High schoolers are often made to read Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, a novel of American and British expatriates in 1920s Europe. Until a teacher points it out, however, they’re likely to miss a subtle yet crucial detail: The protagonist, Jake Barnes, is unable to have sex due to a war wound — and this thwarts his romance with the divorcée Lady Brett Ashley.
In 2006’s Casino Royale, Craig’s first outing as Bond, he is memorably stripped naked and tortured by an underworld banker named Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), who tells him “there will be nothing left to identify you as a man,” then brutally whips his exposed junk a few times. Bond is saved, and he does go on to have an interlude with Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), though recall that at the end, she drowns herself rather than be rescued by him. Would this have happened if he were dicking her down right?
No — and he’s haunted by it evermore.
Next is Quantum of Solace. While the film set a new bar for violence in the franchise, the IMDb Parents Guide rates the nudity and sexuality as “mild.” Bond is paired with Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko), but they never sleep together, and the most titillating scene we get is 007 kissing the bare back of another agent, Strawberry Fields (Gemma Arterton). Later, the bad guys drown her in crude oil, which seems like overkill. (Arterton regrets taking the role.) Anyway, that’s not penetrative sex. It could be foreplay, but to me, it reads like Bond is stalling for the right moment to tell her he can’t get it up. After that, maybe some cunnilingus to smooth things over.
That brings us to Skyfall, which has a banger theme song courtesy of Adele but no real banging to speak of. Bond gets shot, falls into a river, is presumed dead and enjoys a brief retirement in the company of an unnamed woman. Their love scene is sharply edited: He’s kissing her against the wall, then we cut to them lounging in bed, looking sad. What occurred in between? Disappointment. When Bond does make it back to MI6, he fails every medical and physical test they give him. Not a guy in shape to fuck! Plus, I will reiterate, his testicles were destroyed years ago. He does more making out with a femme fatale named Sévérine after surprising her in the shower, probably just desperate to rinse off all the sweat and grime from dispatching henchmen.
Then you have Spectre. According to one IMDb parent, it’s the “least sexual” Bond movie in the series. His main companion, Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) threatens to kill him if he touches her in her sleep; earlier, he makes a move on Lucia Sciarra (Monica Belucci), the widow of a terrorist he killed, though it seems to involve a lot of smelling her face and looking at his own in the mirror behind her. Another inconclusive encounter, and while I’ve yet to see Craig’s final turn as Bond in No Time to Die, I bet he’ll act much the same with Ana de Armas.
Despite practical explanations for the sexlessness of this Bond era — a conscious effort to create well-rounded female characters, a prudish culture that slaps the “PG-13” rating on the glorification of gunplay and the “R” on anything carnal — I choose to believe in narrative continuity. Craig’s Bond is impotent. It’s led to some very funny reactions, like a 2015 column in the right-wing rag The Federalist where the author complains that by not objectifying women as much, these newer movies represent an attack on heterosexuality. You can also read a post from a redditor trying to convince themselves that Bond and Moneypenny do the nasty in Skyfall. As other fans patiently explained, they do not. His genitals are a graveyard. Accept it.
Because what would be the point of a gritty, “realistic” Bond reboot without lasting injury? The same way he holds onto the trauma of losing Vesper, he carries a part of his body that will never heal — he’s a Jake Barnes embroiled in 21st-century espionage. Truly, it’s the bravest artistic choice the screenwriters and directors could have made, trusting us to pick out the delicate thread of subtext that connects these otherwise loud and confusing films. The almost virginal Bond… it’s revolutionary.
Here’s to a man who saved the world while never once busting a nut.