History was made at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year when the Palme d’Or was awarded to Blue Is the Warmest Color, marking the first time that the coveted top prize at the 66-year-old festival went to a lesbian drama.

A lot has been made about the film’s prolonged and explicit sex scenes, which apparently go on for several minutes at a time from oh so many angles. The Village Voice’s Stephanie Zacharek praised them as “perhaps among the loveliest ever put on film.” Meanwhile, Manohla Dargis at the New York Times decried voyeurism, writing “the movie feels far more about (director Abdellatif Kechiche’s) desires than anything else.”

Sex scenes on film ride a fine line between titillation and communication. The fact, someone can be turned on by the most meaningful sex on screen just as easily as they can watching somebody bend over to pick up a pen. Do we blame the film or the viewer?

In the case of Blue Is the Warmest Color, we’ll give Kechiche the benefit of the doubt. If you haven’t seen his earlier film, The Secret of the Grain, put that on your to do list. In the meantime, have a look at these important sex scenes on film, where your viewing pleasure is not the point. This is the opposite of gratuitous.

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Written by Radheyan Simonpillai (@FreshandFrowsy)

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