Erotica for Women - a History (still from The Satyr, El Satario)

Erotic Films for Women – a Brief History

Happy Women’s History Month! Here at ForPlay Films and ForPlay Toys we’re taking the opportunity to explore female sexual empowerment through the ages. And this week, we’re taking a look at erotica made for women!

Let’s be real – as long as porn has existed, a LOT of it has catered to the male gaze. And mostly the straight male gaze. There’s nothing wrong with that, inherently, at all – but women, femmes, and queer folks deserve some loving too! ESPECIALLY when so much of male-dominated mainstream porn comes bundled with problematic stereotypes, exploitation and outright abuse. (Not all!!! But honestly… an uncomfortable amount.).

That’s where erotica for women comes in.

The history of erotic films catering to women is fascinating. It reflects changes in societal attitudes, artistic expression, and the evolution of feminism. If a society accepts erotica for women, it usually means that it accepts the sexuality, sexual agency, and autonomy of women, too. And that often comes with sex-positivity in general, acceptance of variety in identity, and the embrace of queerness.

While eroticism in cinema has been present ever since film began, films explicitly made with the female gaze in mind began to emerge more recently. Here’s a brief overview:

Early Erotic Cinema – 1896

In the early days of cinema, erotic content was often restricted due to censorship laws and societal norms. However, there were still some early films that explored themes of sexuality, albeit in a more implicit manner.

One of the first erotic films on record is a British film from 1896, that depicts a striptease – “Victorian Lady in her Boudoir”. The French took it a step further that same year, and put out the erotic film “Le Coucher du Mariée” (Bedtime for the Bride) that also showed a striptease… with an actual man in the same room (gasp!).

That said, these early erotic films were made almost entirely for the straight male gaze. They were screened exclusively in “gentleman’s clubs” or other male-only spaces, or discreetly delivered to private residences of the elite for home-viewing.

Pushing the Erotic Envelope in Film – 1907

As the decades passed, and as the art of cinema evolved, people got more daring. From Argentina, we have the provocative erotic film “El Satario” (The Satyr), dated at around 1907. This takes a huge leap forward in explicitness, and actually has some winking hints of feminism, and the female gaze, as well.

The film starts with a group of naked women friends frolicking in nature, when a randy satyr comes upon them. He quickly spirits one of them away. At first it seems like ravishment – a consensual-non-consent fantasy brought to life. But soon we see the woman turn the tables, and enthusiastically give him fellatio, engage in 69, and ride him cowgirl-style. Her agency and pleasure – perhaps as she’s under his spell? – are clearly depicted on-screen.

This film is remarkable for depicting foreplay, as well as oral sex, upon the woman involved. The sensuality and sexuality of the film focuses on eliciting female pleasure, not just male arousal. And ultimately, at the end, the group of women band together and chase the interloping satyr away. Sounds like erotica for women (as well as for men) to me!

(Side note – if you’re intrigued by The Satyr, we think you’ll LOVE our erotic film “Into The Wild”! And perhaps also our supernatural erotic film for women, “Haunted”.)

Threesomes and Bi/Lesbian Fantasies – in 1908!

From the same time we get another very early hardcore porn film,  once again from our friends in France. “À L’Ecu d’Or” was also remarkable because it was (at least partly) a comedy! A husband and wife walk in on their maid, who’s pleasuring herself with the vaccuum hose – I guess the French maid porn trope will live eternal. The couple takes advantage of the situation, and everyone switches off, with plenty of oral sex and hardcore penetration.

We love that in this film there’s so more emphasis on oral sex, female pleasure, and clitoral stimulation. We love seeing the maid writhe in orgasmic delight with the master of the house’s mouth on her pussy. And we’re also fans of the fact that the focus throughout the film is on pleasuring the women first! Everyone seems to have a glorious time, even taking a moment to cuddle together and debrief towards the end. It may not have been made exclusively for women – but we count this as a great example of historical erotica for women.

And if you like this? You HAVE to watch our erotic turn-of-the-century comedy films Murder Mystery Part 1 and Part 2, as well as our 1920s noir film Josephine!

Female Directors with a Subversive Message – 1915 

Hypocrites was a Paramount 4-reel silent film from female director Lois Weber. Lois Weber should be far more widely known – she was the most important and prolific of all American women directors of the silent era. This film, although not pornographic, was the first American motion picture with a central role played entirely in the nude. The actress depicting “Truth” was entirely naked, and was superimposed as a semi-transparent layer onto the film. This movie also carried a message, with a harsh commentary on the hypocrisy of religion. A brave and provocative move even today, let alone in 1915!

