Recently I boarded the Central Line for my daily commute into London when a curious thing happened. Following my usual ritual I grabbed a copy of the Metro and greedily tucked in to some hard hitting journalism about a squirrel doing the dance from Saturday Night Fever. Being a Londoner I have learned never to make contact (eye or otherwise) with my fellow commuters. However, as my heart warmed to the story that had rightly pushed the war in Afghanistan back to page four, I stole a glance over the top of my paper and was incredulous at what I saw. Not a single one of my fellow commuters was enjoying the inspirational tale of a squirrel that just wanted to dance - they were all reading what is now commonly known as 'mummy porn'.
Opposite me a woman reading Fifty Shades of Grey licked her lips as she flicked salaciously through page after page of smut. Further down the carriage a young man rubbed his thighs in excitement at finishing yet another superbly erotic chapter of Bared to You. "Phwoar!" exclaimed the woman next to me reading Deep Desires, emphasising her lust by gesturing in a sort of horizontal version of how you might encourage a lorry driver to sound his horn.
Now, my memory is sometimes hazy and I concede that the preceding events may not be 100% accurate. However, the rise of sexually fuelled mainstream literature is undeniable. The Fifty Shades trilogy by El James alone has sold more than ten million copies around the world and if you shop for a book online with any major retailer you will now almost certainly find an Erotic section (not that I've been looking.....honestly......alright, I've been looking! Are you happy now?).
It is curious, then, that just as mainstream literature is going through a sexual liberation, mainstream cinema has come over all coy. Like a panda set on extinction, Hollywood just isn't in the mood and audiences are now having to resort to their hands for sexual gratification.....to turn the pages of their latest erotic novel (get your mind out of the gutter.....shame on you).
It was reported by The Telegraph recently that 'sex has been all but eradicated from Hollywood scripts over the past 18 months'. Apparently sex scenes are being shunned in favour of dazzling special effects and tellingly, only two films containing sex and nudity made the box office top ten in the UK last year. So what is the reason for Hollywood's languishing libido?
Personally, I blame the pirates. But before you hastily imagine a galleon of frigid, rum sodden buccaneers sailing the seven seas of chastity I should be clear, it is not those pirates to whom I refer. Rather, it is those pesky DVD pirates, the ones who used to interrupt your sparkling conversation down the pub to offer a bag full of Hollywood's latest (or even yet to be released) blockbuster movie films. Nowadays the pirate movie trade largely takes the form of illegal downloads and a report published by the US Institute for Policy Innovation estimates that the industry loses almost $20.5bn (£13bn) each year to piracy. With profits on the slide the pressure has been on studios to make every film a financial success and that means getting bums on seats and, in turn, broadening the appeal of each new release. If a new film is given a 15 rating, just think of the potential ticket sales that are being missed! So, if Hollywood wants the big audiences and the big revenues then that means giving a rebuttal to the horizontal shuffle.
Perhaps significantly, Hollywood revenues in North America reached their highest total ever last year after two years of decline. Could this change in financial fortunes lead to a riskier, sexier Hollywood? Well, I wouldn't hold out for a sex scene in Finding Nemo 2 but there is a film version of Fifty Shades of Grey in the pipeline so that should keep those horny commuters happy for now.