Musical Sexual Interludes in the United States—Mainstream Romances from 1969 to 1989: A Traditional Representation of Love and Gender Roles?

By Verushka Lieutenant-Duval.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Until 1968, films produced in the United States were
submitted to the Production Code, which was used to
determine what was acceptable or not to be presented before
an audience. In regard to sexuality, only decent and not
excessive kisses were allowed. After the abolition of the
Code in 1968, a new system of quotations according to the
age of the audience to which films were addressed permitted
a greater freedom in the representation of sexuality.
However, during the 1970s, a new standardized form of
representation began to take place in order to show sex in
movies. This is what Linda Williams called in her book
Screening Sex (2008) the “Musical sexual interlude” (MSI),
which consists of representing coitus as a composition of
different shots edited together with a soundtrack. The
analysis of the MSI from a corpus composed of US-mainstream
romances from 1969 to 1989 and rated between “PG” and “R”
seems to highlight another feature: the choice of the
sexual positions in relation to the outcome of the couples
involved. In the majority of cases, the position used by
the couples who end up together at the end of the film is
the so-called “missionary position,” which was long favored
by the Christian tradition and where gender roles meet the
traditional standards: passive woman and active man, and
this, even after the freedom brought by the “Sexual

Keywords: Representation of Sexuality, Gender Roles, United States Mainstream Romances, Film Studies, Censorship

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 9, Issue 12, pp.1-20. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.141MB).

Verushka Lieutenant-Duval

Ph.D. Student in Humanities, Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture, Concordia University, Montreal, Québec, Canada

I am a Ph.D. student in Humanities at Concordia University under the direction of Thomas Waugh (Concordia University) in Film Studies, Marc Lafrance (Concordia Univ.) in Sociology and Thérèse St-Gelais (Université du Québec à Montréal) in Art History and. I hold the Graduate Fellowship of Canada Joseph-Armand-Bombardier. I have a Master in Art History (University of Montreal) since 2008, for which I was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Fonds Québécois de Recherche sur la Société et la Culture. In my Ph.D., I am continuing research begun during my Master’s on the representation of sexual positions in the visual arts and cinema. I focus especially on the representation of the equus eroticus, the sexual position of the woman on top of the man, in the artwork of Francine Larivée’s La Chambre nuptiale (1976), and its interaction with the model presented in the United Stated mainstream romances of the same period (1970s).


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