Big Little Lies - The SSL Review

Big Little Lies
Big Little Lies is an HBO miniseries with a preview that intrigued me enough to make a point in watching it. Plus, I have a thing about Reese Witherspoon. I'll always be willing to watch whatever she's in because I think she brings it, and even if it's kind of a crappy piece, her being in it will make it a little better. I feel the same way about Dwayne The Rock Johnson. Deal with it.

Anyway, I watched it. The preview is a bit misleading, which is fine. I kinda don't like to know exactly what I'm getting into. I liked this show. It was a good ride, and I don't want to ruin it too much with my SSL Review. So I'm going to be vague when I can, but there were 4 SSL Reviewable situations I'll be going over. Also, this should be the only season, because it was a completed miniseries, but of course there are rumors the author of this book the series was based on is writing a second season.

SSL Review
As always, an SSL Review is a critique specifically of the depiction or discussion of female orgasm, female masturbation, or the clit. I'm particularly looking for the level of physical realism and for how the depiction/discussion fits into the larger cultural discussion about female sexuality and orgasm. Sometimes I comment on other aspects of the movie. Sometimes I don't.

Please feel free to check out all the SSL Reviewed movies HERE and the SSL reviews TV shows HERE.

Real Rough Sex: S1 Ep2
Celeste (Nicole Kidman) gets slapped by her husband Perry (Alexander Skarsgard). She slaps him back, and then he pushes her hard against a wall, hurting her. He immediately starts to apologize and drops to his knees in front of her saying he's sorry and making excuses. He starts touching her and she pushes him away, and then he grabs both her hands and they sort of scuffle. It's aggressive, but almost looks like they're playing. He get ups and starts kissing her, and she is still kind of fighting back, but also she unbuttons his pants.

He aggressively turns her to face the wall and pushes her up against it, pulling his and her pants down just enough to enter her. He starts pounding her, and she begins to make orgasm sounds. It is over and they both seem to have come in under 10 seconds. She turns back around toward him, looks anywhere but in his eyes, squirms out from between him and the wall, and walks to look out the window, seemingly still kinda pissed. He slumps forward sort of regretfully.

Later she is having dinner with a friend, Madeline (Reese Witherspoon), and they are talking about a problem in Madeline's marriage, but it moves to Celeste and Perry.
Madeline: Are you telling me you and Perry don't ever fight?
Celeste: No, we do...sometimes.
Madeline: And then do you run off to therapy afterward?
Celeste: (chuckles) More often than not we end up having sex.
Madeline: Really?
Celeste: Yes. It starts with anger. I don't...it's complicated. sometimes I think he likes to fight because it leads to sex. Sometimes I think I like it too.
Madeline: How often does this happen?
Celeste: Happens...enough.
Madeline: I have to say, Celeste, that sounds a little bit twisted, but kind of great.
Celeste: yeah (laughing)
My Review
First things first. The sex that was happening in this scene didn't look like something that would realistically cause a woman to orgasm. You know what I'm gonna say here if you've ever read my blog before. Women need external clitoral/vuvla stimulation in order to orgasm. The in-out stimulation in the vag alone ain't likely gonna do the trick. In this situation, her vulva was not pressed up against anything that might be giving it stimulation while she was getting banged. Neither of them had a hand on it. She just came from intercourse, and quickly, I might add. So, physically, this was just unrealistic.

However, I think you might easily interpret this as her faking though. She still seems pissed once it is done, and I think one could look at this as her doing what she knows she needs to do to deescalate the situation; fuck and come for him. Then again, it gets murky because she says to her friend later that she "thinks she might like it too." I feel like that gives the audience the impression that she really was turned on by it and her orgasm was supposed to be a real one.

I actually think the larger arch of this character and her relationship to this guy weigh in on this. This early scene here makes it seem a bit like they may be mutually masochistic, but I think her story becomes a much more complicated depiction of a person in a violent relationship. We see her rationalize and bounce between her understanding of the situation, and to me with that larger picture, I feel like this was her doing what she needed to do, like I discussed above. However, I'm cognizant that most people don't obsessively detail out depictions of female orgasm in their minds and assess and re-assess them. So, I think to many viewers, this might also be another of many scenes they have watched showing a woman getting fucked to orgasm, and it will gently sit among all the others in their head with little follow-up thought.

I guess that means I think overall this was an actually quite complicated, delicate piece of a larger story about sex in this relationship, but what it may mean to most people in the larger cultural conversation about female orgasm is simply a reiteration of the status quo feeling that women can come from a good banging.

Skype Sex: S1 Ep 2
Later that night, She is skyping with Perry who has gone away on business. sexing and starts to put her hand on her vulva

Perry: Hey will you do me a favor?
Celeste: What?
Perry: Take that beautiful robe off for a second.
Celeste: The boys are waiting for me downstairs.
Perry: Yeah, well, I have to help myself go to sleep. You need to help me help myself.
Celeste: Do I, now?
Perry: Let me just look at my gorgeous wife for a second...ten seconds.
Celeste: I'll give you five (begins taking off her robe.
Perry: Wow, what a nice five.
Celeste: She gives a quick show, pulls up shirt and shows her boobs.
Celeste: Okay, that's enough naughty boy. You'll have to come home sooner if you want more.

