Erotic film

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As erotic film or soft porn to play or television films referred mainly erotic show content. Usually in the length of a feature film, their plot is interspersed with periodic depictions of simulated, not explicitly shown sexual intercourse . The softcore genre is often referred to as middlebrow , i.e. art accessible to the average consumer .


For the exact definition of the genre and in particular the demarcation between hard and softcore, there are different approaches in science and these are closely related to the definition of pornography . If pornography is defined by the fact that it serves the sexual arousal of the viewer, then softcore films are generally classified as pornography. Another approach is to define pornography using the mainstream criterion . Sexual representations that are out of the mainstream are known as pornography. The erotic or softcore film does not meet this definition because it is not outside of this mainstream due to the lack of explicit sexual representations. This classification is also reflected in legal provisions. While porn films are generally not rated for young people ( X rating ), softcore films are mostly rated as R or NC-17 in the US. The classification with R is also of interest to the manufacturing companies insofar as a broader market can be reached with such a classification.

Compared to so-called sex films , erotic films are distinguished by the scope of the plot and the position of sexuality within the plot. Sex films contain a more direct and less action-driven portrayal of sexuality. Both types of adult film, however, have in common that they are less explicit in depictions of the sexual act than with hardcore pornography. While softcore productions tend to showcase the female body in its entirety, pornographic films focus on the actors' genitals. Soft porn does not contain any pornography in the sense of the legislator, despite the proximity of names, and for this reason can also be broadcast on public radio , for example . Close-ups of aroused genitals (erect penis or open vagina ) are just as little explicitly shown as any form of penetration . Furthermore, the sexual acts in soft porn are generally only simulated. There is no actual sexual intercourse between the actors and special precautions are often even taken to cover the primary genitals during the shoot. These measures are then hidden from the viewer's eyes by appropriate camera work. An exception are productions that were filmed for both the softcore and the hardcore market at the same time. In this case, both a hardcore and a softcore version of a film are shot by appropriate editing of the same source material and these are sold separately. For example, the films Im Gasthaus zum stark Hirschen by Hans Billian or AD 6969 by Paul Thomas were made in a soft and a hardcore version. Such parallel production for two markets can be achieved by two techniques: by actively changing the representation by the actors or by using multiple cameras. One speaks of hot cameras, which provide images that are as explicit as possible, and cold cameras, which film from a greater distance. The director Paul Thomas describes the differentiation through the representation by the actors as follows:

"Woman's legs in the air, it's soft-core, legs on the ground, it's hard-core"

"If the woman's legs are in the air, is it softcore, if the legs are on the ground, is it hardcore"

- Paul Thomas : o'toole, laurence. Pornocopia: Porn, sex, technology and desire. Serpents Tail, 1999

Since the late 1990s, softcore films have been moving closer to hardcore films in terms of the explicitness of their representations. Today's films without age restrictions (“ unrated ”) are sometimes more explicit than many adult films from the time of Deep Throat (1972). Before Surrender Cinema's Femalien (1996) film takes with exposed labia were very rare. Long and medium-length shots of the labia are now common in Playboy films. The criterion that sexual representations in soft porn are purely simulated is also watered down. According to softcore reviews, many scenes of oral intercourse are not simulated, but real oral intercourse takes place between the actors. The reasons given for this are the widespread use of the Internet and the case law in the USA in the 1990s. In addition, actresses with a hardcore background are increasingly being cast (for example Tracy Smith , Teanna Kai or Holly Sampson ), who have a much lower inhibition threshold with regard to the explicitness of the recordings. However, the visibility of erections and penetration as well as close-ups of genitals are still taboo.


The genre of softcore films emerged in the late 1960s as a sub-genre of sexploitation . It stood out from this mainly through a stronger sexualization. This first heyday of adult films lasted until 1973. The main reasons given for the subsequent decline at this time are competition from hardcore pornography and the increasing openness in Hollywood films. In addition, the changed case law in the USA after the central Miller v. California case, which resulted in a new definition of profanity, also played a role. The last reason given is the decline in grindhouse cinemas as a result of rising property costs, since these cinemas were the main distribution channel.

The genre experienced a second marriage in the 1990s, when pay-TV channels in the USA began to finance the production of new adult films. While these broadcasters mainly relied on the broadcasting of older sexploitation films in the previous decade, Showtime and HBO in particular changed their strategy with regard to adult formats in the 1990s. In the meantime, in addition to cable television and pay-per-view, video and DVD rentals and online sales have become the main distribution channels for softcore films.


Regarding the framework story, no motifs that are consistently present can be identified. Rather, the plot is borrowed from a wide variety of genres from horror to comedies to science fiction. A common type are parodies or spoofs of well-known films. The production company Seduction Cinema in particular serves this genre.

Typical motifs can, however, be identified with regard to the love scenes. A very common narrative line is the emphasis on romantic love. Typically, softcore films show certain types of sexual interaction. Heterosexual vaginal intercourse with a male protagonist is the dominant type of love scene. Sexual representations outside of this norm often only serve as foreplay for the final heterosexual act. The most common examples of such foreplay in softcore films today are oral sex, female masturbation, lesbian recording (referred to as "girl-on-girl") and group sex. Other typical elements are striptease, bathing and showering scenes, model appearances, voyeurism and threesomes. Orgies with a large number of participants or anal sex are rarely shown, while BDSM and various fetish practices occur at most in a highly simplified form. Sexual violence and especially rape play almost no role.


Since the mid-1990s, the softcore film industry has been a relatively small group. There are only a few labels, which usually record on 35 mm with low budgets, and producers, directors, composers, talent managers and actors are also made up of a not very large pool.

Well-known production studios are: Mystique and Indigo, both of which belong to Playboy , Seduction Cinema and Mainline Releasing Group.

Well-known directors

  • Tom Lazarus (Indigo) is one of the most outstanding softcore directors today. His best-known films include House of Love , Word of Mouth , Voyeur Confessions and The Exhibitionist Files .
  • Fred Olen Ray
  • Jim Wynorski


  • David Andrews: Soft in the middle: the contemporary softcore feature in its contexts . Ohio State University Press, 2006, ISBN 978-0-8142-1022-2 .
  • Linda Williams: The erotic thriller in contemporary cinema . Edinburgh University Press, 2005, ISBN 978-0-7486-1148-5 .
  • Oliver Jahraus, Stefan Neuhaus : The erotic film: On the media coding of aesthetics, sexuality and violence . Königshausen & Neumann, 2003, ISBN 3-8260-2582-2 .
  • David Andrews: Convention and Ideology in the Contemporary Softcore Feature: The Sexual Architecture of House of Love . In: The Journal of Popular Culture . tape 38 , no. 1 , 2004, p. 5-33 , doi : 10.1111 / j.0022-3840.2004.00098.x .

Individual evidence

  1. Interview with John Quinn. (No longer available online.) In: SoftcoreReviews. July 10, 2001, archived from the original on March 17, 2013 ; Retrieved May 14, 2013 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  2. Joel Stein: Can I be a soft-core porn star? In: Los Angeles Times. March 30, 2007, accessed May 14, 2013 .
  3. Christine Nguyen: Of course I faked it. In: Urban Gentleman Magazine. 2012, accessed May 14, 2013 .