Sex in film
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The use of sex in film has been controversial since the earliest use of cinematography and the first portrayals of love scenes and nude scenes. Ever since the silent era of film there have been actors and actresses who have shown parts of their bodies or undergarments, or dressed and behaved in ways considered sexually provocative by contemporary standards. Some films have been criticized and/or banned by various religious groups and governments because of this. The difference with pornographic films is that erotic films are simulated. For further distinctions, see the erotica/pornography pages.
Chronological list of examples
The Kiss (1896) - Extase (1932) - And God Created Woman (1956) - The Immoral Mr. Teas (1959) - Peeping Tom (1960) - I, a Woman (1965) - Persona (1966) - Belle de Jour (1967) - I Am Curious ... Blue/Yellow (1967) - Teorema (1968) - If.... (1968) - Femina Ridens (1969) - Kärlekens språk (1969) - Performance (1970) - Women In Love (1970) - A Clockwork Orange (1971) - Last Tango in Paris(1972) - Deep Throat (1972) - La Grande Bouffe (1973) - The Night Porter (1974) - The Story of O (1975) - In the Realm of the Senses (1976) - Caligula (1979) - Videodrome (1983) - Body Double (1984) - Blue Velvet (1986) - The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989) - Henry & June (1990) - Bitter Moon (1992) - Tokyo Decadence (1992) - L' Ennui (1998) - Romance X (1999) - Eyes Wide Shut (1999) - Baise-Moi (2000) - Y tu Mama Tambien (2001) - Sex and Lucia (2001) - Intimacy (2000) - Irréversible (2002) - Secretary (2002) - The Dreamers (2003) - Swimming Pool (2003) - Ma Mère (2004) - 9 songs (2004)
Attitudes by region
Sex in mainstream Indian movies was rare until the end of nineties, and often kisses, sex, and rape were depicted symbolically. For example, kissing was shown as the meeting of two flowers, rape as the breaking of glass bottle etc. In recent years, the attitude of the Indian movie industry, especially Bollywood, has changed, and some bold movies dealing with sexual themes have been made, though not without controversy.
Many erotically charged films have been produced in the Philippines, much to the chagrin of feminists in that country.
European movies are famous for their erotic scenes, particularly those from Italy, France and Germany. Pedro Almodovar of Spain is a prolific director who includes eroticism as part of many of his movies. Tinto Brass, from Italy, has dedicated his career to converting explicit sex into mainstream content. His films are also notable for feminist-friendly eroticism. French filmmaker Catherine Breillat caused controversy with unsimulated sex in her films Romance and Anatomy of Hell. In Italy, nudity and strong sexual themes go back to the silent era with films such as The Last Days of Pompeii (1926).
In North America, erotic films may be primarily character driven or plot driven, with considerable overlap. Most dramas center around character development, such as Steven Shainberg's Secretary (2002). Comedy films, especially romantic comedies and romantic dramas, tend toward character interaction. Mystery films, thrillers, drama films and horror films tend toward strong plots and premises, such as Last Tango in Paris (1972), Dressed to Kill (1980), Body Heat (1981), Angel Heart (1987), Basic Instinct (1992), Single White Female (1992), Color of Night (1994), Showgirls (1995), Leaving Las Vegas (1995), Different Strokes (1997), Wild Things (1998), Eyes Wide Shut (1999) and In the Cut (2003). Others, like About Last Night... (1986), Monster's Ball (2001), Chloe (2009), Love & Other Drugs (2010), Blue Valentine (2010) and Shame (2011), combine both strong plots and characters.
A popular American sub-erotic film genre is erotic thriller with films such as Dressed to Kill (1980), Basic Instinct (1992), Single White Female (1992), Color of Night (1994), Wild Things (1998), Eyes Wide Shut (1999), In the Cut (2003) and Chloe (2009).
In some films, the development of a sexual relationship (or even a one night stand) is often used to create tension in the storyline, especially if the people involved should not be sleeping together, such as in Out of Sight (1998), where a U.S. Marshal has sex with the criminal she is pursuing.
In horror films, sex is often used to mark characters that are doomed to die. Characters that engage in sex acts are often the first to be claimed by the antagonist(s), or will die shortly after their sex scene and sometimes in the middle of it. This convention of it being bad luck to have sex in a horror film is notably illustrated in the Friday the 13th film series, where supernatural villain Jason Voorhees takes a special dislike to teenagers & young adults having sex, because, as a young boy, he drowned in a lake while the camp counselors who should've been supervising him were having sex.
In some interpretations of this 'rule,' the sex acts themselves directly cause the character's demise. In Cabin Fever a man catches the deadly illness because a woman who was infected (but not yet symptomatic) seduces and has impulsive sex with him. They don't use a condom because the careless woman believes she is healthy. In fact, she is giving him the disease. Ironically, the woman (and the audience) only realize that she is infected because of red welts that are bought out by their rough lovemaking. Species (1995) and its sequels also feature many sexual deaths as virtually every human who mates with an alien in the franchise subsequently dies - female aliens kill human suitors regardless of whether they have poor genes, resist the alien's advances, or mate successfully. Human women who mate with alien men die shortly after sex as their abdomens burst during the unnaturally rapid pregnancy that always follows.
Most times in horror movies the typical survivor is a young girl who is still a virgin. In the film Scream, which satirizes horror movies, this rule is somewhat broken as the character Randy Meeks points out that one of the rules of horrors is to not have sex. In an intersecting scene, the films main protagonist Sidney Prescott loses her virginity to Billy Loomis, after they finish Billy is stabbed by Ghostface and Sidney is then chased.
Many Christian organizations have protested against theatrical films that they consider to be overly erotic or have an overly sexual scene. In many Muslim countries, movies have been banned for their sexual content.
- Pretexts for nudity in film
- Famous nude scenes
- Nudity in film
- List of mainstream films with unsimulated sex
- Mainstream films about pornographic films
- Erotic film magazine