troubling — the way it’s used as power, for instance, or the way it takes the form of perversions that exploit other people.” And those “certain aspects” seem to be the only ones that interest him. In Lynch’s world, no one has glamorized, Hollywood-ized, unrealistic sex. “Sex is a doorway to something so powerful and mystical,” said Lynch once, “but movies usually depict it in a completely flat way.” And by “flat” he either means more fake than a declaration of true love on THE BACHELOR or else totally devoid of female subjugation, exploitation and masochism. Whatever the case may be, the kind of sex his characters have — and the kind of sex his movies deal with — are best described as simply Lynchian, a term which has been defined as “having the same balance between the macabre and the mundane.” This top 10 list, in chronological order, should help further explain:
1. Lynch dealt with amputee fetishism way before it was cool. In his 1974 short, THE AMPUTEE, a legless woman (the Log Lady from TWIN PEAKS!) writes an emotional (love?) letter which we hear her reading in her head very unemotionally while a (transvestite?) nurse played by Lynch himself changes her dressings. Some kind of liquid (her emotion?) starts pouring out of one of her legs. Yep, it’s gross. But so is love sometimes.
2. In the surrealist ERASERHEAD (1977), David Lynch’s first feature film, sex is not much fun at all. Reproduction is handled by The Man in the Planet who pulls a bunch of levers to produce deformed babies (no thanks to the Lady in the Radiator embodying the spirit of the Nonoxynol-9 and stomping on sperm cells). Getting laid is a shameful activity that you will eventually be punished for. Raising a baby kills your sex life (okay, maybe that part isn’t all that surreal). Infidelity with your sexy neighbor kills your marriage. (Ditto.) Oh, and your baby may or may not resemble an overgrown penis and therefore your own fucked-up sexuality. As one film critic puts it, “Similar to uncontrollable sexual urges, the baby-penis constantly demands attention from Henry who becomes its slave. Henry realises that he must kill the baby-penis in an act of self-castration to rid himself of his loathed sexuality. The baby-penis is the centre of the world created by unnatural sexuality, hence its destruction obliterates the world of ERASERHEAD.” Well, it’s a hell of a lot more realistic than the sex scenes in your average Hollywood rom-com.
3. BLUE VELVET (1986): Five words for you: “Mommy…baby wants to fuck.” Nuff said.
4. In WILD AT HEART (1990), young lovers Lula and Sailor (Laura Dern and Nicolas Cage) are on the run from a bunch of misfts hired by Lula’s mom to kill Sailor — she doesn’t want her daughter sleeping with him because he just got out of prison. And maybe also because he throws around lines like, “Man, I had a boner with a capital ‘O.'” At one point Lula says — in what could be a tagline for Lynchian sex — “This whole world’s wild at heart and weird on top.” We’re not sure which is more depressing: the idea that young lust and young love are no match for all the violence in the world or that Nicolas Cage later went on to make doozies like THE WICKER MAN and CAPTAIN CORELLI’S MANDOLIN. But we do know what’s most disturbing: the “fuck me” scene with Dern, Willem Dafoe and one gnarly set of false teeth.
5. Only Lynch could get a two-season prime time television show on network TV that’s basically centered around the the murder of a homecoming queen (Laura Palmer) committed by hew own father after years of him raping her. Talk about “feel good”! But you gotta love a man who can swing highbrow and low with his sex references — he named his series (and the fictional Pacific northwestern town it takes place in) TWIN PEAKS (1990), a pun that would be right at home in the movie AIRPLANE. Bonus points for naming the the evil spirit that possessed Laura Palmer’s father simply “Bob.”