Wetlands, my friends. This is a German movie that made waves at 2014 Sundance for being, well, super gross. It also was praised as a beautifully put together, fresh, daring, coming of age movie. Both assessments are true. I also want to mention that the part of that movie that made me have to get up off my couch and walk it off around my living room - didn't make the list of shock inducing moments on any review or article I read about Wetlands. Maybe it was deemed too much of a spoiler to add, but I just want to say that I woke up the next morning with that on my mind. It's toward the end. I assume you will know it when you see it.
The movie follows a teenager named Helen who revels in the grittier parts of life. She in unabashedly experimental - with drugs, with her sexuality, with her person-to-person interactions, and with her personal hygiene. It isn't surprising, then, that there were SSL Reviewable moments (depictions/discussion of female orgasm or masturbation) in this movie.
Eatin' that Lady-Junk
The first scene I'm going to review is an Orgasm Equality bad-ass moment that deserves our attention. Helen meet a guy at a food stand (at a beach, I think?) and after subliminally enticing him with her pussy aroma (it's a good scene - you'll have to see it), asks him if he's hungry, and it quickly cuts to him eating her out.
You can see the shot below. Although we aren't seeing the specifics, it's clearly a mouth to vulva situation which is as realistic as one could want. I have to specifically point that out because there is still that lingering idea out there that oral sex means sticking one's tongue up the pussy hole like a tiny dick. That idea pops it's head up now an again in weird insinuations in media and definitely in jokes. Here's an old-school Playboy Advisor question relating to that.
She seems to orgasm eyes closed, head back with in intake of breath and a slightly pained look on her face. It's not porny or over the top. It's subtle and real - just a gal getting her rocks off. I like it.
Also, three things about this that I want to mention
1. It's not that common in media to see a woman initiate a random sexual encounter AND that sexual encounter be something other than her getting banged hardcore. Amy Schumer in Trainwreck is the only one that comes to mind, and I praised the shit out of it in her SSL Review. It's a beautiful thing because contrary to popular belief, a dick moving in a vagina with no additional external clitoral stimulation, just isn't known to cause orgasm, so why do super sexual women in TV and movies always seem to go straight to the banging? Why not just get some mouth to clit action, am I right?Amy Schumer and Helen have the right idea if you ask me.
2. Unlike Amy Schumer, Helen was nice enough to reciprocate with a good old fashioned hand job. In all seriousness, I think this is significant because it depicts a very sexual teenage girl having a very sexual experience that doesn't include intercourse - and without any sense that what she chose to do was somehow lesser or a stand-in for the ol' in and out. Sexual scenes that do not depict intercourse often are used to show that the girl/couple are 'waiting' to have sex or that they can't have sex right then for some reason, and these types of scenes add to the cultural feeling that sex without intercourse is not really sex; that it's somehow less satisfying or less useful. This scene breaks through that bullshit, and normalizes non-intercourse sexual interactions, which, I might add, absolutely MUST be done if we are ever going to attain Orgasm Equality.
3. I don't know what she's eating in that scene- some kind of weird German Fries or something. Whatever it is, I can't help but love a scene where a gal gets to eat something (I assume is) tasty and get her junk licked at the same time. That's living the dream.
The Vegetable Test
Helen goes home and gets some carrots (still with the long feathery leafs at the top), Ginger root, and cucumber from the fridge and takes them to the tub with her to masturbate (at the end, she just puts them back, by the way).
I'll be honest, this scene annoyed me a tiny touch. Rightly or wrongly, I wished it hadn't been so sensually voyeuristic. It seemed too sexy-porny for the what I wanted. Why not a bit more clumsy and funny and seriously experimental...I mean - she's a teenage girl taking her mom's weird vegetables and a pen and paper into the tub for a test session. It deserves a little more acknowledgement of the silliness and child-like nature of that situation, doesn't it?
