I've been meaning to SSL Review The 40 Year Old Virgin for a long time. It came out in 2005, and I certainly thought it was funny when I saw it at the time, but I was also researching for this movie then and noted some things it insinuated about lady-gasms. I've kinda been waiting for it to be on Netflix to watch it again for review, but it never happened, so I finally dropped the 4 bucks and rented it on Amazon Prime.
As a reminder an SSL Review focuses exclusively on depictions or discussions about female orgasm or female masturbation, and looks specifically at the realism of those depictions/discussions and how they fit into the larger cultural understanding of female orgasm and female sexuality. A movie could get an overall good review but have a bad SSL Review or vice versa. They are not necessarily linked. Find all the SSL Movie Reviews HERE.
Rape Culture At Its Finest
Oh, and also if I feel like it, I can comment on things that don't specifically involve the depiction/discussion of lady-bation or lady-gasms. As it happens, I feel like it now because, see, I noticed something in the movie that must not have struck me when I first watched it 10 years ago.
Some Character Background
I assume you've seen the movie. Most people probably have. It's about a 40 year old dude Andy (Steve Carell) who is still a virgin. His co-workers at pretend Best Buy find out and want to get him laid, particularly 3 dudes David (Paul Rudd), Jay (Romany Malco), and Cal (Seth Rogan). Andy is both embarrassed and annoyed that they want to force him into having sex. He's depicted in this movie as a 'nice guy' (the eventual woman he meets and finally makes love to on their wedding night even says to him on their first date that he's a 'nice guy' and that to her own peril, she's never dated 'nice guys'). And he is a 'nice guy.' He's thoughtful and kind and adorably quirky. He's awkward around women, but a genuine soul. His only real fault is he still has a child-like innocence. He doesn't really masturbate much. He doesn't like porn. He doesn't like to say the word pussy or bitch. He 'loves and respects women.' It's just he's awkward, guys - that's why he hasn't had a relationship with a woman in 20 years! Seriously, though, it really does seem to feed into this fantasy that 'nice guys' finish last because women only respond sexually to men like the 3 co-workers who are assholes to women and that 'nice guys' only get some if they are assholes too, or if they find the rare woman (like the one Andy eventually finds) who finally wises-up, stops dating assholes and finally sees that the nice guys are where it's at (even if he does need to 'grow up' a bit).
Finding Really Drunk Chicks To Screw Scene
Anyway, let's get back to these 3 friends. Their first attempt to get Andy laid is at a bar. Jay is talking to Andy about what to do, but Andy is mostly annoyed at the advice.
Jay: This is what's about to happen, alright. You about to go run down some drunk chick. Don't confuse that with tipsy. I'm talking about drunk. I want vomit in the hair. Bruised up knees. A Broken heel is a plus. That's what you want to find. Ok?They go through a thing where Andy talks about his heart as an instinct and dude tells him it's in his dick and makes him point to his dick to show where his instinct is.
Andy: No, alright. Dave already told me I didn't have to have sex tonight, and now he's gone...so...
Jay: Dude, just stop thinkin' for a minute. You ain't got to think on this one. All you got to do is use your instinct. Show me your instinct.
Jay: That's how a tiger know he's got to tackle a gazelle. It's a code written in his DNA that says tackle the gazelle.
Andy: Ok (exasperated)
Jay: And believe it or not, in every man there's a code that says tackle drunk bitches.Then Jay starts pointing them out, but telling Andy to not look directly at them (Andy doesn't feel comfortable doing that anyway) but to use his peripherals, which Andy reluctantly does.
Andy: You know what? I don't feel comfortable hitting on drunk bitches (he says bitches like it hurts his mouth). You know...I don't think that's right.
Jay: Ok, Ok, hold up. First of all you're making it out to be some kind of bad thing. I didn't use 'bitches' in a derogatory sense. You did.
Andy: It's just. This doesn't feel right.
Jay: Of course it doesn't feel right. What has felt right for you doesn't work. You need to try some wrong, dog.
Andy: Ok, how do, uh, I tell which ones are drunk?
Jay: Ok now you're talking.
Jay: Now with your peripherals, you got to scope out a hot drunk chick, and then you got to make your move. Ok?
