Video Sundays: Victorian Voyeurism

Esmé Collings's Victorian Lady in Her Boudoir (1896) is the oldest surviving British erotic film. The film, presented here, has been made publicly available by the British Film Institute (BFI) as part of its Pleasure Principle collection. And per the title of the collection, the magic of Victorian Lady in Her Boudoir lies in the pleasure of projection—namely, that of the spectator whose desire lies beneath the layers of clothing that are stripped away, one article at a time. The woman, whose name is unknown, appears to speak as she removes the clothes, staring directly at the camera as she struggles to remove a sock. Though the camera is still, our eyes wander. To make a spectacle of the act of undressing, within an English context and regarding the Collings film, recalls a particular tradition of commodified peeping. Scholar Kirstyn Leuner writes that the history of the dressing room is
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