On Sex And Death: Is There A Connection?

sex and death it follows

Horror films have long linked sex and death. “It Follows” follows a long tradition. But what is up with that? Existentialist Jason Dias investigates.

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aNewDomain — A young man and woman, hardly adults, sneak away from the group. They find a dark room and start to undress one another. You can’t see much in the dark but you know what they’re doing.

And you know the killer lurks nearby.

As soon as the couple is fully immersed in their amorous activity, the killer strikes.

The knife is the ultimate phallic symbol, the final penetration, and the killer penetrates everyone fatally. The picquerist is the person who derives sexual satisfaction from stabbing people.

But isn’t that the thrill of the slasher film? Blood rains down, people are splashed with it, washed in it. Hacked apart, maimed, killed.

Sex and death. Is there any connection?

We can lose ourselves in the act of sex, become the carnal beast of two backs, mindless. We can be enslaved by our desires, made to violate our own ethics, regardless of how strict. Manipulated, led around by the genitals. And in the loss of mind is the loss of life, the little death.

sex and deathIf Jason doesn’t convince you, how about Freddy? He murders Johnny Depp right after Johnny Depp encounters the heroine of the tale. And what I mean by encounters … well, you get the picture.

The Terminator shows up to murder Sarah Connor but finds her not at home. Her roommate is busy sexing up a boyfriend. Then the Terminator does what Terminators do — he terminates them.

Horror movies can be seen generally as metaphors for adolescent fear of all things forbidden: drugs, sex, driving too fast, staying out late.

For the emergence of the teen as the adult, as the sexual being – who, unlike Peter Pan, must age and die.

“The Hitcher,” starring C. Thomas Howell and Rutger Hauer, evidently was written as an AIDS fear movie. The homoerotic overtones of this movie were written much larger in the first draft of the script, with the Hitcher being emaciated, a clear symbol for this then-emerging disease – more homophobia than homoerotica.

By why settle for metaphors?

sex and death it followsLook at “It Follows.” In this film, a woman has casual sex with a man and receives a curse. The curse will kill her unless she shags someone else, passing the curse off onto him.

Now she has this choice: Suffer the deadly consequence of her promiscuity, or use promiscuity to kill someone else.

In the end, isn’t this what most horror is really about? At least since the advent of the slasher film?

Or maybe it’s all a lot simpler than that?

Giving a movie an R rating used to be the kiss of death, you know. That’s when movies were a family affair and going over PG meant reduced viewership. But a heavy aftermarket for movies via video and DVD made it more tenable to have adult ratings on films.

sex and death

And when it came to horror movies, PG was never a selling point. A movie rated R or better is the ballpark.

Three major factors will get you an R rating: Violence, profanity and nudity. And as long as you’re going for shock factor with bloody murders, why not throw in some gratuitous nudity for good measure? We know nudity sells. Sex sells.

A film like “Hostel,” which belongs to a genre sometimes described as “torture porn,” uses gratuitous violence and sex to sell video. And why not?

Maybe all this conflation of sex and death explains contemporary Halloween costumes. 

For aNewDomain, I’m Jason Dias.

Cover image: Nattogdag.no, All Rights Reserved.

Image one: Blog.soakandsleep.com, All Rights Reserved.

Image two: Halloweencostume.com, All Rights Reserved.

About the author

Jason Dias

Jason Dias, PsyD is an existential psychotherapist who breathes words. He's a senior columnist at aNewDomain.