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17 Examples Of How Much More Graphic TV Sex Has Gotten

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    This story was originally published on February 25, 2016.

    In 1972, George Carlin enumerated the seven words you can't say on TV. But that was before cable changed everything. Now, of course, we hear each and every one of those words regularly on the small screen, along with a few new ones that are a sign of the times, like 69, analingus, and pegging.

    While movies have been growing ever tamer in the past decade or so — when was the last time you saw a really hot sex scene in a studio film? — TV is going there. Even networks are figuring out ways to show more than implied missionary with strategic lighting and carefully placed sheets. (See: Scandal.) Meanwhile, series like Netflix's Orange Is the New Black and Starz's Outlander place sex at the center of their story lines and never hold back from depicting the many ways that people experience pleasure.

    And so, for your own...uh...reading pleasure, here are some of the most taboo-busting moments in TV history.


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    1 of 17

    Queer as Folk
    Episode: "Premiere" (2000)

    The first episode of Queer as Folk — Showtime's adaptation a British series — features a graphic scene in which the older, sexually experienced Brian (Gale Howard) and high school-aged Justin (Randy Harrison) have sex. Given that it's Justin's first time, the scene verges on instructional, and it's remarkably explicit, even compared to a more recent show like Looking. According to Out, it marked "the first simulated sex between two men shown on American television." The show lasted for five seasons, and actor Hal Sparks has argued that it didn't get the credit it deserved as a pioneer in depicting gay relationships. "I get a little bit pissed at times about how forgotten we can be to certain extent, and how we played a major part in paving the way for actors to feel more comfortable playing gay roles," he told Out.

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    Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    Episode: "Touched" (2003)

    Buffy the Vampire Slayer was always progressive in its depiction of sexuality, but it's not until the final season that it actually shows Willow (Alyson Hannigan) engaging in lesbian sex. Her scene with Kennedy (Iyari Limon) is still relatively tame, but it was a first for broadcast TV.

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    90210
    Episode: "We're Not in Kansas Anymore" (2008)

    Oh, Beverly Hills, where teens give each other blow jobs in cars. New girl in town Annie (Shenae Grimes-Beech) sees her old fling Ethan (Dustin Milligan) in a car, when suddenly a girl's head emerges. Before this 21st-century reboot premiered, original 90210 star Jennie Garth said that when she heard about that scene, she thought "Aaron Spelling is rolling over in his grave right now."

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    The Good Wife
    Episode: "Taking Control" (2010)

    During the second season of The Good Wife, Peter (Chris Noth) goes down on Alicia (Julianna Margulies) in the bathroom while they are listening to NPR. The scene is not all that graphic — it is CBS, after all — but the presence of oral sex caused a media fracas all the same.