Barbarism


Cunnilingus and the MPAA: Female Pleasure in the Movies!

Some thoughts on the sunny muckraking documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated:

A huge proportion of movies slapped with the NC-17 rating contain scenes of cunnilingus, female ejaculate and hips thrusting during sex. Quoted in this movie was the line “unfamiliarity breeds these NC-17s” which leads me to believe that the female MPAA raters aren’t having any fun and the male raters, be they heterosexual, clearly don’t know what they’re doing and must not be any good in bed.


A common weary stereotype about American hypocrisy in the movies: Violence is good, sex is bad. R and PG-13 ratings are doled out to movies featuring men with weapons, but NC-17s befall movies featuring women experiencing sexual pleasure. Male violence is acceptable; women’s ownership and exploration of sexuality is bad. The veiling of women, hiding of women and all they contain only serves to mystify women, frustrating natural curiosity and libido which then—surprise, surprise—results in violence. Condoning violence and condemning sexuality treats the symptom and ignores, refuses to study and scapegoats women as the cause.

All measures that seek to limit sexuality almost ALWAYS specifically target WOMEN. The casual sexism of ‘boys will be boys’ assumes men are incorrigibly horny and the limiting language that creates polar opposite adjectives like ‘ladylike’ and ‘whorish’ allow women NO space to breathe… and be human.

To earn a PG-13 rating, we are told, the word fuck is allowed in a violent context but cannot refer to the sexual act. No “realistic displays of babymaking” are permitted, no position other than missionary. To earn an R, ‘tough’ language, ‘tough’ violence and ‘tough’ themes are permitted (the use of the word ‘tough’ leading me to believe we are either operating within the boring, uncreatively and stereotypically male-oriented ethos of ONLY “STRENGTH” AND STARING BLINDKY AHEAD WILL DO or toughness, as in things that are difficult, complex, human and hard-to-chew are considered too difficult and scary for people to contend with so we lock them away, rocking ourselves ineffectually to sleep). No oral sex is allowed ON FEMALES, no anal sex on anyone.

Here’s what causes trouble: In the movie Jersey Girl, Liv Tyler’s character good-naturedly says she masturbates twice daily and smilingly dictates “We’re going to your house. We’re going to have some sex.” This is disturbing: Women cheerily taking charge. This reminds me of the apparent uproar around Amanda Palmer’s ‘Oasis’ video, disparaged for using comedy as a coping mechanism in dealing with abortion.

An NC-17 rating was given the movie But I’m a Cheerleader which contains fully dressed woman-on-woman kissing and a fully-dressed female masturbation scene whereas American Pie gets away with a dopey man humping a pie. Upshot: Women getting pleasure is bad! Gay people having sex in ANY arrangement is bad! Comedic “boys being boys” get away with anything. Aren’t they charming. Horror movies where women get their breasts ripped off is ok, but showing pubic hair is bad. Women depicted as real is bad; women disembodied, bloody and helpless is good. What is acceptable: Men engaging in violent acts, antiseptic play-violence that doesn’t account for the bloody casualties, sexualized violence against women and women fetishistically wielding violent instruments. What is unacceptable: The repercussions of violence, sex with an emphasis on sexual women, homosexual sex, pleasure.

A quote of Kevin Smith’s: “If I were to create a rating system, I wouldn’t even put murder right at the top of the chief offenses. I would put rape right at the top of chief offenses and the assault against women because it’s so insanely overused and insulting how much it’s overused in movies as a plot device: A woman in peril. That, to me, is offensive. Yet that shit skates.” Another quote: “When they liberated Buchenwald (and we saw the photographs of naked bodies)… was that PG, PG-13? That little girl in South Vietnam burned by napalm and naked… is that R? People need to see that. And if you can’t deal with it, don’t send people to war.”

When women are covered and made mysterious, the eyes regarding them are trained to become more lewd. When sexuality, attraction and reality are openly and tastefully exposed, tolerance and acceptance are fostered, which doesn’t on any level smooth things over into boring knowableness. It just makes exploring sexuality safer. The solvable ‘mystery’ of sexuality will remain as long as humans have loins and are biologically imprinted with desire. Obfuscating reality only serves to promote violence, stupidity and shame.

The message shouldn’t be any big essentialist statement on morality i.e. Sex is sinful; boys will be boys; women who have a certain amount of sex that isn’t ‘ladylike’ are whores; homosexuality is evil, et al. Instead, what should be promulgated is that violence is a childish result of anger, stanched desire and shame. Sex, in whatever form it takes, between consensual and respectful parties, is A-OK.

A final note: One thing that irked me was the disclosure that the MPAA contains many women within its ranks. Well, it certainly would be convenient to believe that only men are the perpetrators, but women can be complicit in their own undoing. Reminds me of a section in the book Women Who Love Sex (part of the informal Sarah-Rebecca book club) which discusses the plight of a woman who comes to orgasm by fantasizing about her mother’s real-life rape, an event she witnessed as an eight-year-old. “If you think about it.. this ability to transform pain into pleasure is a brilliant mutation… this ability is one that women have developed in order to survive a social order that is often at war with… our enjoying sexual pleasures.” I wonder how much the women of the MPAA have internalized this intolerant male superego as a survival mechanism to identify with the enemy and not be seen as dirty women. Pretending that the negative is positive, pain is pleasure and pleasure is bad.

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