Good, old socialism was familiar with the institution of the cinema. Not that of the cineplex and the evil shopping mall. The cinema, a purely civic thing, available to everyone. Entertainment for the poor, in a way. Good old grandpa Miloš, my grandpa, used to take both his grandchildren – my younger brother and me – to both municipal cinemas (The Starthe ‘elite’ one and The Labourers’ Cinemathe workers’ one, and there was a summer garden, too, not to be forgotten). So, there was everything, from Conan, Star Wars and Beverly Hills Cop to the most obscure phantasy, most often in Italian production.

And there was also a matinee, Sunday ten-o’clock shows. And we were regulars there, even for repeats. Thus, we went, grandpa, brother and I, we watched I-don’t-know-what when a memorable detail occurred. Near the box office grandpa conspiratorially greeted a group of older primary school students, seventh, eighth grade, including repeaters. I couldn’t make head nor tail of it, at school those guys neither said hello to my brother nor to me. I wasn’t unhappy about this – after all, all you could get from them was a beating. But, the fact that they greeted my grandpa, incredibly cordially and in a civilized manner, confidentially, as if they shared something no one else was aware of, and that they showed enormous respect for him, is the secret that remained within the family. Hm...

And yes, there were some cinema projections to which grandpa didn’t take us. They were late, first of all. Those films started at ten p.m., occasionally, on working and non-working days. Occasionally, I say. There was a warning on the posters for such films: banned for people under the age of eighteen. And it wasn’t Michael Myers. Nor Jason Voorhees. It was, say, Sylvia Kristel. In the most innocent case.

Our grandma didn’t go to the cinema. Neither with grandpa, nor alone, nor with anyone else. However, she obviously let her husband feast his eyes on the sophisticated eroticism of Emmanuelle, from time to time. Or not so sophisticated pornography, Miami Spice, for instance. Later I thought about this a lot. Then the devil got a hold of me and I asked. ‘How is sex’? Grandmother repeated the question. ‘Oh, it’s poor’, waving her hand, which was supposed to mean that ‘poor’ referred to any possible time, not only the current moment. Grandfather wasn’t a hero in bed, I realized. Eh, fuck it. I thought.

Or Stanko, when we were students. Oh, that one was a hero. Stanko is the only man I’ve ever known who has seen a film at the Partizan Cinema in Belgrade. All by himself, at that. I can’t recall which film it was. Who can this be of any importance to, given the fact that only porn films were shown at the Partizan? One dark hole, opposite the main railway station. It’s no longer there. Indeed, there’s no longer the railway station, thanks to the President. I don’t remember if Stanko ever told us which film he saw. I can recall, which is good, that he described the atmosphere. ‘Some strange people, one in each row. Mad men. Jerks. Gays, perhaps’. He said nothing about himself.

The spirit of socialism brought in its wake a collective image of sex, among all the other collective images. Sex, at least on the big cinema screen, was a common thing. You go, position yourself, take out... I mean, it, and it’s all over. And you have company. Later, I chanced to take part in older primary school students’ conversations about ‘who watched what’. Sexual experience was really provincial, but also collective. All in accordance with the ideological dogma. So it could happen, let me say this as well, that Sylvia Kristel (may the Lord bestow eternal peace on her in the paradise settlement, she’s embellished many a person’s growing years, as well as later days) became a genuine star; an epitome of sex, nothing less than that. A teacher, a dream. That.

What we knew about sex was what we watched together (I’m not sure what the girls did), I’m talking about the initial ideas of sex in a society which didn’t take much care about sexual education. Then video clubs were the end of the cinema for a while. This didn’t prevent the youth from meeting in a flat of someone whose parents weren’t at home at that moment, taking out... I mean, it. And it was all over; in company, pally, how else? The video-club staff became real stars, the good-natured ones, willing to lend youngsters a video cassette of a porn film. Some would even make a recommendation. Yes, yes, there are all kinds of folk.

And then we witnessed the advent of the internet, once we were already grown. Freedom and sex for all arrived. You click, take out... But in silence, lonely. Post-postmodern. Everybody chooses for themselves, experiences remain individual, despite all the cameras, chat rooms, social networks. Sex has never been accompanied by greater detachment, even hopelessness. This century’s capitalism doesn’t want the Partizan Cinema, nor indeed the railway station, when it comes to that. Capitalism has crushed the communities of merry voyeurs, Sylvia’s fans of all generations.

That’s the way it is. I doubt that my grandpa (may the Lord bestow eternal peace on him in the heavenly settlement, he made my growing up more beautiful, as well as the present day, even as a shadow, a memory) would like Porn Hub. I fear to ask Stanko for his opinion. Let him keep it... where it belongs.