This book began as an amateur movie. In the mid-1990s I
bought a video camera and amused myself by asking friends
and colleagues—mostly people who knew and cared about
film—to tell me about the most erotic moments they had en-
countered at the movies. Most people’s answers connected
to an earlier moment in their life, a moment in which they
made a discovery, through movies, of a “realm of the senses”
that they may or may not have already known. Some an-
swers were long and complex, some short and simple, but
they all revealed the role movies have played in our sexual
coming of age and development, and they all demonstrated
that screening sex was both a revelation and a concealment.
I never finished my amateur movie. It was just a lark—an
escape from seemingly more pressing projects. But the fact
that, camera in hand, I could think of no more important
question to ask than when and how movies had first turned
us on eventually made me realize that the rather intimate
question I had asked so many others was perhaps one worth
asking myself. This book is my more scholarly and system-
atic, though no less personal and idiosyncratic, answer.
I thank all my initial interlocutors, those on camera and
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