Rather than being a straightforward erotic film, this movie subverts the shame associated with female sexuality, and uses it as a mirror against the very institution that condemns it. Now that’s a feminist film we can get behind!

Golden Age of Pornography… but for Women? – 1970s

The 1970s saw the emergence of the “porno chic” phenomenon, with films like “Deep Throat” and “The Devil in Miss Jones” gaining mainstream attention. While these films were definitely aimed at a male audience, they also attracted female viewers who were interested in exploring their own sexuality, and helped de-stigmatize sex to some extent.

For example, in Deep Throat, Lovelace’s best friend even counsels her in finding her own pleasure. “You gotta find what’s right for you”, she says – a sentiment that must have resonated with women at the time. It also does focus on the female orgasm, a sadly neglected subject in porn till then!

However, these films have a messy and complicated history – the story itself has problematic overtones. The men exploit poor Lovelace in Deep Throat, and the message in The Devil in Miss Jones could be interpreted to be extremely sex-shaming and sex-negative. And worse, the star of Deep Throat eventually disavowed her role in the film, saying she was coerced into it and paid the paltry sum of $1,250. She eventually became an anti-porn activist, and even testified to an obscenity committee that “virtually every time someone watches that movie, they’re watching me being raped”. Not the kind of reaction from talent we ever want to see.

Here at ForPlay we put our performers’ safety, agency, consent, and pleasure first above all else. And we believe it makes for better porn. So you can always watch our erotica knowing our artists are all-in.

Erotic Art House Films – 1980s

In the 1980s, there was a rise in erotic art house films that catered to a more discerning audience, both male and female. Directors like Catherine Breillat created films that combined explicit sexuality with artistic merit, appealing to those interested in exploring erotic themes in a more nuanced way.

Breillat rejected the comfortably erotic to confront sexual mores, and make her audiences uncomfortable. Easy porn-watching this is not, but her work dives deep into sexuality and psychology… and these films might sear themselves into your psyche.

Feminist Pornography – 1980s-present

The rise of feminism in the 1990s led to a greater emphasis on female sexuality and desire in the media, including pornography. Feminist pornographers like Candida Royalle began creating films that aimed to represent female pleasure and desires more authentically, often focusing on consent, communication, and diverse representations of bodies and sexualities.

Candida Royalle was a true trailblazer, creating the first explicitly erotic porn film made for women in the modern era. She founded her own studio, and advocated for female pleasure, empowerment, and education her whole life. Every feminist pornographer owes a debt to her. Erika Lust carried on the feminist mission, creating a veritable porn empire that also caters to the female gaze.

If you’re interested in Lust Cinema, they do offer some free films – including the award-winning, critically acclaimed series “Ashford Manor”. ForPlay Films’ Inka Winter actually co-wrote and directed! She’s a rising feminist pornography icon in her own right. Check out Ashford Manor here, and then come back to ForPlay Films for more of Inka’s brilliance.

Mainstream Films with Erotic Themes – 2000s-present

In the 21st century, there has been a growing trend of mainstream films incorporating erotic elements aimed at a female audience. Movies like “Secretary,” “9 1/2 Weeks,” and the problematic “Fifty Shades” series have garnered significant attention for their exploration of BDSM, power dynamics, and female sexual agency, with mixed critical reception. But the fact that the female gaze, and female sexuality, and female pleasure are now part of mainstream discussion is a huge sign of progress.

Online Platforms and Indie Studios – Now

With the rise of online streaming platforms and independent production companies, there has been an explosion of erotic content catering specifically to women and femmes. These range from short films and web series to feature-length movies, often exploring a diverse range of sexual experiences and fantasies from a female (or queer) perspective. This explosion of indie studios has facilitated radical inclusion across race, body-type, gender, and orientation, as well as a breaking down of mainstream porn “categories” that can be so dehumanizing. Go figure – since so many women have fluid or expansive sexuality, erotica for women is breaking down barriers for everyone. No matter who you are!

Even just at ForPlay Films, we take pride in making porn by women, for women (and femmes, and queers, and those who love them). We are also enthusiastically inclusive! We have our first gay love scenes, queer threesomes, pro-sex-worker erotica, and body-positive and body-neutral representation. Our erotica for women ranges from romance to ravishment to kink to one-night stands, because our performers’ desires have a wide range – and we celebrate all of it! We also take erotica for women in a holistic direction, offering meditation, mindfulness, and sexual healing. And we offer all this because we know that sexuality, for so many women, comes from the mind and the heart first.

So check us out – we’d love to welcome you to our community. Pull up a chair, watch a film, maybe even buy a sex toy – what better way to celebrate women’s history month, than by celebrating your power for pleasure. Here’s to all women, femmes, and the folks who love them – Happy Women’s History Month!