Andy: OK. yes (still a little exasperated)
Jay: Alright. And remember it's more important that she's drunk than she's hot for this first one. Go get em'. Peripherals though, all the way...all peripherals.Andy is walking away, but kinda stumbling because he's trying to use his peripherals. David comes over to stand next to Jay and watch Andy.
Jay: The boy is stubborn.Andy stops and talks to a woman we can't see.
Andy: Hi I'm Andy. You look comfortable.She's revealed to be passed out on a couch.
Andy: Can I get you another cocktail?It cuts to Andy who finds Cal and asks him for help finding the drunk people. Cal makes a joke but then tells them he found a bachelorette party they should hang with. Well, turns out there is a really drunk bitch in the party, and Andy does indeed go home with her. Andy hasn't drank anything but he rides a bike, so she drives. We find she is a habitual drunk driver. She almost kills them a lot and eventually crashes and pukes on his face (I actually like this scene a lot, though, for real). She says she'll still have sex with him, but he passes. The next morning at work he's talking to the 3 guys who are laughing at him.
David: (from across the room) Too drunk!
Jay: But you got the right idea!
David: But clinically alive!
Andy: It was a very bad night. Yeah laugh. You know you guys wouldn't be laughing right now if some girl had just vomited shellfish sandwich into your mouth.The Analysis
Jay: Oh, you know what? You're right. It's my bad. Let me apologize first of all for not mentioning in detail that when you pick up a drunk women who's falling down on her way out of the bar, that you should probably drive.
Andy: I drive a bike
Jay: Alright Mr. Schwin fucking Armstrong. Who asked you to drive a bike?
So, I get that the three guys are supposed to be, in a way, terrible people, so you could say the movie tells us the rapey-ness is bad by indicating those guys are bad, but they are also endearing, lovable characters with hopes and dreams that end up doing right by Andy in the end. Opposed to being bad people, I would say we are meant to relate to them and grow to like them. I also know that Andy's nice-guy reluctance to 'tackling drunk chics' might also seem like the movie's indictment of such tactics, but I don't think that's the case. I would say this movie never really indicts the idea of intentionally coercing people who are barely coherent into having sex they cannot fully consent to. No, the indictment seems to be more about not forcing your friend to engage in meaningless sex and not looking at sex as meaningless. There is never a 'don't try and rape women' lesson here. The three men never get their comeuppance for being involved in a situation where someone drives a fall-down, puking, bruises on her knees, drunk woman back to a place to fuck her. I mean, it is a pretty intentional method to fuck someone without actual consent (i.e. rape) but that's not what the movie faults them for. Instead the lesson these three men learn is that Andy is right about wanting to fall in love and not just fuck. So, there is a sweetness to this movie, sweetness many critics have happily pointed to, but that sweetness does not override the movie's casual acceptance of rapey-ness as part of finding meaningless, one-night-stand sex.
P.S. I looked up to see if there's much written about this. There's not. It's mostly awesome reviews of this movie, but I did find 2 thoughtful articles about this movie's endorsement of rapey-behavior HERE and an especially good one HERE.
A Quick Lady-Bation Reference
Okay, that was a long aside about the surprising rapey-ness in the movie, but here's the first of the actual SSL Reviewable scenes. This occurs when Andy tries to pick up this bookstore worker (Beth played by Elizabeth Banks) at her place of employment. On advice from Cal, he answers her only in questions. He is somewhat unintentionally playing with sexy innuendo (remember, he's kind of pure and nice-guyish), and it starts to turn her on, and she too gets all innuendo-y. He's been asking her what he should get at the bookstore.
Beth: We have a lot of books. It depends on what you like.So, really it's just a quick reference from a woman about masturbating. She gets the innuendo about it, and admits to it in a sexy way. I'm always happy to see a woman in a movie admit to masturbating because it is still so often not depicted, and so many people feel as though women masturbating is wierd. So the more women in media admitting to it, the more it is normalized in our culture, which is a good thing for the female orgasm.
Andy: What do you like?
Beth: We have a great, um, section on do it yourself.
Andy: Do you like to 'do it yourself''?
Beth: (giggling) Sometimes (giggling)...if the mood strikes.
Andy: How is the mood striking you now?
Beth: (laughs a lot, then gets sexy-serious) What's your name?
