When I was young, I subscribed to the then-current notion that people who had a problem with sex and nudity in films were a bunch of joyless scolds and that in the more enlightened environment of the 1980s, people could enjoy the work of freely consenting adults to essentially prostitute themselves.
Since then, I've learned that in the entertainment world, "consent" is a rather elastic concept. This predated the "me too" movement and was instead founded on my own experience of working in photography, but the revelations of Hollywood depredations reinforced my sense that this was the norm, not the exception.
Put simply, directors are often weirdos, and they will use their power to coerce actors to do things that they would not normally do under the excuse of artistic expression. Thus, even the "good" directors who never overtly operate a casting couch can still get their jollies by forcing a fetching young actress to perform a nude scene repeatedly until she gets it "right."
I was reminded of this when I re-watched Flesh + Blood, a hack-and-slash film from 1985 starring Rutger Hauer and Jennifer Jason Leigh (and fearing Bruno Kirby, which was a bit jarring).
It is a tale of revenge and romance set in Renaissance Italy (the title card says 1501) and it is one of those remarkable films where every single character is an awful person. The least objectionable is Tom Burlinson's young prince, but he's hardly admirable. The tale follows the misadventures of a gang of mercenaries and their camp followers as they make their way through war-torn Italy.
In the course of their work they are betrayed by their employer, but avenge themselves by stealing his son's (Burlingson's) fiancee, played by Leigh. In another genre, Leigh's character would have been left unmolested and a hefty ransom demanded, however, that would deprive director Paul Verhoeven of the sordid pleasures of a very graphic gang rape, and we can't have that.
The entire film is grotesque, but in the environment when it was released, it was held to be lurid but insightful and an unflinching look at the period in question. Whether that is true is arguable, but what is not arguable is that the sheer volume of graphic violence combined with nudity (yes, the two are almost always combined) tells one a lot more about the director than the story.
Again, as a young man, I didn't trouble to think about such things, and while I found the film a bit over the top, I enjoyed the period look (particularly armor) and the various oddball engineering ideas shown in the film.
However, the story could have been told - and I believe better told - without extended sex scenes, which as an author I find dull to describe and as a viewer embarrassing to watch.
It is useful to recall that the Hays Code was put into place to prevent Hollywood from simply creating peep shows in order to boost attendance. The result was a golden age of creativity and art.
Conversely, the collapse of the code has seen a steady degradation of entertainment to the point where what was now shocking is mundane. In the age of streaming porn, peep shows lose their cinematic value. Flesh + Blood was a product of a time before we reached that point and when "adult films" were hard to find and still carried a social stigma.
The emergence of Game of Thrones as a mainstream product shows that the aesthetic of Flesh + Blood lives on, but audiences now demand more than just the naughty bits to be satisfied.