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This oral sex reference was cut from Legally Blonde for a very depressing reason

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Kayleigh Dray
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An NSFW joke was cut from Legally Blonde during the test screening – and for the worst possible reason.

Legally Blonde’s Elle Woods first breezed into our lives way back in 2001, dressed in a chic two-piece, and proceeded to smash the patriarchy in a very big way.

Proving that femininity, womanhood and the colour pink are not mutually exclusive with intelligence, ambition and determination, the tenacious young law student graduated from Harvard, moved on from the partner who didn’t respect her, and annihilated the creep who sexually harassed her in the workplace.

Better still, Elle refused to let any measure of sexism deter her from her goals – and made a big point of providing support and compassion to her fellow women.

Now, 17 years later, we’ve learned that Reese Witherspoon’s iconic character was also poised to tackle Hollywood taboos around female oral sex.

As fans of the film will remember, the beginning of the film sees Elle – after being unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend – confining herself to her room and self-medicating with chocolate and sappy rom-coms.

It isn’t long before her sorority sisters step in to cheer her up with the one thing that always lifts Elle’s mood – a manicure.

However, it has now been revealed that a manicure wasn’t the first thing to pop into Elle’s mind.

In a new interview, Legally Blonde co-writer Karen McCullah and Witherspoon’s co-star Selma Blair divulged that the original script for the film read a little differently.

“There was a very dirty joke [there]: ‘What’s one thing that always makes us feel better? Cunnilingus,’” McCullah told Entertainment Weekly.

“And then it was like, ‘No, the thing after that.’ And then it cuts to the manicure place.”

McCullah added that the NSFW joke “was cut during the test screening because a movie executive said, ‘What does cunnilingus mean?’”

“He’s no longer with his wife,” joked Blair.

Despite being a thoroughly mainstream and necessary part of modern sex, it’s fair to say that cunnilingus is rarely referenced in film and television – if at all. Basic Instinct and Charlie Countryman were famously forced to cut their oral sex scenes for censors, while Blue Valentine was subjected to an NC-17 rating for refusing to do the same.

On the flipside, fellatio is far less of a taboo onscreen: 1994’s Ace Ventura sees the detective get a special ‘reward’, 2002’s The Sweetest Thing had that iconic ‘blow-job gone wrong’ moment, and 2013’s Lovelace (the biopic tale of Linda Lovelace) saw the titular character demonstrating her ‘deep throat’ skills on camera for the first time.

No wonder, then, that the shrouding of cunnilingus in taboo and secrecy is having a profound impact on young people and their attitudes towards oral sex.

In 2016, Oral Sex, Young People, and Gendered Narratives of Reciprocity (a study published in the Journal of Sex Research) asked 71 British young people aged between 16 and 18 about giving and receiving oral sex.

While participants agreed that oral sex should have an element of give-and-take, both men and women said that giving cunnilingus felt like a “bigger deal” than giving fellatio – and that it involved more of a cost to the man.

More worrying still was the fact that a number of the men polled said that they found vulvas unappealing, using terms like “messy” and “disgusting”. They also mentioned a reputational cost, saying they would be insulted by their male peers if they revealed they had given cunnilingus.

The women polled, meanwhile, said that they felt anxious whilst receiving oral sex, and added that they spent so much time worrying their taste and smell that they failed to enjoy the experience.

Thankfully, though, things are changing – and for the better. 

In 2017, HBO’s Game of Thrones – which has sparked controversy in the past over its ‘objectifying’ portrayal of female characters – broke boundaries when Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) and eunuch warrior Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) finally gave in to their feelings in a scene which focused on consent, respect, cunnilingus and female pleasure

Big Little Lies, similarly, saw Celeste (Nicole Kidman) receiving oral sex from her partner. And even Fifty Shades Darker, despite being dubbed “plotless” by critics, has been praised as “titillating and progressive” for showing Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) going down on Ana Steele (Dakota Jonson) in the movie – on two separate occasions, no less.

In short, the world is waking up to the fact that women are sexual beings, with needs and wants and desires all of their own. And, yes, some of those are undeniably messy, but they’re real and incredibly vital, too. 

Surely a grown man loudly asking to have someone explain what the word ‘cunnilingus’ means is proof of that?

Image: MGM

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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