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Ask A Sex Therapist: The benefits of erotic films and the best ones to watch

WORDS BY LAURA MIANO 

Explore the imaginative side of your sexuality.

Laura Miano is a sex therapist based in Melbourne and co-founder of sex toy concept store Posmo. Her mission is to empower people to create a more fulfilling sex life and to support those who might like to explore their sexuality beyond cultural norms. To learn more about her, follow @lauramianosexology or contact her here.

I want to get into watching erotic films but I’m overwhelmed by choice. Where should I start?

– Erotica Novice

Hi Erotica Novice, 

I’m so glad you asked! This is a topic I could talk about forever, but I promise to keep it succinct. I watched a lot of erotic films as a young woman, finding myself completely captivated by both the beautiful sex scenes and the sensual undertones. They informed a lot of my inspiration for my sex toy concept store, Posmo – a provocative but edgy interpretation of sex.

I think back to watching Before Sunrise in my parent’s study, sitting enraptured on the hard desk chair. Before I had my own laptop, I remember watching the scenes unfold on the family’s shared computer. Needless to say, I was a little uncomfortable – but completely taken with the film.


For more sex advice, head on over to our Life section.


The benefits

I’m often discussing with my clients the idea that sex doesn’t need to be ‘entrée, main, dessert’. These films, in some cases, do adopt that structure in their sex scenes – but the broader eroticism is what makes them so great. The erotic dialogue can be so effective, you find yourself feeling horny purely from listening to the conversation. It really reminds you of how powerful eroticism can really be!

Psychotherapist Esther Perrel discusses how the structure and responsibilities of a relationship can erode eroticism. Some people find their sensual, playful side comes out with new partners or even during an affair, but they struggle to access this with their long term partner. These films take us back to that sexy, cheeky place and help us to reignite the romance in our own lives.

They’re also hot! For those who prefer to steer clear of porn, erotic films are a great way to engage with sexually stimulating material without it being overly explicit (amazing for masturbation). In addition to being steamy, some erotic films are also really beautiful. If you appreciate great curation, look for movies with an artistic take on sex and eroticism. It can be an ideal form of escapism!

Erotic film also serves to destigmatise kinks, fetishes and alternative forms of relating (think open relationships, three-ways and consensual non-monogamy). While porn can sometimes feel a little overwhelming, artistic erotica explores new forms of sex in a less confrontational way. While my list could go on forever, I’ve handpicked some favourites to introduce you to the world of erotic film.

My recommendations

Bitter Moon 

Exploring themes of exhibitionism, sadomasochism, bondage and voyeurism, Bitter Moon is a film about a ‘conventional couple’ who becomes entangled with a husband and wife while on a cruise headed for India. The ‘thriller’ aspect of Bitter Moon is what makes it so great. Throughout the film, the couples really push the boundaries of edge play (i.e. extreme and dangerous forms of BDSM). 

Because this is – first and foremost – a movie, it’s undoubtedly been dramatised. The important element of consent doesn’t really exist in this film but it’s great to get lost in their world of sadomasochism. There are some incredible scenes in this film! Some examples are when Mimi pours milk down her chest while she and Oscar are having breakfast or when Nigel – who has been secretly flirting with Mimi – sees his wife kiss her on the dancefloor. 

Buy or rent it here.

Malena

An Italian film set in Sicily, Malena is about a young boy who falls in love with the most beautiful woman in the town (named Malena). It shows how the patriarchy and the male infatuation with beautiful women can be so harmful. Malena is a good-intentioned person who finds herself in constant turmoil. Men keep throwing themselves at her, people misinterpret the situation and she continues to be wrongfully blamed.

In a subtly ironic way, while the film conveys how terribly the people in this town are objectifying her, it flips perspective by showing her in the extremely sexual scenes the young boy is imagining. Essentially, the film objectifies her as well! She’s so incredibly beautiful and as a viewer, you can see how much harm comes from it – but you can’t help but objectify her yourself. 

Buy or rent it here.

Call Me By Your Name 

I think I’ve watched this film roughly five times over the last year; it was seriously therapeutic in the peak of lockdown. Set in summer in the Italian countryside, it follows a young man who falls in love with an American intern who stays at his home to assist his father, a professor specialising in Greco-Roman culture. What makes this film so special – and erotic – is the themes it explores. 

There’s classical music, literature, an Italian villa surrounded by flora and (of course) a beautiful gay love story. Call Me By Your Name shows eroticism doesn’t necessarily have to be all about flirting and powerplays.

It’s also about general pleasures – which the film captures intellectually, visually, sexually and emotionally! Every little element is considered in this detail-orientated movie and it shows. It’s also quite slow, so it feels like you’re truly there with Elio and Oliver as they fall in love. 

Buy or rent it here.

Love 

Love is a beautifully shot film following the life of a man who falls hard and fast for a girl named Electra. As a viewer, you get taken on the really beautiful-but-tragic journey of their relationship, which consists of some of the most incredible sex scenes I’ve ever seen on film. There’s this one scene – lasting for over 10 minutes – showing the couple having a threesome with a girl they met in a Parisian club. 

The sex scene is completely unsimulated and apparently unchoreographed too. It plays out to Funkadelic’s ‘Maggot Brain’ and there are very few changes in camera angles, so it feels super authentic. Amazing self-pleasure material if you’re looking for curated erotic content.

Buy or rent it here.

Eyes Wide Shut 

Eyes Wide Shut is probably one of the best erotic thrillers to exist – sadly they don’t make them like this anymore! Bill and his wife Alice, played by Nicole Kidman (who is absolutely smoking in this film), attend a party where they both start flirting with other people. Neither interaction leads to anything, but the experience sets off a series of infidelity-related events. 

It takes a dark and eerie turn as Bill goes down the rabbit hole of seeking sexual affairs. Without ruining anything, I’ll just say he attends a masked ritual orgy run by a secret society – it’s incredible! In some way or another, almost every scene in this film has sexual innuendo. 

There are plenty of both intentionally and incidentally sexual scenes, like a woman with an ample chest receiving a breast check, or a naked woman overdosing (during which Bill has to come in and resuscitate her). As a viewer, it feels slightly wrong to watch – but it’s also really enjoyable. This is exactly the intention, mirroring the theme of infidelity in the film.  

Buy or rent it here.

For more on erotic cinema, head here.

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