Betty Dodson, You Are Awesome!

Betty Dodson has backed Science Sex and the Ladies! I'm kinda stoked about it. I'm using this Kickstarter campaign not only to fund our music and sound, but also to let people know this movie exist. So, I've been writing people about it...people I imagine would never write me back. But, you know what? Sometimes they do, and sometimes it's famed author and female sexuality activist Betty Dodson. Sometimes, she's totally cool and pledges to your crazy movie.

She really is a neat woman. Here's the thing I love about her. She is one of the very few "sexperts" that I know of who doesn't bullshit when discussing the G spot. So many times sexperts give mixed messages...emphasizing the clitoris, but also singing praises about the g-spot and the g-spot orgasms that some women can get. As I've said before many a time in this blog, an orgasm caused by rubbing inside of the vagina alone has never been recorded. The only physical sexual release ever recorded that was caused by rubbing on the inside of the vagina is an ejaculation, and that's a different thing than an orgasm.

Betty's first response to my email was to ask me for more information about what I was really getting at in the movie. Actually, I'll back up and say I sent her a letter through her website "contact us" form, and it was a hot mess. The form kept telling me it sparked the spam filter and wouldn't send, so I kept messing with the links and stuff. It wasn't my best work. Anyway, I sent her a long ass email telling her some of the main points. I have a little problem with being long winded, but I think it was worth it because she told me my more "detailed message confirmed that we are on the same page." There's no one's page I'd rather be on.

I'll be the first to admit that you may look at Ms. Dodson's life and say, "that's an eccentric lady!" I think she'd take it as a compliment, and I'll tell ya - that eccentricity has done a lot of good for people. She is a masturbation proponent (love it), erotic artist (what's not to enjoy), no-bullshit sex educator (we need more of those), and she's got a cool website with Carlin Ross HERE. They're an inter generational dream team. Like I said, Betty's point of view is right on, so I highly recommend the "Ask Betty" section. There are also just fun things on the site. I might recommend checking this post HERE which, should you so choose, take you to a place where you can see a woman masturbating to orgasm on Norway Television. Maybe that's creeping you out a little, but frankly, too many women have no idea how that goes down. Seems silly but there are a lot of reasons why women aren't quite as equipped to understand how to do this as men are. We certainly go into those reasons in the movie, and none of them have to be that way. Ladies, let's just say it. If you don't know how to make yourself orgasm, things don't get much easier when you throw a partner in the mix. Betty Dodson would agree. Check out her site, and just wander around. It might be fun!


Thanksgiving and The Binner

This is a short Thanksgiving video we made to compliment our Kickstarter campaign to fund the score for Science Sex and the Ladies. Check out all about that ol' fundraiser HERE. Anyway, I thought I'd post it for those of you who've already begun to miss Thanksgiving. Plus, you will learn a very special new word..."binner."


A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas 3D: The SSL Review

It's no secret that I am a Harold and Kumar fan. I fell in love when they were going to White Castle. I enjoyed their visit to Guantanamo Bay, and have recently spent Christmas Eve (in 3D) with them. I have a strong appreciation of the Harold and Kumar comedy style. It is comedy for comedy sake. There is no explaining, dwelling, or questioning. As an audience member, you must just...go with it. I know it’s not everybody's cup of tea, but A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas 3D made me laugh…oh I laughed, and that’s exactly what I wanted and expected.

But that’s not why I’m here. SSL reviews critique specific depictions or discussions of female sexual response. Not every movie contains this. A lot of movies have sex in them, but stop before any indication about how the woman physically responds to it. So, when there is a movie that shows or specifically talks about a woman’s orgasm or lack of orgasm or anywhere in between, I have to write about it. What do we know or can we assume was physically happening to elicit or not elicit the response?  What was insinuated? How does it fit into our cultural understanding of how females are supposed to respond sexually? Etc.

The depiction that occurred in Harold and Kumar was quick and classic. At a party full of rich high school kids (cause why wouldn’t H&K be there) someone is opening doors while looking for something (vague enough?), and sees random activities going on behind closed doors. Let’s just say there are a lot of drugs at this party. One door reveals some sex. A guy is laying face up on a bed and a gal is bouncing up and down on top of him. I’d call it cowgirl style. She’s straddling him with her knees on the bed. Her face is towards his, but she is sitting straight up; her body perpendicular to his. Unsurprisingly, she is vocalizing in a screamy moany porn style as if she were orgasming, and her hands are up. The door quickly shuts.

