Spoilers follow for Fair Play.
2023 is shaping up to be a wild year for sex on-screen, from Red, White & Royal Blue taking pains to depict queer sex realistically, to The Weeknd’s deeply divisive dirty talk in The Idol, to Christopher Nolan committing his first ever sex scene to celluloid. And now we can add “period sex in a bathroom” to the list of things we weren’t expecting to see, thanks to the psychological drama Fair Play.
Fair Play stars Alden Ehrenreich (Oppenheimer) and Phoebe Dynevor (Bridgerton) as Luke and Emily, two ambitious coworkers at a hedge fund who are also secretly dating. When Emily scores a high-powered promotion that Luke had also been gunning for, the at-first likeable Luke’s jealousy and anger begins to poison their relationship, and what unfolds is an uncomfortable examination of gendered power dynamics.
But when we first meet the couple, they’re falling hopelessly in love. And depicted in a brief but impactful sex scene which shows just how close they already are.
Early on in the movie, Luke and Emily attend a wedding, and are so into each other that they can’t help but take things into the bathroom, where Luke proceeds to enthusiastically go down on Emily. When he resurfaces, his face and shirt are stained with blood—she’s on her period, but he is completely unfazed.
It’s a scene that not only helps to destigmatize a perfectly natural bodily function and normalize period sex, but also presents Luke—even if only in that moment—as a viable, admirable romantic hero.
“Maybe the bar is too low, but at this moment, Luke instantly becomes likable, charming, and hot,” writes Anna Menta at Decider. “What could be more attractive than a man who eschews the societal norm of menstruation shame? Time and time again, women have been told periods are disgusting bodily functions; an immediate turn-off. But Luke doesn’t act like Emily’s any less sexy to him at this moment… It’s messy. It’s gross. And it’s terribly romantic.”
For Fair Play‘s writer and director Chloe Domont, this scene was important in getting the audience to root for Luke and Emily as a couple, so that what follows will be even more of a gutpunch.
“You know it’s not going to end up anywhere good,” she explained. “But it was always my hope that from the opening scene between them in the bathroom, that that you fall in love with them enough and you feel their love enough that you hope there will still be something coming out of it.”
Fair Play is now streaming on Netflix.
Philip Ellis is News Editor at Men’s Health, covering fitness, pop culture, sex and relationships, and LGBTQ+ issues. His work has appeared in GQ, Teen Vogue, Man Repeller and MTV, and he is the author of Love & Other Scams.