However, as you will see, Beth is later depicted in this movie as a super sex freak. So, in a way, all the good aspects of this scene eventually get erased. The men in the movie (including the pure, nice-guy Andy - even if he doesn't do it much) all admit to masturbating. However, only Beth does for the women. Andy's eventual love interest is not associated with masturbation at all. So, in a way, instead of normalizing female masturbation, I think at least partially this movie makes lady-bation come off as a freaky-deaky-wierd-lady thing instead of a normal-lady-you'd-actually-date sort of thing...and I think the next scene supports that perspective further.
The Bathing Masturbating Weirdo
Andy falls in love with Trish (the one who used to date jerks like a dumb bitch, but finally learned that nice guys are where it's at with Andy!), but because of insecurities related to his virginity (which Trish doesn't know about yet) they have a fight. Andy gets drunk at a bar with his friends, and decides they are right about him needing to have meaningless one-night-stand sex with a throw-away for his first time. Anyway, he sees Beth again. They decide to go home and do the nasty.
How We Know Beth's A Freak
They are in her bedroom. They both seem a little drunk, but not super drunk, and he is super awkward but pretending to be really into it. He says they should do it, and she's like, yes! Then she speaks kinda sexy-cryptic, and he only somewhat understands what's happening. They don't do anything physical with each other, but during this time, I think it's safe to say we are supposed to get the impression she's freaky. She shows this in 5 ways.
1 She mentions that they could do it in the butt, (but he doesn't get it).
2 She gets all excited and says he's 'kinky' after he takes off his shirt and reveals a botched, patchy chest wax job that his friends made him try. She says they should shave each other, and they go into the bathroom where she draws a bubble bath.
3 She takes of his belt and gives him a little whip on his still pants-wearing behind. He reacts like it hurt (which to be fair, if we're talking about not being rapey - she probably should have taken his cue that he was starting to not be into this anymore and stopped, but she doesn't)
4 She kisses him (this is their only physical contact), and when she leaves the kiss, she pulls on his lower lip hard.
5 Now this is the big one. She gets in the tub and masturbates with the shower head. I know, crazy right? Seriously though, he really seems freaked out. Let me set the scene.
How The Masturbating Goes Down
As she's leaving the kiss, the following exchange happens. During this whole time, Andy becomes more disinterested because it seems like he knows he doesn't want to be here doing this.
Beth: I want to please you. What do you like?Beth gets in the fully filled tub and picks up the silver shower head.
Andy: I don't..I don't know. What do you like?
Beth: Can I show you what I like?
Andy: Ok (pretty disinterested)
Beth: I want to introduce you to my friend.She turns it on (let me quickly say, the water pressure does not seem up to the task if you ask me) and puts it under the bubbly water and between her legs.
Andy: Your friend is so shiny (nervous and like a child)
Beth: This guy knows exactly what I like.
Andy: Where's your friend going? (kinda freaked out like a scared kid)For some reason, Andy seems not just disinterested, child-like, and sad that he's in a position of cheating on Trisha, a woman he loves. He also seems like what she is doing is totally perplexing and fucked up. He's appalled at what he's watching.
Beth: This is how I'm gonna warm up for you.She leans back, closes her eyes, and starts breathing like it feels real good. She seems to set the shower head in place and has her hands free to kinda swoosh water around as she's still lying back eyes closed. It cuts back to him, sad, perplexed, and a little terrified still, then back to her. It's closer on her face, and she kinda lets out some squeaky moans. Her eyes kinda flutter, and it seems she is either getting really excited or may even be heading to orgasm, and then cuts back to him, even more horrified.
Andy: (completely perplexed) That's always good to warm up.. You don't want to pull something.
Andy: pheww. Wow, this is graphic.It cuts back to her and she is still laid back, focused on her pleasure, but giggling like she had just come and is going for more. When it cuts back to him, he's over this shit and decided to turn and leave, but when he heads to the bathrooms door, he runs into his 3 friends watching. He's surprised (obviously) and asks them why they're there. They say they were worried about him doing this so they came to stop it. (See! The've learned their lesson and realized love is more important than meaningless sex!). He asks how they got in.
Jay: I hit it like 8 months back. I never gave her key back. Man, you have no idea where this is going. That girl is s freak.From the bathroom, we hear her orgasm again.
