In visual media such as film and television, sexposition is the practice of providing exposition – that is, background information required for the viewer's understanding – against a backdrop of sex or nudity. The Financial Times defined sexposition as "keeping viewers hooked by combining complex plot exposition with explicit sexual goings-on". Its purpose, according to James Poniewozik, is to divert the audience and give characters something to do while exposition is being delivered, which is what distinguishes sexposition from merely gratuitous titillation.
The neologism was coined in 2011 by the blogger and critic Myles McNutt to describe the numerous scenes in the HBO fantasy TV series Game of Thrones in which characters talk while they have sex with prostitutes or watch them having sex. Author George R. R. Martin said this technique was not in his A Song of Ice and Fire books, despite the amount of sex therein, but acknowledged that his techniques of exposition were not available to the TV show. The term "sexposition" has since been retroactively applied to similar practices in many earlier works, including the older HBO shows Deadwood and The Sopranos (frequently set in a strip club), many older cop films (likewise) and even the 1930s comic strip Jane. What's new is not the nudity as such, according to Poniewozik, but rather that it increasingly tends to accompany exposition, for which older TV shows with less complex plots did not have as much need.
While acknowledging that individual sexposition scenes can have a legitimate dramatic purpose, some writers and critics have expressed disdain for the use of sexposition as a "shtick". They have said that it uses exploitation tactics, insults the audience's intelligence and covers up the screenwriter's failure, which is having to rely on long segments of exposition in the first place. When asked about sexposition in Game of Thrones during an interview with Empire, Neil Marshall, who directed the second-season episode "Blackwater", recalled that an unnamed executive producer repeatedly urged him to add more full-frontal nudity during filming. The producer told him, according to the director, that "[e]veryone else in the series [represents the] drama side. I represent the perv[ert] side of the audience", an experience that Marshall described as "pretty surreal". Game of Thrones showrunner David Benioff acknowledged that he personally "pay[s] less attention to intricate plot points delivered during sex scenes", while co-creator D. B. Weiss countered that "Sex grabs people's attention. But once it has their attention, it tends not to let go of it." They said that "Every one of those sex scenes is there because we wanted that particular scene in the show. There is not a sex scene quota from HBO."
Fan site Winter is Coming cited an April 2012 skit on Saturday Night Live when discussing Marshall's anecdote. Aired more than a month before the Marshall interview was published, the skit purported to be an episode of HBO First Look featuring Adam Friedberg, 13 year-old "creative consultant" to Game of Thrones. Played by Andy Samberg, the teenage boy was proud of "mak[ing] sure there are lots of boobs" and various sexual acts during expository scenes. Author Martin (Bobby Moynihan) called Friedberg "a visionary. He knows that even when I didn't write sex into a scene, I was definitely thinking about it." The real Martin is aware of the skit, joking at San Diego Comic-Con that Friedberg could not attend because "[t]here was a scene in Belfast with no boobies in it and he needed to go there to put that to rights".
- Hann, Michael (March 11, 2012). "How 'sexposition' fleshes out the story". The Guardian. Retrieved March 29, 2012.
- Berwick, Isabel (June 2, 2012). "Lunch with the FT: George RR Martin". Financial Times. Retrieved June 4, 2012.
- Originally in: McNutt, Myles (May 29, 2011). "Game of Thrones – "You Win or You Die"". cultural-learnings.com. Retrieved March 29, 2012.
- Marshall, Neil (June 1, 2012). "Neil Marshall Game Of Thrones Podcast". Empire. Retrieved June 1, 2012.
- Mechanic, Michael (March 5, 2013). ""Game of Thrones" Creators on Shark, Sexposition, and Season 3". Mother Jones (March/April 2013). Retrieved March 7, 2013.
- Egner, Jeremy (2013-03-29). "Your ‘Game of Thrones’ Questions, Answered". The New York Times. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- Ours is the Fury (June 1, 2012). "“Blackwater” director Neil Marshall on nudity and creating the battle". Winter is Coming. Retrieved June 1, 2012.
- Samberg, Andy; Moynihan, Bobby; Killam, Taran (April 14, 2012). "HBO First Look: Game of Thrones". Saturday Night Live. Season 37. Episode 721. NBC. http://gawker.com/5902076/snl-explains-the-nudity-in-game-of-thrones.
- Sims, David (April 15, 2012). "Josh Brolin/Gotye, S37/E19". A.V. Club. Retrieved June 1, 2012.
- Day, Patrick Kevin (June 7, 2013). "Comic-Con: ‘Game of Thrones’ panel focuses on nudity, Diana Rigg". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 14, 2012.