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To mark the release of Fifty Shades Darker, I look back at how sex on the whole has disappeared from mainstream cinema, and lament its absence in both creative and sociological terms. 

When I worked at the iconic Video Ezy Ponsonby (RIP) in the late ’90s, there was a section towards the back of the store titled ‘Erotic’, and it was very popular.

It catered to customers who didn’t want to cross the line into watching pornography, but nevertheless desired something … sexy. Although B-movie queens like Shannon Tweed, Shannon Tweed and Shannon Tweed ably filled out much of this section, there were also mainstream studio movies in there, like 9½ Weeks (1986), Two Moon Junction (1988) and Basic Instinct (1992), as well as more art house-leaning films like Betty Blue (1986) and Henry & June (1990). The VHS editions of the David Duchovny-fronted Red Shoe Diaries found a natural home there also.

The release of Fifty Shades Darker got me thinking about how this middle ground of mainstream erotica is all but dead, and it has me nostalgic for a simpler time when the prospect of seeing a famous person’s bare bottom was enough to make you see any particular movie, even one with subtitles.