Anatomy of a Queer Sex Scene: ‘Go Fish’ and When the Best Part of Sex Is Telling Your Friends

Welcome to Anatomy of a Queer Sex Scene, a series by Drew Burnett Gregory and Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya about queer sex scenes in film. This week, we revisit 1994 lesbian classic Go Fish, directed by Rose Troche and written by Troche and Guinevere Turner.

Years before I had sex, it was already my favorite topic of conversation. My early adolescent journals were filled with notes that would make Alice from The L Word proud — detailed accounts of my friends’ crushes, my friends’ girlfriend-boyfriend “relationships,” and, who had already (gasp!) kissed.

By high school, I was the go-to person for many friends — and acquaintances — to discuss their romantic and sex lives. I was a pit of secrets shared only with my journals and autofiction read by no one. I gave advice and encouragement despite my total lack of experience, a wisdom born from my media diet of European art films as opposed to their romcoms and fairy tales.

Watching characters on-screen and listening to friends in real life provided a safe place to express and explore my own desires. Confused by my undefined queerness and transness, sex could be something theoretical, a series of stories told to me.

When I finally had my first kiss at sixteen, when I finally had sex a couple weeks before nineteen, nothing changed. My relationship to myself was still confused and the antidote for that confusion was still narrative. The only difference was the protagonist. Now I could be the main character.

Even after I transitioned and settled more into my desires, the pleasure of discussing sex with friends didn’t dissipate. Whether a one-night stand was full of pleasure or full of awkward fumbling, the intimacy with someone new could never match the intimacy with the people I knew best: my friends.

Go Fish is a lesbian romcom that spends most of its runtime prioritizing friendship. The love story between Max and Ely is secondary to the moments where Max and Ely talk about each other to their friends or talk to their friends about love and sex in general.

By the time Max and Ely finally talk through their hang ups enough to actually go on a date, it would have made sense for the film to shift focus to their romance. But Rose Troche and Guinevere Turner wisely understand that it takes time for a romance to actually be about the relationship of the two people involved.

After a first date, it’s about the participants as individuals — and their friends waiting to hear the story.

The sex scene starts with Max in the shower. Max’s friend and roommate — ever the meddler — has let Ely upstairs with the hope that Max in a towel will act as foreplay. (Personally, I’d find it femme-phobic if my friend let my date up before I was fully ready, but I guess Guinevere Turner is one of the most beautiful people ever so she doesn’t mind.)

Ely is sitting on the couch and Max sits next to her in a robe. She comments on Ely’s long fingernails and Ely, embarrassed, says she’ll cut them while Max gets dressed. Max hands her clippers, but they’re toenail clippers so Ely needs help.

Guinevere Turner in a robe holds V.S. Brodie's hand and looks at her nails.

Still in her robe, Max clips Ely’s nails — yes, in the living room, no trash can in sight — and this intimacy leads them to start kissing.

But we don’t see the sex itself. Instead, we cut to the next morning, Ely sneaking out early and then walking around Chicago in a magical world of post-sex joy. (This almost certainly inspired the scene from (500) Days of Summer and I would like the straight men who made the movie to confirm that.)

It’s only when Max is talking to her roommates — a couple — and Ely is talking to her friend and roommate that we see the sex itself. First, the nail cutting is shown again reframed through their separate telling and the separate projections of their friends. Then the sex begins.

V.S. Brodie talks to a masc lesbian friend in white pajamas.

Guinevere Turner sits on a couch wrapped in a blanket with two lesbians on either side of her.

The kissing is more sensual with lip biting and tongue flicking. There are close-ups of intertwined bodies. The awkwardness we’ve witnessed between Max and Ely is gone. Is this reality? Or is this their idealized memories and the imaginings of their friends?

Max’s friends have the energy of a monogamous couple getting off on their single friend’s escapades. Ely’s friend has stated many times she has a crush on Max, so there’s no mystery about her interest. And all of this is fun! As Ely and Max get to know each other what a joy to replace the discomfort of newness with the intimacy already built among their friends.

This sex scene is so hot because it’s a story. It’s an ideal of first connection everyone — friend and lover — can bond over and aspire to manifest.

Go Fish sex scene: V.S. Brodie bites Guinevere Turner's lip in a close up

Go Fish sex scene: a black and white close up of intertwined bodies

Go Fish sex scene: Guinevere Turner licks V.S. Brodie's open mouth while straddling her.

During the credits, we see Max and Ely walking along the water. They look like a couple.

I’ve learned there’s a moment in a relationship when sexual exploration no longer craves outsiders. The sex itself is the pleasure — and the fun talking about it after can happen with your partner. You find the friend-like intimacy in the person themself and, in that intimacy, new levels of excitement.

But, until that happens, we have friends. We can repeat the events of a date or a one-night stand with the blurred reality of narrative. We can relish in the delicious gossip of our own lives.

Unless, of course, the person you’ve fucked is a friend. Then you might want to stick to journaling.

Watch Go Fish and the Go Fish sex scene for free on Pluto TV.

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Drew Burnett Gregory

Drew is a Brooklyn-based writer, filmmaker, and theatremaker. She is a Senior Editor at Autostraddle with a focus in film and television, sex and dating, and politics. Her writing can also be found at Bright Wall/Dark Room, Cosmopolitan UK, Refinery29, Into, them, and Knock LA. She was a 2022 Outfest Screenwriting Lab Notable Writer and a 2023 Lambda Literary Screenwriting Fellow. She is currently working on a million film and TV projects mostly about queer trans women. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Drew Burnett has written 538 articles for us.

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