Andy: (freaked the fuck out) Oh you think? Look you guys, I don't know what I'm doing anymore. I don't even know where I am. All I know is that woman scares the shit outta me, and I just wanna go home.So, he leaves with Jay and David, but Cal, who was clearly WAY into the show from jump, stays back and as the others file out, he gently steps into the bathroom, looks towards the tub (we can't see the tub, though), and says, "hey" with a little wave. She giggles, and he starts taking off his shirt before it cuts.
So, Here Is What We Learned:
- If a woman asks to show you what she likes sexually, say no. If you say ok, she might actually show you how she gets off by actually masturbating, and there is nothing more appalling and horrifying than seeing a woman bring herself to orgasm.
- Bitches that would masturbate right in front of you are Freaky. As. Hell....terrifyingly so.
- If you are into freaky bitches like Cal (Cal has previously shown himself to be into freaky shit), just show up and start doing sex things with any ol' freak. If she freely went into 1 freaky sexual situation, she will certainly be up for any other freaky sexual situation that might arise...like a completely random stranger climbing into the bath with you after the person you chose to have sex with randomly disappears.
But for real, that scene was ridiculous to me. Could Apatow, Carell, and the rest of the writing crew not think of anything more radical for her to do other than to masturbate with a shower head - or is that the freakiest and most humorous thing they could possibly think of? Seriously, why did the men writing this think that was such a wierd thing to do? What does that say about them and about our sexual culture. It's actually like the most awesome thing a woman could do - to show you how she gets off. Come on, people.
Anyway, in an SSL Review sort of way, we couldn't actually see what she was doing with the shower head once it went under the bubbles. At one time she was using it hands free, and it's possible a viewer might think there was something about sticking the thing up her vagina, but she never made any movement that looked like that to me, and she never seemed to be moving anything in or out. I think the assumption for most (and I hope the movie-maker intention) was that it was spraying against her vulva/clit area - giving it stimulation similar to a vibrator. That is a way women have admitted to masturbating - especially, quite classically, as a first intro to masturbation when they were young. Anyway, the idea that water stimulation against the vulva could cause orgasm is sensible, so no qualms there. My only qualm with this scene is how negatively the other characters reacted to it.
He Gets Un-Virgined!
The Scene Begins
So, it's Andy and Trish's wedding night, and they're about to do the deed. He's on top of her totally missionary, mostly under covers. It's a bust shot from the side. He puts it in.
Weirdly though, she looks him in the eyes questioningly, and he says, "yes," and she says kinda happily and surprised, "yeah?" It was like he had to tell her it was in?? I don't know - just seemed wierd so I wrote about it. Anyway, there's really no hip movement that I can tell, but it's a super short scene. They kiss, and then she stops and says, "Whoa, you're officially not a virgin." To which he says, "Cool." They kiss again for a sec. It fades out and says:
"1 minute later."
It cuts back, and they are now laying face up next to each other. He's all starry eyed, and says "wow." She has one hand behind her head, looking kinda like, 'well, what's next?' She lets a little phhhh through her lips, and says, "Wanna do it again?" He says, "Yeah," and she says, "Good....yeah. That was good. That was okay," (meaning it wasn't really good, but she's a nice, encouraging person) as he gets back on top of her missionary style. He says, "Ready? Are you ready?" She says "Yes" with a laugh. They start to kiss, and it fades out. It says:
"2 hours later"
When it cuts back, they are laying next to each other just like before but she looks like shit - like she's flattened into the bed, drained, and dehydrated, desperate looking even. He has a far off look in his eyes, but doesn't look bad or dehydrated or anything. He looks good. She's breathing like she's tired and maybe dying and can barely keep her eyes open, and she speaks with very little energy, "So how was that for you?" He has plenty of energy and begins to sing, "When the moon is in the 7th house..."
It cuts to a dancing sequence with the whole cast then back to them lying next to each other in bed. She is singing with barely enough energy to mouth the words, still looking like death. She wipes her face and momentarily covers her eyes. He still looks energetic. In the dance sequence she is vibrant and in a white dress, though.
It cuts back to them in the final scene. She is still all sweaty and terrible looking but we can't see her face much anymore. They are now facing each other lying in bed and gently kissing each other. She is moving, so clearly she's slightly more energetic. He vibrantly turns toward the camera above him and sings the final words of the song, "Aquarius" as she buries her head into his neck with arms wrapped around him caressing his back gently. They sorta move into what might become more sex, and it cuts to the dance sequence again for credits.
How Realistic Is This Scenes?
