Sexuality in Film "Boogie Nights"

Sexuality within itself is a human trait that can easily be altered. In our ever-changing society, the idea of sexuality holds some fluidity to its meaning. The concept of sexuality is marketed with movies and print simply, because the idea of sex sells. Over the years, we have seen sexuality portray from a strong masculine male to femme females. Although, within the entertainment industry, content is typically created for three reasons: to peek one’s consciousness or unconscious curiosities, to educate, or simple to tell a story.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1997’s Film: Boogie Nights perfectly portrays the “golden age of pornography” through story-telling. Overall, I will discuss how Boogie Nights portrays the reality versus expectations of embracing the idea of sex and sexuality as a young adult which, in turn, can limit particular acts and behaviors to a particular gender.

The story of Boogie Nights follows a young boy, Dirk Diggler, and his adventures and misfortunes of entering the pornography industry in California during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.

During this time the porn industry was in its prime. One could even consider this lifestyle similar to one of a Rockstar as this industry revolved around money, drugs, sex, and girls, girls, girls. However, throughout the film, the notion of sexuality revolves more around what is happening in between the scenes. The main character, Dirk Diggler’s curiosity to explore is pure yet innocent. His character strives to become the “alpha” in this new Male Centered dominate environment solely because of his ‘one male attribute’.

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Later in the movie, he begins to feel emasculated by the objectivity by his own mother and society but if we examine closer, we see his masculinity has been overthrown by the expectations he is meant to fulfill. In other words, Dirk Diggler is not the star but rather “his attribute becomes him”. It is easy to see he has lost true sense of self in society but, yet he is okay with this because the world is beginning to see him as the epitome of a “strong masculine figure”. On the other hand, his co-star Amber Waves, expressed the sexuality and sensuality of your modern-day woman; specifically, a woman without a readily available partner. She faces identity issues fueled by male-centered environment as she is merely seen as an object to men to fulfil their needs. But ultimately, the audience sees her as a broken woman who craves love, compassion, and passion from a man. Lastly, we see Dirk’s mother. She is the epitome of a woman living the American dream in the suburbs of California. Thus, she continuously emasculates as she is unable to see who her son for who he is now. She is only able to see her son as the wonderful pleasant modest boy that he should be.

His mother’s attitude portrays a drastic shift among generational attitudes. Ultimately, she unable to cope ever-changing reality of women exploring and embracing their sexuality beyond the image of the “good girl”. Respectively, she cannot fathom why he would want to be with a woman “like that”. A journal article titled, “Romantic relationships and sexuality in adolescence and young adulthood: The role of parents, peers, and partners”, found an impact on parents and their child’s sexuality. They found “early romantic involvements, especially those during the first part of adolescence, have been linked to various negative outcomes, including depression, anxiety, substance use, and delinquent behaviors for those who hold a negative relationship with one’s mother.”(Van de Bongardt, D., Yu, R., Deković, M., & Meeus, 2015) For Diggler, his downfall of fame and power ultimately turned into cocaine abuse. In addition, “American young adults’ satisfaction with casual sexual relationships and experiences”.” (Van de Bongardt et al., 2015) was found to be related to emotional support and one’s need of sexual companionship. This idea relates to the actions of Amber Wave. Subsequently, this portrays a shift in in theoretical perspectives on sexuality that we have discussed in class as well. The ideas of Sigmund Freud ideas have created a framework to helped us to see the importance of sex as well as how past experiences shape our intended behaviors. It is clear, all of the main characters, including Dirk Diggler, are overcompensating for anxiety whether it be a family matter or finding their own worth, it is obvious there are external elements in which influence their decisions when the camera rolls. Another Psychoanalytic theory prosed by Freud is the Oedipal Complex which states “Desire for sexual of involvement with partner of opposite sex in sense of rivalry with the parent of the same sex”. Thus, Amber and Dirk relationship is the essence of the Oedipus Complex. Amber, a readily available woman who has lost her husband and child due to her choices, yearns for love and tenderness from a man and son. Dirk Diggler on the other hand, is young and needs guidance that Amber is consequently offering.

Although there are a few things I would change regarding the directors use of sexuality within the film. Firstly, I find there is truth to Dirk Diggler’s issue of finding balance between being the stereotypical male and passionate lover he is later meant to become. For instance, being young adult in the dating world and searching to find a balance between enacting a fantasy and sharing a tender, passionate moment with your significant other ride a fine line. Some couples view of fantasies is being romantic and passionate while others desire to be objectified by their partner. But the issue lies when we have to decipher whether we are acting because it is what you want, or it is how you think you should act? And I personally believe this movie needs to show more thought behind the character’s actions. Secondly, I believe neither female nor male sexuality is not limited as Boogie Nights portrays. Women should be able to be comfort expressing their sexuality and simply wanting sex while men should not like confined to having to be this over-emasculated rock in the bedroom.

In all, Boogie Nights normalized limits of particular acts and behaviors for both males and females but in the most relatable way of being a young adult who has potential but gets lost along the way. Diggler’s rise was fame lead him to become someone that he was not. In the same manner, sex and sexuality within a relationship can lead to predisposed expectations of who we are supposed to be and how we are supposed to act. This movie replicates the reality, the complexity, the disconnect, and the influences of being a human.

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Sexuality in Film "Boogie Nights". (2022, Jan 24). Retrieved from

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