Back to the matter at hand...I looked up a little on The Road to Wellville while I was distraught with confusion over how I could possibly watch it, and I felt pretty confident that it was going to get a good SSL review. As I began watching, my hopes stayed high. It was set at this health resort type place at the turn of the century and the philosophy there held that masturbation and any non procreational sex was crazy unhealthy - something that might put you in your grave. Eleanor, the main female character, had a friend named Virginia who had a lot of nice progressive lines.
Virginia: My dear Eleanor, there is no greater pleasure for a woman than bicycling in one's bloomers.
Eleanor: You know bicycling for women is still very much frowned upon back in Peterson.
Virginia: Oh, what they're missing! Fresh air, the exercise...and the pleasure of a leather saddle between one's thighs.
Eleanor: Well, Virginia, what do you mean?
Virginia: Bicycle smile, I believe they call it. It's changed my life.
Eleanor: I'm afraid I don't follow.
Virginia: My dear, I have very little use for my husband in the sexual gratification department, but I find a long ride on my bicycle once a week, does the trick.
Man up front: Come on you two, your lagging!
Virginia: You go ahead Eleanor. I feel a smile coming on.
A turn of the century sexual feminist insinuating that husband sex (presumably experienced as straight up intercourse) doesn't do it for her, but rubbing her crotch area against a bike seat does? Sound accurate to me. She also says the following when Eleanor asks her if she really thinks sex is harmful. "Another ridiculous idea dreamed up by men. The only thing harmful about sex, my dear, is when women don't get enough of it when they want it or don't get to enjoy it when they do." She also introduces Eleanor to a vegetarian activist who also wrote a "great paper on the clitoris," and she recommended Eleanor go to this doctor who is said to "manipulate the womb" (I'll talk about him later). He insinuated to be someone who manually gives women orgasms, and Virgina describes her experience as "floating on clouds" after he finished with her.
So I felt like this movie was on a the right track. Plus, there was something promising in the Wikipedia plot description:
...He goes to find Eleanor, only to find her and Virginia Cranehill receiving clitoral massages from Dr. Spitzvogel at the same time Dr. Badger is masturbating...Clitoral massage? Group mutual masturbation? Why wouldn't I love this movie? Well, probably because the author of this Wikipedia post oversold the whole clitoral massage thing. You see, this movie wasn't as progressive as I'd expected. The only thing this procedure is ever called in the movie is a womb massage by both the Vegetarian/Clitoris Expert (who finds the procedure quite a positive thing) and the head of the health resort (who find womb massages a terrible health risk). Even though there is some level of humor associated with calling it that, it still makes it seem like this is an inner vaginal manipulation, not an outer clitoral manipulation. I realize that with the movie's vagueness about this procedure, it could be taken different ways by different people, but this isn't the only reason I feel the movie derails toward a "inner vaginal stimulation equals orgasm" feel rather than a "clitoral stimulation equals orgasm" feel. See what Will Lightbody (the He in the Wikipedia excerpt above) says after catching his wife and Virginia getting their "wombs manipulated."
Will: Eleanor, Eleanor, don't you think I deserve an explanation?
Eleanor: It's not what it looked like. You're overreacting.
Will: Overreacting? The man had his hands in your crotch!
Eleanor: It was medicine!
Will: Medicine?! The guy was up to his elbows!
Eleanor: Stop it! Stop it, Will! Alright maybe I went to far, but you know something? It felt good. It felt very good. I felt good. You'd never understand.
I mean, to me it sounds like he had his hands up in her vag, right? And, the visuals could be in line with that. The scene is the two women laying face up, side by side in old-timey undergarments on a blanket in the great outdoors. A naked German dude is between them on his knees facing them with his hands generally in each of their upskirt vicinities. You can tell that he is working his arms, but it's not completely clear if it's an in-out motion or just some vague movement. You don't see it for very long. However, I'd like to point out that if we are to believe he's working clits, then he's some kinda skilled ass man; workin' a clit each with his right and left hand at the same time - it's crazy! I mean, these ladies are breathing hard and everything. They are surely on their way to orgasms town. (Oh and he's also singing something that sounds like a German lullaby, and there's this other dude laying there naked and masturbating - just thought you should know). Anyway, the whole scene felt as if a dude was double finger-f*cking ladies up their vaginas. The words used about this procedure made it seem that way too, and so at least some of the viewers are left assuming the finger in vag thing made these women orgasm.
To be a bit more clear about how this movie depicted these "manipulations," I can tell you about the earlier scene where Eleanor went to this German dudes place of business, on the recommendation of Virginia, to get her own business taken care of. She gets in, is told to slip into a robe, to lay down, and to think beautiful thoughts. He tells her to relax, breath, open her legs, you know, the usual. Then he's clearly got his hands up in her genital region, and it's really just going from shots of her face to her hand clenching to a shot of him from about the armpits up. If I were pushed, I'd say his shoulder looks like it's moving in circular motions, but his body is kinda thrusting towards her, and he's getting all hot and bothered. It kinda has a feel like he's mock having intercourse with her through his fingers, so this scene too seemed vaginal, not clitorally focused. She eventually has this screaming, porn-like orgasm. I found it a bit ree-dic.
This "vaginal stimulation means orgasm" thing in this movie also shows up when Will seemed to have unrealistically pleasurable (for her) intercourse with this sickly women. She believed she was dying and decided she wanted to screw the anti-sex stance of the health club and just live life. The sex happened completely under a big tent like thing over this woman's bed. Only her head stuck out. His whole body was under this tent like thing. It was on the sly, and also just believe me - this bed thing was weird and hard to explain. What is easy to explain is that in the span of about 10 seconds, he got into her bed, put it in her (judging from the quick, slightly surprised exhale she blurted out), started having intercourse (judging from the way her head was being pushed back and forth), and she started really thinking it was pleasurable (judging from the sensual breathing and eye closing she was doing). Come on, that's just lame, unrealistic, romance novel kinda depictions. Could she have even lubricated in that time?
Okay, so there are progressive parts to this movie. I think it's just annoying to me because the movie sort of flaunts this female sexual empowerment bend in some places, but then muddies it with these more confusing phrases and depictions. It ends up being like any ol' Cosmo magazine; mouthin' off about lady-power in the sex department, talking about the importance of the clit, and then out the other side of its mouth, insinuating that orgasms occur from skilled, in-out vaginal penetration. It can't allow itself to acknowledge the clit as the organ of female sexual pleasure and then to simply continue to discuss and depict sexual pleasure within those terms. I think in the end it's just laziness. There is no real thought put into these depictions. Plus, there's a lot of ignorance and confusion about how females orgasm, and so it just defaults to cultural stand-by images and words.
I was disappointed with the overall depiction of female sexual response in this movie, but it had its good parts. It did continually make fun of the obsessive anti-masturbation stance of the Wellville health resort director, and it did depict masturbation in an enjoyable light more than once, so there was a clear pro-masturbation stance to this movie that I liked. Also, the clit was spoken of and in the context of sexual pleasure. So, I will give this movie 3 vulvas. There's really no standard for the amount of vulvas I give out, so take my rating as you may.
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