Sex and cinema—complicated lovers

Catherine Keener and Steve Carell in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin."

Baby (Jennifer Grey) famously lost her virginity to Patrick Swayze's character in "Dirty Dancing." The geeky freshman played by Anthony Michael Hall lusted after Samantha (Molly Ringwald), who's a virgin saving herself for Jake Ryan in "Sixteen Candles." And friends of Andy (Steve Carell) in "40 Year Old Virgin" try to help him do the deed.

Sex has been a part of movies for decades. But when exactly did the act of losing one's virginity go from being a taboo topic to becoming the central storyline?

Before the 1950s, virginity was not a main storyline but instead was used as a plot mechanism in movies, according to Tamar Jeffers McDonald, editor of "Virgin Territory: Representing Sexual Inexperience in Film." Then, the controversial Alfred Kinsey report on "Sexual Behavior in the Human Female" was issued in 1953, challenging views on sex and asserting that 50 percent of women had premarital sex.

"Hollywood jumped on the virginity problem bandwagon, and started producing films which dealt with the question of the virgin female, her desires and doubts," McDonald, a senior lecturer in film studies at the University of Kent in the U.K., said in an email to RedEye.

Toward the end of the '60s, an industry production code that censored sex and other topics on screen was done away with and the modern movie rating system gradually was adopted, which paved the way for films showing the sex experience.

"Films still show that individual first times are important to the people involved, but there is no blanket assumption that it will be a traumatic or character-changing moment," she said.

The early 1980s, with movies such as "Porky's," introduced the teen sex-quest film genre. With the onset of the AIDS crisis, there was a noticeable shift later that decade from the teen quest to stories that dealt with romance or pregnancy as a consequence of sex, McDonald said in her book. "Kids," the 1995 teen film that touched on themes of virginity, drug use and the spread of HIV, cast a darker cloud on the topic.

Currently, the quest for teens to have sex has bounced back in some movies such as "Superbad," while others focus the lens on pregnancy as the consequence of teen sex—as in 2007's "Juno."

"Although the quest film has subsequently returned, most contemporary films that show teen sex have done so in a downbeat manner; while the 2007 summer smash 'Superbad' seemed to reverse this trend, the next popular success about teens, 'Juno' (2007), returned the emphasis on teen sex to its predictable filmic conclusion, pregnancy," McDonald wrote.

Here's a look at five recent and classic teen movies that tackled the topic of having sex for the first time.

"American Pie" (1999): A group of guys lose their virginity during prom, making good on the pact to have sex by the time they graduate from high school.

"Fast Times at Ridgemont High" (1982): Stacy Hamilton (Jennifer Jason Leigh) loses her virginity in a baseball dugout at age 15 to an older guy she meets when working at the mall. She has sex again with a high school classmate, gets pregnant and has an abortion.

"Cruel Intentions" (1999): Annette (Reese Witherspoon) proudly claims that she is a virgin who is waiting until marriage to have sex. Sebastian (Ryan Phillippe) bets his step-sister he can take her virginity.

"Risky Business" (1983): A high school student (Tom Cruise) calls a prostitute and loses his virginity and later sets up his friends with other prostitutes for sex.

"Easy A" (2010): Olive (Emma Stone) lies to her friend about losing her virginity and word gets around school. Classmates offer to pay her to pretend they had sex so they can be popular. | @lvivanco