But the proliferation of online porn, which presents sex as something entirely fenced off from the ordinary run of human experience, is, I’d suggest, at least partly connected to this. As in real life, sex in cinema has context, and can be any number of things as a result: beautiful, arousing, funny, shocking, even profound. But sex on the internet is only ever explicit, and is safely contained within a private browser tab.
Because English-language films are often made with American viewers in mind, that country’s hang-ups are imposed on the rest of the world, whether we want them or not. The US classification board, the Motion Picture Association, doesn’t account for its ratings in the same detail as our own BBFC – but it’s known to take a dim view of portrayals of sexual activity, and especially cunnilingus, which in the past has been enough to automatically merit a commercially ruinous NC-17 certificate. (Films with this rating are deemed too explicit to be screened or stocked in many cinemas and shops: one imagines Benedetta’s US distributors, IFC Films, are already preparing their case.)
Unpicking the whys and wherefores would take a thesis, but the mindset was handily summed up in an anecdote told recently by the creators of the adult animated series Harley Quinn, who after proposing a scene in which Batman performs oral sex on Catwoman were told in no uncertain terms by DC Entertainment: “Heroes don’t do that.”