Revisiting 'Wild Things' and That Iconic Pool Scene 25 Years Later
Few movies can really stand the test of time, but rewatching, or even discovering for the first time, "Wild Things" in 2023 can be, well…a wild thing. From its insane storyline to the way it portrays women, "Wild Things" probably isn't a movie that would be as celebrated in cinemas today as it was when it came out in 1998.
However, this lurid film made quite a mark, with one particular scene sticking out more than others.
"Wild Things" is about a couple of teenage girls (played by Denise Richards and Neve Campbell) accusing their guidance counselor (Matt Dillon) of rape while a skeptical detective (Kevin Bacon) tries to untangle the sordid affair.
It has more twists and turns than it needs, and perhaps the late film critic Roger Ebert described it best when he wrote that the film is "like a three-way collision between a softcore sex film, a soap opera and a B-grade noir."
The plot is ridiculously convoluted, but the picture is self-aware and makes a point of throwing everything it can at viewers, including a threesome, murder, betrayal, Richards' breasts and Bacon's…bacon.
Funnily enough, it was that quick flash of full-frontal male nudity that captivated audiences at the time, with Bacon recalling to Total Film in 2005 that "everyone kept on about it after the movie's release."
But there is another moment in the film that became iconic for its sexual content, and no, it's not so much the threesome as it is a scene that Richards herself later recalled as "terrifying to film."
Two girls fight in a pool
One thing certain about "Wild Things" is that it loves Richards and water. Whether showing her playing with a hose as she washes Dillon's car or stepping out of a pool to be confronted by Bacon while water drips from her long hair onto her form-fitting swimsuit, the logical next step is to put her in a water-based sex scene.
If you know anyone who's seen the movie over the past 25 years, ask them what they remember most.
What you'll hear probably aren't the details of its over-the-top story or even the threesome scene, but instead the moment when Richards and Campbell have a fight in a pool that turns into a makeout session…and more, before the camera reluctantly pulls away.
Some viewers may have felt like movie critic Ruthe Stein, who wrote, "it's momentarily shocking to see Campbell, identified with her squeaky-clean character on 'Party of Five,' make love to her co-starlet." For others, it was quite on brand for a film that was, as Ebert wrote, "in bad taste. Bad taste elevated to the level of demented sleaze."
Moreover, the scene dipped a toe into the film's bisexual subtext without truly exploring it beyond those few minutes, leaving viewers to still wonder about it decades later.
For the love of water
The pool scene in "Wild Things" is among the most well-known water-based sex scenes in movie history and it highlights a favored Hollywood trope about representing sexual relations on screen: It's hotter when it's wet.
For Rachel Needle, Psy.D., a licensed psychologist in West Palm Beach, Florida, and the co-director of Modern Sex Therapy Institutes, the truth is "on-screen representations of sex in water make it seem way easier and hotter than it actually is for most people."
One of the primary reasons the idea of having sex in water is so alluring to people has to do with its novelty and the excitement it creates, especially if the plan is to perform the act in a public place where the risk of getting caught turns up the excitement, she explained.
"Sex in the water can allow you to try different things that maybe are more challenging on dry land," Needle added.
But having sex in water, whether in a pool, a lake or a shower, is not all it's cracked up to be on the silver screen. "Wild Things" may be showing Richards and Campbell having a good time, and for some people, it may be. But for others, it is not as easy to put into practice.
"For a lot of people, it's challenging, leads to irritation and just doesn't go as smoothly as the big screen wants you to believe it does," Needle said.
How to have 'Wild Things' pool sex
"While sex in the water can be exciting, fun and can feel really good, it is important to know that there are some risks to be cautious of," Needle advised. "For some, sex in the water can lead to irritation, urinary tract infections [UTIs] and increased risk of sexually transmitted infections [STIs]."
To avoid those complications, you can exercise some precautions.
Having sex in a pool can be a great way to test new positions that the least flexible of us cannot perform in the bedroom, thanks to the buoyancy water can give you. It's best to lean on a solid surface so you won't lose your balance during sexual activities that might involve "acrobatics." The last thing anyone wants is to risk drowning while having sexy times in the pool.
One of the most crucial aspects to keep in mind, which can definitely play a big part in the enjoyment of underwater sex, is that water—contrary to popular belief—is a terrible lubricant. It may be wet, but that does not keep you or your partner lubricated.
In fact, water washes away your natural lubricant, which can render the sex uncomfortable and lead to irritation or vaginal tears. Consider a water-resistant lube as your best friend during underwater sex.
Additionally, be cautious with the pool water and maybe refrain from doing it in a public pool. Chlorine can cause irritation and does not protect you from bacteria in the water. Water of any kind—in your personal pool or a natural body of water—carries a lot of bacteria that can lead to contracting STIs or UTIs, according to Needle.
By all means, if you want to experience a "Wild Things" fantasy, then you should definitely go for it. But take proper safety precautions and wash up really well afterward. And if you don't have easy access to a pool and your partner to relive the scene right now, it may be time to revisit the cult classic film that Ebert liked despite describing it as "lurid trash."