Sex landmarks in cinema
This week sees the release of ‘3D Sex & Zen: Extreme Ecstasy’, billed as the world’s first 3D erotic film. While the plot involves the journey of sexual discovery of a young Ming Dynasty scholar, we suspect that the bulk of the interest surrounding this pioneering release may not be to do with the plot. Remarkably, it out-grossed both the opening nights of both ‘Avatar’ and ‘Titanic’ on its release in Japan and it follows a line of landmark moments in cinema sex…
The very first kiss to appear on screens was made for Thomas Edison in 1896 for exhibition on the Vitascope, one of the very earliest projection devices. The 47 second-long film was called ‘The Kiss’ and was performed by Canadian actress May Irwin and American Broadway actor John C. Rice. It caused widespread scandal, one critic saying: “The spectacle of the prolonged pasturing on each other’s lips was beastly enough in life size on the stage but magnified to gargantuan proportions and repeated three times over it is absolutely disgusting.” The Roman Catholic church called for it to be censored.
Oddly, the first nudity on screen came before the first kiss courtesy of English photographer Eadweard J. Muybridge, who exhibited moving images on his zoopraxiscope. This comprised footage of naked men and women in his 1884 ‘primitive motion studies’, in which his photos were projected one after another to give the impression of movement. Things ramped up considerably in 1915 when ‘Inspiration’, directed by George Foster Platt, saw its star Audrey Munson making the first ever fully nude appearance. The same year, Lois Weber, the first female to direct a full-length motion picture, presented ‘Hypocrites’, which also featured a nude woman posing as a statue.
First female gay kiss
The first lesbian kiss in film came courtesy of bi-sexual actress Marlene Dietrich in the 1930 film ‘Morocco’. In it Dietrich performs a song dressed in a man’s tuxedo and kisses another woman. The first film which was openly lesbian in theme arrived the year after in 1931, ‘Madchen In Uniform’, or ‘Girls In Uniform’, which told the story of a girl (played by Hertha Thiele) who is sent to an all-girls boarding school, upon which she develops a relationship with her teacher. It was distributed across Asia and Europe, but was banned and released later in heavily censored form in the US.
First male gay kiss
Not a ‘gay kiss’ as such, it was still pretty scandalous when in the 1926 film ‘Behind The Screen’, Charlie Chaplin kissed a disguised Edna Purviance believing her to be a man. It would not be for decades that an openly gay male kiss would be shown. John Schlesinger’s 1971 ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ is said to be the first to do so. Schlesinger said of his decision to feature the two men kissing (which was only originally supposed to be an embrace) that he ‘did it for England’.
First interracial kiss
Many credit ‘Star Trek’ as boasting the first interracial screen kiss, when William Shatner’s Captain Kirk and Nichelle Nichols’ Uhura locked lips in the 1968 episode ‘Plato’s Stepchildren’. But ‘Island In The Sun’ predates it by more than a decade. The 1957 film featured two interracial couples, with black actress Dorothy Dandrige sensationally kissing John Justin on screen. Interracial marriage was still illegal in 17 US states at the time.
First ‘porn film’
1915’s ‘A Free Ride’ was the first documented pornographic film. Because of its enormously risque subject matter – about a rich man who picks up two female hitch-hikers in his Model T – it was only ever shown in all-male clubs rather than at cinemas.
First non-simulated sex
The first film to show non-simulated sex is thought to be ‘Quite Days In Clichy’, released in 1970 and based on Henry Miller’s book about two American writers living in Paris and their encounters with prostitutes. One of the film’s sex scenes shows penetration. Among the other first films to feature so-called real sex, was Melvin Van Peebles’ 1971 film ‘Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss’ song. Van Peebles even contracted gonorrhoea during the shoot and applied to get compensation from the director’s guild as he was ‘hurt on the job’. He ploughed the money back into the cash-strapped production.
First erect penis
The first erect penis to appear in what might be termed a ‘mainstream’ film appears in French director Catherine Breillat’s 1999 film ‘Romance’. The film features several explicit scenes, and even co-stars porn star Rocco Siffredi.