Too Hot To Handle revels in the awkwardness of sex

Courtney Thompson on embracing your inner himbo

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I’m Michael Sun, Netflix Culture Editor at Junkee and wannabe himbo. This week, I chat to reality TV maven and sex expert Courtney Thompson on the one scene from Too Hot To Handle that dials up the awkwardness to off-Richter levels and, in doing so, reveals to us that truest of human experiences: the unexpectedly embarrassing, heinously cringey sexual encounters that force us to reckon with our own bodies. Sordid tales await, you have been warned.

MS: Too Hot To Handle is famously in its celibacy era. That, of course, means that everyone on this show is hornier than ever — they’re macking on with no regard for their rapidly depleting prize money, they’re canoodling, they’re…giving each other awkward lap dances — which is exactly what happens in this scene you’ve chosen.

CT: Unfortunately, yes. At this point, the drama is well and truly underway, which is to say they’re all behaving very much like people for whom monogamy comes naturally: acting jealous, possessive and keen to lock down with one other person rather than realising that the way to game this show is realising that you can, in fact, develop a serious connection with more than one person. But I digress. 

Cowboy stripper Nathan wants to take the object of his attraction, Kiwi lawyer bombshell Larissa, aside and talk one-one-one. He tells us he “wants her to see that I’m perhaps different”. He’s not like other girls, Larissa!!! What he actually wants is for her to sleep in his bed — romance! In the scene, they’re sitting around a fire and she asks him to “impress” her, because she is a lawyer AKA a girlboss AKA enjoys metaphorically stepping on necks. 

Nathan decides to play his strengths as a stripper and starts giving her a lap dance. Larissa is very much enjoying it, initially — “let’s go!” she says as he thrusts into her face while making unsettling grunting sounds — but when he turns around to try to put his legs up, she grows unsure. “I’m worried you’re going to kick me in the face,” she says. And then what does he do? He (unintentionally) kicks her in the face. 

Now, they aren’t having sex in this scene, but they may as well have been for how perfectly it epitomises the Mortifying Ordeal of Being Known: the sheer awkwardness of sex, especially when it doesn’t conform to the script most people have in their heads. Larissa speaks for us all when she says: “that’s enough for now”.

I think you hit on something (no pun intended) really true there, which is why this show feels unusually resonant for a genre (AKA hot people dating) not typically known for its relatability. Beneath the delirium, there’s this acknowledgement that sex is awkward and vulnerable, even if no sex is actually happening on screen.

Exactly! I mean, everything about this show is designed to be uncomfortable (the attempts at not-quite-handjobs under doona covers speak for themselves). The awkwardness of the contestants trying to not-have-sex in increasingly imaginative ways or express their feelings as though they only recently discovered their capacity for emotion is reminiscent of how cringe it is to actually think about the act of sex. I mean, really think about it. It’s deeply embarrassing! 

He is the true embodiment of Big Himbo Energy: no thoughts, just (really hot) vibes! He put himself out there, failed spectacularly and then moved on. The episode ends with Larissa joining him in bed that night!

Part of what makes sex so good is that it allows us a brief reprieve from ourselves, to not have to think, especially about how we might be perceived. So when you actually start considering it, you quickly find yourself in hell — and not the hot, Lil Nas X kind. What faces do I make? What do I look like from below? Am I too loud? Not loud enough? If they don’t make a sound — do they find me repugnant or are they thinking about what they’ll have for lunch tomorrow? Then there’s things like: errant bodily fluids, erectile dysfunction, farting, queefing, someone being accidentally hit in the head. 

What you’re saying is: by forcing everyone to stay celibate, Too Hot To Handle actually Intensifies the degree of thinking and over-thinking about sex, about our bodies, which is what makes a scene like this so especially awkward.

Precisely. Like, these people are so horny, they can barely string a sentence together because their attention is laser-focused on their bodies and how they feel. So when their attempts at seduction fall flat — or in this case, result in a literal kick in the face — it’s just……….unbearable to watch! And it leaves you (or me, maybe this is all just me) thinking about the instances where sex has not been so sexy. 

I’ll never forget the time I was sleeping with someone — it was mid-afternoon, so very light,  you could see everything — and we were on our sides. He was behind me, everything going swimmingly, when he manoeuvred me on top of him without commentary. He was trying to get me into reverse cowgirl, but because I didn’t know this, I ended up awkwardly laying on top of him, with my hair in his face, not knowing what to do with my arms and now very aware of my corporeal form. I clumsily got into the actual position as I clarified that’s what he was trying to achieve. “Yeah, it’s so hot!” he enthused. Let me tell you, I had never felt LESS hot in my life. This is not what I signed up for!  

A lot of the awkwardness of sex is derived from — as I said before — going off script. One of my favourite hypotheticals is based on a story of a girl who was eating someone’s ass when they accidentally farted… like, in her mouth — basically the anal equivalent of kicking someone in the face on a dating show. In that situation, would you rather be the person who farted, or the one who got a fart to the face?

Okay Courtney way to flip the script. I’m asking the questions here (but if I had to choose I guess I would pick the latter………………..)

And you’re not alone! It’s telling that a lot of people would prefer to take the fart than be the person who couldn’t control their gas, when in reality, we should just be accepting the fact that sometimes our bodies will betray us when we’re trying to be our hottest, sexiest selves. 

And sure, to fart when you’re having your ass eaten is less than ideal but these things happen! Have a giggle, put on some Brené Brown, and move on. Nathan got over it, so we should, too.

Yes, sex can be significant, deeply intimate, life-changing (in good and bad ways), but it’s also just deeply funny sometimes. We don’t always have to take it so seriously! These things are often only humiliating because they carry with them the shame of believing that they’re abnormal. And sure, to fart when you’re having your ass eaten is less than ideal but these things happen! Have a giggle, put on some Brené Brown, and move on. Nathan got over it, so we should, too.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but is…Nathan an inspiration to us all?

Look, he’s not not an inspiration to us all. Do you think Nathan dwelled on the fact he kicked someone in the face while trying to turn her on and leave her ravenous for his body? Absolutely not! He is the true embodiment of Big Himbo Energy: no thoughts, just (really hot) vibes! He put himself out there, failed spectacularly and then moved on. The episode ends with Larissa joining him in bed that night!

Oh to be a himbo. 

Kids, that’s the takeaway of today’s lesson and indeed the entirety of Too Hot To Handle: when you inevitably run into an awkward moment during sex, or you’re feeling embarrassed by the mortifying ordeal of being human, ask yourself, “WWAHD?” (What Would A Himbo Do?) The answer is almost always, “stop thinking, be hot.”

Courtney Thompson is the culture editor and features writer for marie claire Australia. She created the world’s first Instagram account dedicated entirely to photos of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen smoking and cannot verify the label of ‘sex expert’ but is willing to try. 
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