10 Essentials: Sexual Perversion and Kink in Genre Films



Penetration—with a knife. Ropes—tied around your hands and feet, as a black-gloved killer looks on. Power exchanges—masked killers playing cat-and mouse with his final girl, right before the finale when she becomes a switch. Sex and violence has been with the genre from its inception, in literature, in film. From the swooning victim baring her neck to a vampire, to young kids fucking in the woods only to have a sharp weapon slide into their bodies to release warm, sticky gouts of life essence. “La petite mort”—the “little death”, that ambivalent term for orgasm. As your body shudders at climax, mouth agape, looking more like screaming and agony, you’re shaking in fear, lost in the oblivion of sensation. And though surface-level love and sexuality can be found in the genre, you will run up against the forbidden more often then not—kink, fetish, paraphilia—a whole host of desires exposed. They make us feel conflicted, disgusted and sometimes we find ourselves turned on by the horrible things we see. 

Philosopher Georges Bataille speaks to these ecstatic states, where you simultaneously engulf and surrender yourself to another. He would consider this goal to be god—to fuse while coupling only to return back to skin and face again, imprisoned in our own mortality. In the Story of The Eye, the notorious novella by Bataille, Marcelle, our female protagonist, rolls a Priest’s gouged eyeball across her naked body. We are the eye—witnessing sexual delights and atrocities the narrative relays to its audience relentlessly—helpless to stop “seeing,” but too curious to close the book and walk away.

De Sade is king here. He was jailed for his work depicting sex, pain and death in the asylum Charenton during the French Revolution. Heralded now as a political and social satirist, his works are now compared in tone to John Waters. Works of pitch-black pornography, read with fascination by many who would then condemn him. Sex is used by DeSade as a form of sovereign freedom, but also as a gash against the vile establishment and social norms. He believed in a society without a line—unlike Bataille who felt the forces of repression necessary to be transgressed against.

In genre, some films don’t draw a line either, these carnal nightmares of cinematic sex have always dealt in bleak imagery, the fear of the body, the fear that we are just meat, exploring the forbidden, the criminal; the depraved. It’s also a space where sexuality is weaponized, pointing out the “monsters” that are Humanity, that run the State. The sexuality depicted herewith is dark—I offer these as my Valentine. Here are our films. This is our sickness.

Heather Buckley also writes for Fangoria, GoreZone and Dread Central. She has been a horror fan since she was 13-years old when she first fell in love with Norman Bates. Her focus is transgressive art films, non-narrative visionary works and extreme horror films. Follow her madness on Twitter @_heatherbuckley.