Here's how it goes. There's lots of cuts and soft music. IT begins with her naked in a tub. She open-mouth kisses her knee while rubbing her own body. Then she picks up a little note book and writes "vegetable test." She picks up the ginger root (it's got a lot of nubbs on it if you ask me), smells it. She draggs the carrot leaves across her naked skin, and sucks on the carrot. She presses the tip of the cucumber around her face, open mouthed and exhaling almost as if it's orgasmic. She puts the cucumber up her pussy and a close on her face shows her in breathy, sexy, concentration. We quickly see her moving the cucumber in and out then watch her face, eyes closed, head tilted back with gentle breaths. It looks like she is working towards a come, but not there yet. It cuts to both her hands sensually rubbing her naked shoulders, and then she has the carrot, dragging it across her open lips, and we see she's got it up her vagina, and we're looking at a close on her face. She's again, eyes closed, head tilted back and exhaling. Again, she seems like she's close to coming. If you told me that was supposed to depict her coming, I wouldn't be surprised. She then writes the following
cucumber - okShe then takes the shower head (which somehow has a purpley light coming from the same place the water comes from - maybe some weird German thing, I don't know) and she's spraying water on each nipple. Then with her left hand, she's covering and stimulating her vulva area, and with the right, spraying the water over her left hand but then moves the shower head further down so it's shooting more at her anus. It cuts and she's putting on an underwater eye/nose mask. It cuts again, and as the shot moves up her body, we see her left hand clearly stimulating the vuvla/clitoral area and the right hand with the shower head still between her legs spraying down towards the anal area. When we get to her face she is clearly coming with a kind of hurried expelling of breath. In the final shot she is relaxed and laying back contemplative.
ginger - sucks
carrots - bingo!
So, I might look at this scene and say that the first veggie experiments were just fun, experimental, arousing, sensual fun and only the last shower head, manual stimulation one was an orgasm. There was definitely a clear orgasm on that one and only insinuations for the veggie experiment things. However, I think the scene as a whole is the way to look at this, because let's be honest, it took me a lot of rewinding and pausing to detail this out. Mostly, the scene just looks like Helen made herself come by sticking veggies up her vagina and then made herself come again. It was sexy and it gave the audience the sense that ramming the right thing up the vag is orgasmic for the ladies, and that's just not realistic.
It's sad because I think without this scene, this movie would have a really top-notch depiction of female sexual response...and also the movie would not have crossed so clearly into creating sexy for sexy-sake. I know it was supposed to show how sensual Helen is, and I get that, but I think it just played as a run of the mill sexy scene. I think it could have been worked differently into a more innovative depiction of a girl's sexual self-experimentation.
p.s. I'm not sure I trust the translation for what she wrote in her notebook and google translate didn't help. If anyone reads German I'd love to get your take on what she wrote.
The Avocado Seed
She likes soft things like the leather on the pommel horse at her childhood school or the tip of a penis, so can ya blame her for engaging sensually with an avocado seed?
It's a soft smooth ball, and she takes it sensually in her mouth and then lays down on her bed, taking it from her mouth and moving it down to her vulva area. We don't know what physical movement is happening down there because the camera quickly moves up to a close on her face where she's smiling and relaxing, and it's clear she's masturbating.
This is a tricky scene though because it moves quickly between fantasy and reality. She looks over and a guy she's been talking with is now in bed with her and they make out. She moves from underneath him and begins licking down his spine to his butt, and then she is out of the fantasy again, and lays back down on her back bringing the avocado seed up to her mouth again and rolling it around her lips. She moves it down to her vulva, but her leg is in the way, and we can't see exactly what is physically happening, but it looks like she is stimulating her outer clitoral/vulva area. The shot moves up to her face and then back down towards he vulva, where the view is stifled, but it still seems like she's rubbing on her external clitoral/vulva area. It also seems like there is no avocado seed there anymore.
It moves up to a close on her head and neck. She seems to come; head back, eyes closed; slightly pained face; and a final expel of breath that pulls her upper body forward where she opens her eyes, pulls her hand from her vulva and sees there is no avocado seed. Then, ya know, she kinda gives birth to a plant growing from between he legs, so it's fantasy again.
It's hard to completely judge this scene on realism because it's magical realism (I wrote that with the intention of jazz hands when 'magical' is said). However, it is definitely a scene that involves a female fantasizing and masturbating - which in itself is worthy of a little praise. It seems that the masturbating involves stimulating the outer vulva area - a way that is absolutely something that might cause orgasm, and thus worthy of praise too. It also includes putting an avocado seed up the vag, which is a fine added accouterment to the vulva rubbing, but you shouldn't expect an avocado tree to shoot from your loins.
There was an ab-fab oral sex scene bubbling over with sexual agency from Helen, which I LOVED. There was a pretty cool mastubation/fantasy scene which was not off-base in any way, and there was the sexy tub scene which was mixed between sexy porngamic fantasy and actual realistic portrayals of female orgasm. So, it wasn't perfect, but it was good. I'm giving this movie a 4 out of 5 vulva rating. Also thanks very much to my friend from the Maldives that sent me towards a list with this movie on it. It might have slipped through the cracks without your help!