“In 1974’s Emmanuelle, the Dutch actress Sylvia Kristel — who died in Amsterdam on Wednesday, at 60, of esophageal and lung cancer — plays a young model who moves to Thailand with her husband, a French diplomat, and embarks on a journey of erotic self-discovery. If you’re straight and male and your own journey of erotic self-discovery began sometime between the dawn of premium cable and the advent of the Internet, there’s a good chance you knew that already. Today every 14-year-old who can work an iPad is perpetually about three taps away from a firehose blast of HD-quality smut graphic enough to put Caligula in the mood for a Silkwood shower. But back in the ’80s, to see people doing it on film, you had to either tune into the Playboy Channel’s scrambled signal and squint for glimpses of Cubist nudity, or stay up late, like Linus waiting on the Great Pumpkin, until that magic hour when Cinemax’s programming turned bleu.”
She was a bit of a first love. She never loomed as large as Jill St. John, someone I was allowed to watch in a James Bond film, but she was a close second. The problem was I could only watch her when I was at my father’s apartment as a kid, he had a date, and in absolute wonder, I accessed the building-specific cable option.