by Christopher Campbell
Due to the criticism and controversy of an alleged date-rape scene in Observe and Report, we bring you yet another list of sex scenes, this one focused on cinematic moments that stirred protest, censorship, bans and boycotts. Whether groundbreaking for their time or still questionable today, these scenes could probably have been included in our past highlights of films sold on a sex scene and films remembered primarily for a sex scene. But these are not leftovers. Many of them have merits and memorability outside of their “upsetting” depictions of a sexual act, though many of their objectors wouldn’t know since they never actually saw the films themselves.
One disclaimer must be made, because we’re sure commenters will jump in otherwise asking why A Clockwork Orange and other films with controversial rape scenes have not been included. Besides the fact that many readers will argue that such scenes are not rightly labeled “sex scenes,” there’s also the matter that too many films feature gratuitous rape scenes, and most of the time these are met with criticism. Of course, there are also a number of controversial consensual sex scenes that we’ve had to leave out, so feel free to name any excluded titles after reading the list.
Hedy Lamarr’s Orgasm in Ecstasy (Gustav Machaty, 1933)
This notorious Czechoslovakian production wasn’t the first non-pornographic film to depict sexual intercourse, but it is considered the first theatrically released movie to feature an actress (Hedy Lamarr, in her star-making role) simulating an orgasm onscreen. Censorship, bans and denouncements of the film from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Adolph Hitler and Pope Pius XII were partly due to Lamarr’s infamous non-sexual nude scene, but the close-ups on the actress’ face as she expresses sexual pleasure were certainly as objectionable, if not more so, for the time.