For decades, no big-box-office, adult-oriented Hollywood movie was apparently complete without a sex scene, from Don’t Look Now to Basic Instinct. Yet it appears that erotica is now dying out in mainstream cinema.
A critical analysis published in the Washington Post last week noted: “Sex is disappearing from the big screen, and it’s making movies less pleasurable.”
It said that a new summer pattern has emerged: the release of several European-produced festival and arthouse films – often, like this year’s French drama Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo, heavy with action – followed by a season of sexless Hollywood action and family films.
Lost between those two options is the classic sex scene. So no more Don’t Look Now with Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland; no 9½ Weeks with Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke; no Dangerous Liaisons, The Postman Always Rings Twice or Mulholland Drive … the list goes on.
“Once a staple of high-gloss, adult-oriented, mainstream movies,” the Washington Post wrote, the sex scene “has been largely forgotten and ignored, recommitted to the very esoteric margins it sprang from generations ago”.
But why? According to academics and close observers of Hollywood culture, the reasons are multifarious, and suggest that the movie business is going through a profound realignment of priorities backed by broad cultural, political and legislative changes.