Sex in the Cinema

By Russell McGilton

(900 words)

Sex in the aisles, people talking, mobile phones bleating. How does anyone survive going to the cinema?

There goes a joke about a couple watching a movie at the cinema when suddenly the women turned to her partner and said ‘Darling, there’s a man masturbating next to me!’

‘Tell him to stop, ’ he said.

‘I can’t. He’s using my hand!’

Such er…distractions are not usually that common in cinemas, but having endured yet another irritating night at the cinema it has become apparent to me that sharing a reasonably sized room in the dark with fellow human beings in peace is nigh impossible. People become suddenly afflicted with Tourettes; they need to answer phones, talk, shuffle around, clear their throat, cough, suck through their teeth, chew loudly, fart and yes, sometimes have sex. It seems that when the lights go down, people think that the sounds that they will invariably make will somehow go unnoticed, caught in the doona of darkness, anonymous to its consequences.

According to a breadth of Melbourne cinema managers (none of them wished to name their cinema) I chatted with, mobile phones were the biggest annoyance to audiences followed by talking, the rustling of confectionery bags and people having or attempting to have sex.

In an unprecedented incident at a Melbourne cinema, a patron had the gall to talk throughout an entire viewing of the documentary Hearts of Darkness, loudly reciting dialogue with incessant clarity. Told to be quiet, then as he continued, to ‘Shut it!’, the manager stormed down and ordered him to stop talking or leave. He refused and as cinema management do not have the powers to physically evict the criminally inane, he continued with his seamless commentary. It took the collective will of the audience to not beat him into the shape of a Fantale.

In America, I was told, the matter would have been dealt with quickly and easily. They would’ve shot him.

Such violent reactions to certain social morons may seem a little hard to understand, but once you’re in the midst of such irritation it seems the kindest blow.

For many, the dilemma is telling people to be quiet. No one wants to look like some anal retentive, uptight-Nazi by telling someone to shut it or else. We’re all too polite for that. We’d rather sit there passively catching mouthfuls of monotone’s from some banal conversation that could curdle the left side of your brain.

Most of the time people will acquiesce when told to can it. However, on one occasion I had an aggressive response from a father of four during the screening of Jurassic Park (God knows which one) who took exception to being told to keep his kids from doing laps around the cinema.

‘What do you want me to do about it?’ he growled not unlike the Tyrannosaurus Rex that was ripping bone and sinew off escaping army personnel.

I shrugged. ‘You could try nail-gunning them to the seat. ’

He told me in the politest of terms to go away but with lots of ‘offs’ at the end of it.

Sometimes the offender is not something with a flapping jawbone. Take for instance the piercing brittleness of crinkling confectionery bags. They can be heard anywhere. In fact, every time you open a packet of chips you’re causing a Chihuahua in Latvia to have an epileptic fit. Why they can’t design confectionery that can be easily administered as an enema is beyond me, though perhaps they’ve already made a start those invitingly-round Jaffas.

Not as bad as the crinkling confectionery bag, but somewhat distracting, is the softer oozing sounds of people shagging. I don’t usually have a problem with people indulging in high-spirited exhibitionism as long as certain conditions are applied: 1. That I’m the one receiving the sex 2. That I’m the one receiving the sex 3. They don’t talk through it 4. They don’t mind passing the Choc-Top my way.

A solution to such annoyances that we may encounter at the cinema may be tackled in a variety of ways. Cinema management suggest a firm, clear assertive voice and stress the need to politely ask the person in question to refrain from distracting behaviour. I have two problems with this. One is that a clear assertive voice will be heard by everyone in the audience and then you’ll be told by everyone to shut it, secondly I’m beyond being polite to people who are impolite in the first place.

No, I think things need to be a lot more drastic than that. What management should equip us with is a James Bond armrest that can eject blathering members of the audience with the flip of a switch. Or a device that can unscrew the knee caps of social misfits so they collapse on standing. Better still gaffer tape. Not to tape their mouths but to bind their arms to the seat so the rest of the audience can enact mob revenge, ala Reservoir Dogs, because when the lights come up we will know where they are, we will know what they look like and you can count your pennies we will know that there will be only one exit out of there!