It was the mid '80s, I was a child and I remember once sneakily spying on a group of adult female members of my family while they were watching a film. At some point I saw them all shocked and screaming with laughter, because during a semi-erotic scene of the film, the sexual encounter was initiated by the woman undoing the man’s trousers.
Judging by the ladies’ reaction, it was clearly completely unacceptable behaviour and no, I wasn’t supposed to be watching.
Indeed, it was a time of Sex Wars in feminism: opinions on erotica in the media, sadomasochism and porn were contradictive and possibly confusing for women of that generation who were simply trying to break free from the stereotypes they should have been following; or in many cases, pretending to be following.
I’m sure you all remember those were the years of Nine and a Half Weeks mayhem. In the film the young and beautiful Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke interpret a couple in a not-so-sane relationship where consensual sadomasochistic games are played, mainly seeing Basinger in the submissive role, pushing her boundaries till she has an emotional breakdown.
The film was not a success in cinemas, but the video made a hundred million. This says a lot about the hypocrisy of the first reaction.
Nine and a Half Weeks was not the first and won’t be the last movie to cause such a scandal and to then become a classic of erotic Hollywood productions.
A Streetcar Named Desire in the '50s, as well as Last Tango in Paris in the '70s - to stay in the Brando zone – had been a somewhat erotic breakthrough in cinematic history: the latter also badly rated by the audience due to its sex scenes. In the '80s, American Gigolo and Body Heat also got people talking, pioneering the trend of mixing sex and murder, which in the '90s and early '00s was also used respectively in Basic Instinct and In the Cut.
Surely, things haven’t changed and sex will always get everyone on their soap boxes.
As we await the Fifty Shades of Grey movie to be produced, following the turmoil the book has brought to the world, we all wonder what Hollywood will invent in order to get those scenes of crude kinkiness onto the big screen. The press is already talking about it, as well as hoping for a better written plot, although I'm not sure they will be able to make it a food scene better than our beloved Rourke and Basinger.
As I haven’t read the book (I've been put off by the bad writing quality), I personally wish it had been a better written novel that saw a great number of women in the country –and worldwide – opening their bags and taking out their piece of erotic literature on the bus, the tube, the park – not even hiding in their Kindles. This is essentially what I’m hoping the film will do as well: no more screaming in shame or walking out the cinema.