The Graphic History Of Sex On Screen

Since the dawn of film, we’ve shot nudity and sex. But only recently has it become art.

The Graphic History Of Sex On Screen
[Image: Still from I Am Curious Yellow[

There’s an old saying in the film industry: What’s the difference between art and porn? Porn has better lighting. Nowhere is the connection between the two more apparent than in the below infographic by Fandor, which tracks the history of Sex and Cinema.


Because, you see, while Fandor’s graphic tells the story of the first scandalous kiss debuting on screen in 1896’s The May-Irwin Kiss (shot by Thomas Edison, no less), overlooking the first filmic portrayal of nude women on screen in 1915’s Inspiration, and taking decades to reach the first simulated sex scene and orgasm in 1932’s Ecstacy (shot only through facial reactions with no nudity), which all culminated in our general mainstream acceptance of nudity and sex in cinema today, the history of sex on film–if one isn’t so prudish as to dismiss pornography–really evolved much faster.

In fact, through a less morally scrupulous lens, you’ll learn that in the same year of that scandalous first kiss, the seven-minute French pornographic film Le Coucher de la Mariee showed the first woman performing a striptease on camera. By 1908, A L’Ecu d’Or ou la Bonne Auberge became what’s recognized as our longest surviving record of explicit sex on screen.

However! If you look through even another lens–that of “science”–you’ll note that film pioneer Eadweard Muybridge’s Primitive Motion Studies, filmed from 1884-1887, actually predated it all, as they captured men and women ascending and descending stairs, hammering on anvils, swinging tennis rackets, and taking part in other mundane activities, completely nude with a clinical exactitude history seems to have recorded, not as one man’s fetish, but a sincere, if often odd, study of the classic human form.

It’s a bit ironic, really. Art is meant to not just reflect, but to challenge the cultural thoughts and aesthetics to move discourse forward. Yet even before formalized boards created a network of industry censors in the film industry, the art world treaded cautiously in the filmic medium. The real pioneers were perverts and scientists.

See more here.

[Hat tip: Indiewire]

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.