Considering movies like Barbarella (1968), Top Sensation (1969), and Russ Meyer’s Vixen! (1968), it would seem that the late ‘60s, the peak of the sexual revolution in the western world, was a turning point for erotic movies. Sexually charged films from this era were not only challenging censorship but were also challenging the monolithic wall of puritanical behavior that associated sex solely with marriage, which also mirrored the changing attitudes towards sex during the revolution.
With both “the
pill” and penicillin on the market, pregnancy and STDs were less of an issue,
and a woman’s sexuality outside of marriage was becoming more widely accepted,
unlike the vicious double standard from before when it was more permissible for unmarried men to have sex. Naturally, sex began to saturate the media, was
used to sell products, and became a big part of mainstream culture. In
addition, more and more married couples began experimenting with extramarital
After the Hays Code was put to sleep in 1968 sexploitation cinema would really
begin to thrive. With hopes of being free from the restraints of
censorship, erotica would be used to explore new creative avenues of
Inevitably, a lot of these so called sexploitation movies were taken
to court, but a good way erotic filmmakers could get passed this was to not only make their
movies sexually explicit but to make them intellectual and artful as well, which
was particularly more common in foreign sex movies. On the VH1 documentary Sex the Revolution, John Waters said that in order to win in
court you had to prove that a prosecuted sex film was socially redeeming, which
would then make it acceptable.