Cover for Martin: Sexy Thrills: Undressing the Erotic Thriller. Click for larger image

Sexy Thrills

Undressing the Erotic Thriller

How erotic thrillers impact contemporary ideas about feminism and femininity

Unlike the bulk of soft-core pornography, direct-to-video erotic thriller films are made specifically to appeal to women. Nina K. Martin argues that this makes them a valuable resource for investigating female sexuality, subjectivity, and gender construction, and her Sexy Thrills is the first study to use them to examine the construction of female desire.

The heroines of these productions have overtly sexual adventures, often dabbling in a variety of sex work roles--including call girl, stripper, and exotic dancer--to get in touch with their sexual desires. Martin explains, however, that the films highlight a fundamental tension between endorsing an empowered, sexually experienced female heroine ("the sexy bad girl") and reenforcing more conventional, constructed standards that limit the acceptable forms of feminine sexuality. While the sexual explicitness of the films acknowledges the increasing appeal of pornography to female heterosexual viewers, erotic thrillers remain couched in romanticized narratives and settings that speak to very traditional understandings of femininity and desire.

By analyzing the way the specifics of this hybrid genre have been shaped by pop cultural products targeting women, including romance novels, women's magazines, and talk shows, Sexy Thrills unpacks the construction of female desire to reveal how sex is marketed to heterosexual women.


"Martin's engaging book builds (as she makes clear) on the work of other who have examined the world of the soft-core erotic thriller. . . . Highly recommended."--Choice

“Martin makes a series of impressive arguments about the themes, subtext, and stylistic innovations of the format that could send academic audiences back to their Tivo for more than simply cheap thrills.”--Sexuality & Culture

“Film criticism has a long history of reevaluating critically ignored and despised genres such as pornography and teen slasher films. Sexy Thrills fully addresses and explores the major genre development in cinema commonly referred to as the erotic thriller. In this extremely well-researched, -organized, and -written book, Martin makes a strong case for the importance of these films from a feminist perspective.”--Peter Lehman, editor of Pornography: Film and Culture


Nina K. Martin is an assistant professor of film studies at Connecticut College.

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