Learning to Play

by Susanna Paasonen, University of Turku, Finland. In a scene from Jan Soldat’s 2016 documentary film, Coming of Age, a senior male couple recount the beginning of their relationship as a fisting date. Horst is sitting topless on a sofa and Kalle, dressed in a plastic bib and diaper, sits in a playpen hugging a teddy bear with a markedly pensive expression.

Roman Porno: Screening Male Desire?

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.’ [1] 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.

Can Jennifer Aniston Rape Anyone? Horrible Bosses and Acknowledging Rape on Screen

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.

Puppet Love: In Search of Good Sex in Indie Cinema

by Donna Peberdy, Southampton Solent University, UK. Based on a 2005 ‘sound play’, Anomalisa (Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson 2015) is a stop motion puppet animation about a British self-help author who specialises in customer services yet struggles to make meaningful connections with other people. Inspired by a disorder called the Fregoli delusion, Michael (voiced by David Thewlis) sees everyone he meets as the same person (all voiced by Tom Noonan), which compounds his banal daily existence. At a conference, he meets Lisa (voiced by Jennifer Jason Leigh) and is immediately captivated by her physical and vocal differentness. In a world where everyone looks and sounds the same, Lisa is an anomaly: Anomalisa. Michael treats Lisa and her friend to some drinks before Michael and Lisa go back to Michael’s hotel room for a nightcap. Lisa reveals she has very low self-esteem and that it has been eight years since she was last intimate with someone, before Michael begins to kiss her and they have sex.

Editing (Out) Queer Sex: Born to Raise Hell (1974)

by Gary Needham, University of Liverpool, UK The 1974 film Born to Raise Hell was described by gay porn pioneer Fred Halstead as the best SM film he had ever seen and, more recently, by its current distributor as ‘the standard, the ultimate classic BDSM movie that all gay BDSM films are judged’. Rarely seen since the 1970s, the film was largely undocumented with the exception of Jack Fritscher’s interview with the film’s director Roger Earl in 1997 and has only recently seen the light of day. [1] My own interest in the film is around gay sexual cultures of the 1970s and the contiguous formal and political relations in representations of gay SM. This is also an attention to formal and sexual relations and the question of how sex is edited and, in turn, what (now) also gets ‘edited out’ through various cultural, political and legal policing in both representation and discourse. I want to claim Born to Raise Hell as an instance in which one can reassert the outlaw politics of homosexuality vis-à-vis contemporary queer theory, which, Tim Dean suggests, has become one of ‘institutional respectability by strategically distancing itself from the messiness of the erotic’. [2] Politically, we need to reassert the erotic in queer studies if it is to have any meaning for our actually lived lives. Recovering Born to Raise Hell from the 1970s seems to me a useful place to start ‘thinking sex’ again.