Then later that night, we see her with her computer on the bed skyping him again. He's naked under the sheet, and reaches under to start masturbating. She does a little strip from her robe to a little satin nightie shorts/camisole thing. She reaches her hand down her shorts to her vuvla area. They are quick shots, but the last one is her on her knees on the bed, clearly rubbing her vulva area with little moans.

My Review
So, this is a complicated one too that continues the arch of our evolving understanding of her sexual relationship with this guy. The depiction is not as complicated as the one before though because she's masturbating...or about to, and she seems to be doing in a physically realistic way. The only thing we can really tell is that her hand is generally on her vulva, but that's good enough. That's the place one would stimulate to get herself to orgasm, and we don't see her doing anything that looks like she's imitating intercourse or anything. It's physically realistic.

I like that we are seeing a woman masturbate.  To me any time that happens, lady-bation gets a little more normalized, and more women will feel less silly or embarrassed or ashamed to try it. I believe the more women do it, the more women will understand as they go into partnered sex, how they orgasm which will give a much better chance of molding that partnered sex into something that might be orgasmic for a woman.

Shower Oral: S1 E3
Celeste is in the shower. Her and Perry had a fight earlier. He brings a huge diamond necklace in to her and puts it around her neck. Then we see a bust shot of her clearly getting pleasure from down below, and then a far away shot through the glass shower, clearly showing him knelt down giving her oral sex while she is standing with one leg over his shoulder.

My Review
Again with this couple, there is all the baggage and complication we discussed above, but this time, the physical thing happening to her is something that could physically cause her to orgasm - because, nothing says lady-gasm like a mouth on a clit. So, this is realistic, and it depicts a dude going down on a lady. I always applaud that because the more we see something the more we might mimic it, and cunnilingus is certainly something I approve mimicking. (I mean, we see enough blow jobs, amIright? We could use a little balance out there in the media).

Loud AF Office Sex: S1 Ep3
Renata (Laura Dern) and her husband (Jeffery Nordling) end up having sex in his office bathroom (like, he has a huge office and this is his private bathroom in it). Before they do it, she says with a sly smile that they can't because people will hear, saying to him, "you know how I get." When we cut back to them, it's clear the whole office can hear. They are both super loud. She is sitting on the bathroom counter, skirt on. He's standing fucking her. He's really banging into her. It's really not grindy at all. She's screaming, "Fuck me. Fuck me. Fuck me to the moon and back."  Then they finish. With their final intensity increasing to a peak before they collapse against each other, it really seems like they were depicted as orgasming simultaneously.

My Review
Man, I don't know. It might just be me, but I'm real poo-poo about being super loud during sex. To each her own, but like, I feel it takes extra effort to yell and scream and project your voice - shit that takes your mind off your junk getting stimulated and onto your 'performance'. It just doesn't seem very orgasm conducive to me. And honestly, men don't do that loud shit much at all - not in porn or in real life, and they almost always come during sex. I mean some sounds and breaths and the ol' kinda involuntary vocalization/breath that might happen as you're orgasming makes sense to me, but all the yelling? I guess arousal is a very personal thing, and some people might really get excited by yelling, who knows?  I'm just not that down with it, and you're reading this blog, so you have to listen to me spout off about it.

Which brings me to this: I think her orgasm in this scene is fake as hell, but I don't think it was meant to be, and that's not great. I think she's faking because nothing seemed to be touching her clit vulva area. He's banging into her. He's not grinding at all, and certainly not in a way that her clit/vulva area could make contact, much less consistent contact withanyhing on his body. She's just getting the inside of her vagina stimulated. Again, not great for an orgasm. His loud ass bullshit is gross to me too, but at least I know his whole penis is encompassed in a warm wet place that is uber-conducive to a man having an orgasm, so there's no reason he should be faking his.

Anyway, this fictional couple is, as so many real hetero couples all over thee world, having sex that is only really conducive to male orgasm, but the female acts as though she is orgasming as well. Why? Well, there's lots of reasons and most of us have used at least one of them: because we think we should; because we think the excitement and pleasure of the situation is good enough to vocalize in that way; because we know it won't end if we don't orgasm and the only way we'll orgasm in that situation is to fake it; because we assume what's happening is an orgasm, or a different kind of orgasm; because we want to show our appreciation to the guy fucking us or maybe just don't want to make him feel bad; because we feel like it; because it's fun to act wild and sexy.

Whatever it is, it does happen all the time, and this is just another depiction of that. It, like all the other depictions out there like this, serves to reiterate something false in our minds - that other women do orgasm that way, and that it is expected and normal for women to orgasm from nothing more than a dick in the vaigna.

The Vulva Rating
This is a very mixed review, but overall this series adds to the impression that women orgasm from the ol' in and out. I'll give some points for depicting cunnilingus and the start of a woman masturbating, but I don't think this does anything to move forward on orgasm equality, and might even help to keep us stagnant. I give this 2 out of 5 vulvas.


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