It’s been a bad run of late for sexy movies.

Recent releases that have a sexual element in their concept such as F.U. and Miss March have failed to connect. The Jonas Brothers movie, noted for its attempt to titilate its Tween audience, fizzled after an initial modest premiere. And even high-brow fare such as The Reader received criticism for its subject matter.

What’s going on? Is sex at the movies dead or do we just all have a headache?

Truth is it may be connected to the economy and our reaction to down times. And it’s not the first historic period where a recession has led to the prophylactic.

In the financially booming 1920s, it was the age of the vamp and the flapper. If you study movies of the era, the Pre-Code excesses are sometimes remarkable, including full frontal nudity, and even drug references. Compare with the moral, inspirational tone of most movies in the Depression era 1930s, which not only set up film rules — that later gave us such TV staples as twin beds for married couples shown on every sit-com in the ’50s and ’60s —  but a decided preference for the wholesome over the salacious. And while the booming 1980s gave us 9 1/2 Weeks and the 1990s produced pre-marital fun like American Pie, it seems that now especially these are types of films that would not play well and would be less attractive.

During down times, excess seems out of place. Safer, more moral, more wholesome, more inspiring seems to be the rule. The last film for teens considered at all sexual — Twilight — may have worked because of implied sexuality than the overt kind. Romantic yes, salacious or bawdy, no. At least now at the box office.

Perhaps too the movies are no longer the place where the steamy is best seen? Better to wait for the DVD?