Okay - so this scene also is not technically SSL Reviewable because we don't actually see an orgasm or masturbation, but I think it's related enough to talk about. So first off, there's the old joke that it's his first time and he comes in merely a minute and that's totally not pleasing for the lady. Hilarious, right? She clearly wasn't satisfied, and wants more - that's why she asks if he wants to go again. I'm reaching a bit for this SSL assessment, but I think the insinuation is pretty clearly that what she needs from him is more intercourse time. I mean a man's staying power during intercourse has long been associated with a woman's orgasm, so it makes sense the movie makers would make the joke that his excitement of the first time leaves him coming too quick and her unsatisfied.
Looking at this realistically, I buy that she wasn't satisfied, but it's not because the short intercourse. It's because penises stimulating vaginas do not seem to make lady-gasms. Time isn't the problem, only stimulating the inside of the vagina and not the outer clitoral/vulva area is the problem. If you are stimulating the wrong thing, doing it for 1 minute won't be much more helpful than doing it for 2 hours...but strangely I'm not sure if the movie-makers intended for it to seem like she was satisfied after the 2 hours or not...
So, what Happened During the 2 Hours?
Now, I don't know what happened during those next 2 hours. Maybe there was some clit stimulation, but I don't think it makes sense to assume that. The whole tone of the movie seems to insinuate to me that he intercoursed her for 2 full hours. This movie kept a hard line for the status quo of sex = intercourse. It was sooo about putting penises into vaginas, and it deemed ladies touching themselves gross, so I can only assume in the world of this movie that when nice, sensible girls like Trish have sex, they do so by intercoursing.
However, I have no idea what Trish being near-death looking was supposed to mean. What was the joke? Did the writers have some sort of misguided porn understanding of what intercourse does to women, and we were to assume Trish was orgasmed out because Andy went so long that she must have just come and come and come till she couldn't even function anymore? Or did the writers not even think much about her orgasm situation and only considered how funny it would be to think about what 40 years of pent-up non-intercoursing would do to the man's first partner. Was that it? Was it that he just used her pussy the hell up with such vigor that she was basically plastered into the bed like a flattened porn cartoon character. I really don't know because I can't really comprehend how Mr. Apatow and his crew might have conceived of a woman's experience in this situation.
As she was lying there half dead, Trish asked Andy how it was for him, but he didn't reciprocate. All in all I guess whatever this scene was intended to insinuate about women's orgasms is not exactly awesome. Either the constant ramming in her vagina made her come like a porn star on overtime or her orgasm and pleasure were an irrelevant part of this scene, focusing instead on showing that the bodily-harming endurance of too much intercourse portrays her as a loving partner, allowing Andy to get to an "Age of Aquarius" euphoria. Both are kinda gross options and neither a great addition to the culture of authentic, female orgasm.
The Vuvla Rating
The 40 Year Old Virgin is funny, but it's not getting a good SSL Review. It heavily equates penis in vagina intercourse as 'sex,' making other ways of engaging in sexual activity with a partner (ways that might actually stimulate the clitoris) either invisible, lesser, or just plain wierd. In fact when a woman did one of the most orgasm-equality, progressive things a woman could do, showing her future partner what she liked sexually by masturbating, she and the act were portrayed as fucking crazy. Her craziness that involved non intercourse, unattached sexual activity was contrasted against the main female love interest (the 'one' for our hero) who's sex interests only seemed to involve traditional intercourse. Trish is sexual but sane because she's not into kinky shit. Beth is sexual and crazy because she is into kinky shit and from Andy's reaction, the kinkiest shit she did was bring herself to orgasm. That's some anti-lady-gasm bullshit, my friends.
Also, all the rapey find-a girl-to-fuck-who's-barely-conscious-'cause-it'll-be-easy shit makes me less charitable with my vulva rating. I really wonder how that would fly if that came out now, ten years later. I feel like it would be called out. I hope so. I feel like there has been a small but mighty shift in consciousness with that. I feel pretty certain all the gay jokes in there that flew back then would not be in there if it were made today. I do think the sentiment around those kinds of gay jokes has definitely evolved to be distasteful in movies now. Let's hope the same is true of endorsing rape in a movie also.
This gets 0 vulvas because I think it's actually backward in terms of what it adds to the conversation about female orgasm and female sexuality (and sadly, I think that was even true 10 years ago when it was released also).