SSL Review - Bridesmaids!
Did I watch Bridesmaids twice? Hell yes I did. If you like a good comedy, you should go see it. The added bonus was that it also qualified for an SSL Review because there were depictions of female sexual release...or at least a female trying to sexually release. As we all know the SSL Review is specifically a critique of pop culture that deals in some way with female sexual pleasure.
This movie has 2 instances that I can speak about. Both instances involve the main character, Annie, played by Kristen Wig, in bed with a good looking but asshole-ish dude, Ted - played by Jon Hamm. The movie actually opens up with Ted and Annie in bed doin' the nasty. Everything we see is intercourse based. In one shot, we see her on top and she's moving her out-stretched hands in deliberate circles trying to gently coax him to "sloooow dooown" with a slow soft voice. We then see her on bottom, with her feet up in the air. She's actively moving her lower body, starting from the hips, in circles while he is pounding down at her. She stops it, saying something about them being on different rhythms. In the next scene they are spooning with Ted behind Annie. His mouth is right up against her ear area, and he keeps breathing out in puffs while he's thrusting. Each puff blows Annie's hair into her face and she pushes it back in annoyance. We never see her orgasm, and in fact, by the end, she just seems annoyed. Ted is played as a thoughtless partner, and Annie, by the end of these shots, does not seem like she will be "getting hers." So the question I want to consider with any sex scene is this. What can an audience member reasonably assume about female orgasm after watching this? This is important to consider because people gain so much sexual information from what we infer from sex we see in the media - media like TV, books, and movies (then porn and dirtier movies as we get older). That is why I dissect and critique what we are learning about female orgasms in these SSL reviews. As for this scene, I think it's fair for the audience to assume that orgasm is not easy to come by with an uncooperative partner, and I'm fine with that sort of assumption. It's pretty true.
The other possible assumptions are a little murkier. One thing to consider is that we only saw sexual acts that included intercourse. We saw no manual stimulation from these characters either on each other or on themselves. Earlier in the scene fellatio may have been insinuated from behind a closed door, but there was no sign of cunnilingus for ol' Annie. This focus on intercourse is all too common in Hollywood, and it reinforces the idea that when two people get together for sexy times, the normal and acceptable thing to do is have no-hands-involved intercourse. However, it is distinctly pointed out to the audience through Annie's frustration that this is not great sex and it doesn't result in a female orgasm. The question then becomes why. Why isn't this sex good or orgasmic for Annie?
To me there seems to be 2 reasonable assumptions from what the audience was shown.
The first is the very simplistic idea that the sex was bad just because he's a jerk, and he, in fact, is super jerky to her the next morning. There is a fairly strong idea rolling around out there in the cultural landscape that women need to have a satisfactory emotional connection with her partner in order to allow herself to orgasm. This idea can easily lead to the assumption that all the intercourse the audience was watching between Annie and Ted could have been orgasmic if only Ted was nice enough to cooperate. However, that the type of sexual acts in which the two characters are engaging is rarely orgasmic for women is never hinted at. Nice or not, hands free intercourse or intercourse in which the clitoris is not clearly engaged will probably not lead Annie or any other woman to an orgasm. But, is this movie really hinting that nice guys make it happen for the ladies and jerks don't? Annie later does have sex with a "nice guy." The audience only gets to see the before and after of their sex act, and although they both say they had fun, there is no clear indication that she orgasmed or felt that it was superior sex to the jerk guy. So, I don't think there is ever a confirmation to the audience that the movie is insinuating sex is better when a woman is emotionally connected. However, the cultural sense that this is the way of things is strong, and I think the movie leaves that option a little too open, and thus forgoes its chance of being more progressive.
The second reasonable assumption, helps, I think, with the movie's progressive status because it begins to hint at how a woman might try to orgasm during intercourse. If you're the type of audience member who is looking for it (and I always am), you could assume Annie, trying to get her orgasm, was trying to grind her clitoris against him during all this intercourse, but unfortunately he just wasn't cooperative. For instance, in the shot with her on top, she's trying to slow him down. She is also making circular movements with her hands and body while he is thrusting up, alluding to her attempt at a more "grindy" than "thrusty" sex. Although she's sitting straight up in a way that her clit would not be making contact with his pelvis, and I can see that at least at that moment she is not trying to stimulate her clit on his body during intercourse (which is a way she might be able to orgasm), I'd still like to give them credit for pointing out that the classic sex thrusting is not a great way to orgasm for women. We ladies and you gentlemen need different motion during sex in order to orgasm, and that's not generally accounted for in media depictions of sex. In a later shot I could argue that she looks as though she is trying to grind her clit on him when she is in the bottom position. Her pelvis is trying its hardest to move in circles underneath him, but his thrusting is getting in the way. Honestly, I don't exactly approve of her legs being up in the air while trying to grind on him. I mean, there is no way that is going to get her the leverage and pressure that her feet on the bed would, but I think the feet in the air was a comic decision, so I'll give that a pass. At this point Annie sounds a little frustrated when she says they are obviously on a different rhythm, so in the last sex shot, when he's blowing her hair into her face with every breath, she just seems over trying to get hers. She's just ready to get done.
There was one more sex scene between Annie and Ted. It wasn't really a sex scene, just an after sex scene where they were talking in bed. She is turned down by Ted for going to the wedding, so she makes up a guy that she says would like to go with her. Ted starts kissing her neck and such. Then he says all macho and arrogant like, "but can he do this?" What he is doing is squeezing her bra encased breast. Annie has a great comic face that I can't correctly explain here, and then gently says, "probably." Why is this funny? Well, first off, if you try to explain humor, it generally isn't funny anymore, but oh well. On one level, it's funny because a lot of men have this arrogance about their sexual technique that is completely unfounded, and even more men are maybe not arrogant, but are honestly clueless about what parts of a woman might want some attention. On another level, you have to say, "really?" Really, this "ladies man" has been with plenty of women, including Annie who's in bed with him right now, and yet he has never been set straight about what might really get a woman going? That's a pathetic statement towards women's lack of assertiveness everywhere. On yet another level it's pathetic that our culture hasn't done the job of giving men good information about what women like sexually. His boob squeezing had a distinct "porno-inspired" way of pleasing a woman, and that "porno-inspired" way of understanding a woman's sexual needs is just so widespread that it's, well, a little too realistic - cause remember, the funniest things are grounded in true life.
So, does this movie show us a depiction of sex in which we can see positions and actions that could clearly allow a woman to orgasm? Not really, but at least we aren't seeing an orgasm caused by actions and positions that clearly would not allow a woman to orgasm. That's a step in the right direction. Plus, we get a sense of the frustration a woman feels when she is trying to diplomatically mold the action to better satisfy her, but there is just no budging from the same-ol'-same-ol' thrusting intercourse. Yes, we are still overloaded with images of sex as intercourse only, but I think movie gave us a little twist of progressiveness and innovation on the classic sex scene.
All in all, I think this movie is a great comedy. It's written by women. It has a few distinctly female insights, and I think the clues this movie gives the audience about female orgasm and female sexual pleasure are not too bad. I wish the movie would have shown a woman masturbating, or trying to use her hand on the clit to bring herself to orgasm with a partner. Those types of things would have made this a super progressive movie and could add some untapped comedic territory, but I can't expect everything from everybody. Maybe next time.
I give this movie 4 out of 5 vulvas!
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