We like to give credit to Game of Thrones for setting the quota of one sex scene/one full frontal shot per episode, and an increasing number of television shows are following suit. But what an ongoing battle for a kingdom has to do directly to sex is, quite frankly, beyond me. On the other hand, Showtime’s Masters of Sex takes us deeper with an entire show focused on sex studies. We must realize though that this is not a new low we’ve sunken to. Hollywood has been showing flesh for years, dishing out sex under the guise of art, never wanting to own up to the fact that what we’re watching is a hair away from pornography.
Currently in theatres is Lars Von Tier’s two part film, Nymphomaniac, which is about a sex addict named Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg and Stacy Martin) who recounts her memories and experiences in graphic detail to Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard), a man who has rescued her from the streets. Joe’s lusty details are juxtaposed with Seligman’s offbeat bookish wisdoms, for example, he relates to her methods of ensnaring men with methodologies of fly fishing. Their conversation is laden with metaphors and philosophies typical of von Tier and his arthouse tendencies. But alongside the classical music score and nature photography are images of sadomasochism, sex scenes usually filed until “hardcore” on pornographic websites, and extreme close up shots of both male and female genitals.
A Canadian film about a sexually aggressive woman is Lie with Me (2005) based on the book by Tamara Berger and directed Clement Vigo. It centers on the relationship between a young couple Leila and David. The exploration of Leila and David’s lives includes a number of titillating sex scenes, with extended images of foreplay and intercourse. Young People F*cking (2007) is still often abbreviated to “YPF” and has caused a huge amount of controversy during its production, with the government retroactively stripping the film of its tax credits due to its alleged offensiveness.
Ultimately, YPF received positive reviews for its unconventional look at modern relationships and was well received by audiences. Another film which unexpectedly blurred the lines between conventional drama and pornography was Atom Egoyan’s Exotica, which one one hand was nominated for the Cannes Palme d’Or and later named “Best Alternative Adult Film” by Adult Video News.
The exploration of fetishism was taboo for many decades. During the years of the Hollywood Code, filmmakers couldn’t allude to homosexuality, interracial relationships, or sex outside of marriage — much less explore any type of fetish. Surrealist Luis Bunuel’s Belle de Jour was one of the first films targeted towards a mainstream audience to address themes of fetishism, depicting a young wife secretly working as a prostitute. Following Belle du Jour, several erotic writings were adapted for film including several versions of “Venus in Furs,” “The 120 Days of Sodom,” and “Story of O.” The number of films in this category has since grown vastly, more recent entries include 9½ Weeks (1986) about the affair between an art gallery employee (Kim Basinger) and sexually domineering Stockbroker; Secretary (2002) about a sheltered young woman (Maggie Gyllenhaal) whose sexual awakening is brought on by her boss’ sadist tendencies; and even David Cronenberg’s Crash, focusing on persons who are sexually aroused by car crashes featuring hetero and homosexual couplings amongst the same group of individuals.
Finally, an increasing number of A-List celebrities willing to shed their clothes take us ever deeper into sexual territory. For her role as a stripper named Erin, Demi Moore was paid a record high salary to star in Striptease (1996), a film that generated much interest for its stripping scenes performed by the lead actress herself. This was quickly overshadowed a few years later by Eyes Wide Shut (1999), when then star couple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman signed on for intimate nude love scenes. Kidman’s sex scenes included those with her husband as well as with Gary Goba for a fantasy sequence.
Those are just some of the films that have opened the floodgates, now Hollywood productions are commonly laden with sexual activity. So, 50 Shades of Grey coming out in 2015? Show me something I haven’t already seen.