by Neil Jackson, University of Lincoln, UK. The uncut Caligula (Tinto Brass 1979) received an 18 certificate in 2008 regardless of the fact that it was relieved of more than 10 minutes of its running time before an ‘X’ certificate was granted for its theatrical release in 1980. This new-found sympathy for the film was justified because its hardcore imagery supposedly ‘served some kind of purpose in order to illustrate the decadence of ancient Rome’, that wasn’t ‘wholly gratuitous’ and that, quite importantly in this context, ‘it would be viewed today as a historical curio’. This is underpinned by the contention on the BBFC’s own website that ‘the passage of nearly 30 years had significantly diminished the film’s impact’. Regardless of all of this obfuscation, the fact remains that this was a film produced by Bob Guccione, one of America’s premier pornographer publishers, and directed by Tinto Brass, Europe’s seminal exponent of high end, softcore erotica. In light of Cooke’s justification, it would appear that two male individuals, both of whom were steeped in the creative and commercial global possibilities of real and simulated sex on film, somehow forged an infamously uneasy alliance that contrived to produce something that wasn’t actually a ‘sex work’.
by Carol Siegel, Washington State University Vancouver, US. As many people who are part of or at least conversant with BDSM communities have pointed out, the Fifty Shades novel and film series is not about the consensual sex that they practice. In such communities the masochist is not only generally truly in control of the situation due to prior negotiation but, more importantly, because most BDSM practitioners identify as bottoms (i.e. masochists). As Gilles Deleuze explained in his landmark introduction to Sacher-Masoch’s 1870 novella Venus in Furs, sadism and masochism are distinct sexual systems.  In sadism the sadist's desire to control and hurt the partner is the driving force of an encounter. In the masochistic system, ‘the masochist's sadist’ concentrates on pleasing the partner and meeting that partner's needs for specific kinds of pleasurable pain. The sexual system of sadism is inherently patriarchal just as it is inherently about exerting power over a person who lacks the power to resist, while as many from Theodor Reik on have argued, the masochistic system is inherently anti-patriarchal because it strips away the ability of the powerful to control the subordinate by making a mockery of punishment.  If beatings don't daunt but instead delight then they can't be used to control. In contrast to this, Fifty Shades seems to be about the pleasures awaiting women who are willing to submit to the infliction of pain they don't enjoy in order to be loved, protected and (lavishly) financially supported.
by Neil Jackson, University of Lincoln, UK. Has anybody seen a good ‘sex work’ recently? At best, it is a question that is likely to cause mildly embarrassed befuddlement in the casual film enthusiast. At worst, anybody even mildly attuned to sociolinguistic nuances may infer suggestion of voyeuristic interest in the workaday toils of prostitution. Either way, ‘sex work’ is a generic term that has been deployed by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) to distinguish the titillating, affective charge of wanton hardcore pornography. It is a phrase that has become the board’s common descriptor for hardcore films with an R18 classification (the ‘R’ being an abbreviation of ‘restricted’). This limits sale or projection to premises specially licensed to handle such material, and separates it from non-pornographic, dramatic or documentary feature film formats that present sexually explicit themes and images for an adult audience at the 18 certificate level. Essentially, if the BBFC determines that a film is pornographic in nature and intent (that is, designed primarily to sexually arouse the spectator), it is dealt with as a ‘sex work’.
by Carol Siegel, Washington State University Vancouver, US. If one is a feminist, or even sympathetic to the idea that women aren't inferior to men, there is a lot to be outraged by in the Fifty Shades franchise. But I write this negative response to Fifty Shades Darker (James Foley 2017) neither in anger nor sadness, but in disappointment because the film was so boring.
CFP: Special Edition of Mai: Journal of Feminism and Visual Culture – ‘Feminist and Queer Perspectives on Sex in Contemporary Film and TV’. Please email abstracts to: Connor.Winterton@mail.bcu.ac.uk (guest editor).
by Colette Balmain, Kingston University, UK. In Screening Sex, Linda Williams insists on the double meaning of the verb to screen ‘as both concealment and revelation.’  While sex in US cinema is marked by a movement away from concealment toward revelation, in Japanese cinema screening sex is marked by an oscillation between concealment and revelation with the sight of the sex act classified as obscene and needing to be obscured from the gaze. Nowhere is this clearer than in eroductions (erotic productions) of the 1970s and 1980s and, in particular, within Nikkatsu’s Roman Porno. In this post, I consider the emergence of Roman Porno in 1971 and Nikkatsu’s recent rebooting of the genre in 2015 in order to chart the way in which the reboots demonstrate a shift in attitude towards screening sex, albeit maintaining that the conventions of female desire are filtered through the male directorial gaze.
by Isaac Gustafsson Wood, University of Southampton, UK ‘Rape. Rape. Rape. That’s a rape. This is what raping people is. You’re a raper. You’ve raped me. That’s a rape’, Dale (Charlie Day) screams as he is shown pictures of his limp and unconscious nude body entangled in sexually suggestive positions with his boss Julia (Jennifer Aniston). With a shocked face, Dale finds the words to express his feelings, getting louder and more confident in his ability to recognise what has happened to him as rape. Despite his certainty that he has been raped, Dale is continually undermined by his friends as they refuse to see a problem simply because Julia is sexually attractive. Rape in the comedy Horrible Bosses (2011) is portrayed as a contentious subject to be debated among the characters; who decides what rape is, is up for grabs.