Sexuality



SEXUALITY BEYOND THE UNITED STATESAND WESTERN EUROPE

The development of film industries in areas outside the United States and western Europe also had to negotiate representations of sexuality. For example, in many nations where the Catholic Church held a powerful presence, such as some Latin American countries, there was a strong pressure on filmmakers to keep their representations of sexual desire within the bounds of religious doctrine. It is also important to recognize that filmic depictions of sexuality in these regions differed from motion pictures in the United States and western Europe due to different conceptualizations of sexuality. For example, while sex between men and sex between women existed across the world, the medical category of "homosexuality" was largely a western European concept during the early twentieth century. Also, while first-wave feminism had swept western Europe and the United States, creating a new image of women's active sexuality, such a movement or image had not taken hold in much

Catherine Breillat.

of the rest of the world. Therefore, depictions of vamps, pansies, or mannish women were much more limited in motion pictures beyond the West.

It is important to recognize too that many of these populations had access to Western images. Hollywood cinema dominated the global market by the 1920s. Most of South America, Africa, and the Middle East was still under the colonial rule of various European countries—and thus exposed to the culture of their colonizers. Therefore, the expression of sexuality in many of these industries negotiated the differences between their cultures and the cultures of their rulers. The film industry in India, for example, held to the rules of propriety dictated by British culture, but also dealt with what was considered inappropriate to its own communities. While British censors allowed on-screen kissing (as long as it was chaste), it became standard not to allow couples to do so in Indian films. When India gained independence from the United Kingdom and established its Central Board of Film Censors in 1949, the ban on kissing became institutionalized, as well as forbidding displays of "indecorous dancing."

Japanese cinema provides another good example of negotiating depictions of sexuality. The Japanese film industry also kept on-screen displays of intimacy to a minimum—possibly suggesting or discussing attraction but keeping most forms of physical contact (including kissing) out of camera range. Yet, while circumspect on this issue, Japanese films had no compunction in acknowledging the existence of the geisha system. Unlike Hollywood films that strove to deny the existence of female sex workers, many Japanese pictures acknowledged geishas as part of the community structure. In the immediate aftermath of World War II, the Allied Forces oversaw the restructuring of Japanese society, which included its film industry. As part of the effort to westernize Japanese culture, filmmakers were instructed to include on-screen kissing for the first time. Thus, Japanese cinema's attitudes and portrayals of sexuality began to shift in response to the West.



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