Okay, so it’s a classic party scene to have in a movie. But, here’s the deal. There was no contact between her vulva/clitoral area and his body. Her hands were up, so we know she wasn’t touching her clit, and his hands were not near it either. That means she must have been orgasming through intercourse alone; as audience members we can assume that the simple act of  moving the penis in and out of the vagina was making her scream like a porn star. Or, you might be thinking, we can just take it as a silly exaggerated scene in a silly exaggerated movie.   I know it’s a small scene in a goofy, don’t-take-this-too-seriously kind of movie, but this is not an isolated depiction. This is a scene that takes its place among many many similar scenes that make up our cultural lore about how and why females experience orgasm. It is a standard way to show wild, young, unbridled sex; a woman bouncing on a penis and having the orgasm of her life. The problem is that most women do not orgasm at all during intercourse, and the majority (I would argue all) of women who do orgasm during intercourse do not orgasm because of penis friction inside the vagina. They orgasm because their clit/vulva area (the actual organ of female sexual pleasure) is also being stimulated in some way. I would (and do in Science Sex and the Ladies) argue that there has never ever been 1 study that physically records a woman having an orgasm due to friction inside the vagina. There have been recorded instances of ejaculation (which may be enjoyable to some of the women who have them, but are something physically different than an orgasm), and there have been instances where weak orgasms occurred because the movement of the penis in the vagina pulled vulva skin around the clit causing clitoral stimulation, and subsequently, an orgasm. However, these are admittedly – by the researchers – uncommon and the weakest orgasms these women were recorded having (the strongest being through masturbation).  It may seem trivial, but when women and girls, men and boys, see these seemingly harmless depictions so often, we all start getting the wrong ideas about what to do and what to expect during a sexual encounter. 

So, although Harold and Kumar did nothing worse (at least within this topic) than depict a status quo Hollywod depiction of female sexual release, it is still problematic because it simply adds credibility to incorrect cultural lore. It seems strange to imagine it, but what if men were shown as orgasming due to anal penetration over 90% of the time that sex was depicted. What if it was so common that it showed up in movies like Harold and Kumar. Probably, people would kinda know that all men couldn’t orgasm that way. Some men need added penile stimulation in order to come (like we know some women still need added clitoral stimulation). However, it would somehow make sense that some men could orgasm just from something moving in and out of his anus, I mean some men can ejaculate by massaging the prostate through the anus, so men can probably orgasm that way too, right?

That’s how far off we are on depictions of female sexual response; so far off that no one seems to notice. And Harold and Kumar, while being quite helpful to Santa Clause, are no help on this one.

I’ll give them 3 vulvas for a lack of imagination and reality in depicting female sexual response, but without any ill intent.
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Our Kickstarter Campaign!

T minus 40 minutes until we push the "Launch" button on our Kickstarter page. I'm eating Papa Johns and it's really good, but my stomach is still all jumbly about this. It's like Science Sex and the Ladie's coming out. We're all set to blast this news all over hell. The people I work with will finally know I'm a crazy person who spends years making movies about women's orgasms and masturbation and other such dirty thing. I always feel filthy asking friends and family to fund something of mine. What if they think it's ridiculous (or immoral), or don't give to this kind of stuff , or just don't have the cash at the moment, or they forgot? I understand that completely, but what if they don't understand that I understand? Also, we've never been great at getting funding - like a few hundred dollars is elusive to us. It just seems like there's no way we'll make $20,000 - and really, asking for $20,000, isn't that a little insane or greedy or something? Plus, after all these years of working on this, we've got to put up or shut up. It's scary and exciting and unreal.

Anyway, on top of all that, we've been trying to get all the sites updated and the press kits ready and all that crap that takes insanely longer than you'd think and way too much brain power. But it's about to happen. Now, I honestly have no idea who reads this blog. I know my friend Sherry (I just thought it's be fun to mention you in the blog) does most of the time, and some other friends and family from time to time. Chances are, if you are friend or family, you will also the information below on me, Barney, Charlie, and AnC's facebook page, plus get an email about it, so sorry for blowing you up so much. Anyone else - here's some info about our Kickstarter campaign.

At 8pm EST Thursday, November 17th, we begin a 30 day fundraising campaign through Kickstarter.com. Our goal is $20,000 by 8pm EST December 17, 2011. However, because Kickstarter only wants backer money to go to fully funded projects, our movie will not get any money (and backers will not be charged for their pledges) unless it meets the pledge goal. Check out our kickstarter page HERE.  You will find information about us and our project, pictures, and a 5 minute video that includes us telling our production story and the movie trailer. As you will see, we offer a variety of prizes for different levels of pledges including stills of the movie, signed pieces of our green screen, advanced DVDs of the movie, and hand crafted art pieces based on Science Sex and the Ladies among other cool gifts. Plus you can see how close we’re getting to our goal!


Our Second Festival Submission and Near Future Plans

We just shipped off a DVD of Science Sex and the Ladies for our 2nd festival submission. It is still not a final version, but it is a very watchable movie. The biggest changes from the version we sent to the first festival is, well, a whole lot of vulva and penis animation. The whole section explaining what is scientifically known about sexual response, the physical description of Master and Johnson's pleasure cycle in particular, is a strange sort of animated graphics. There was animation for this in the last version, but it was a rush job. This time it was worked over pretty good, and I'll tell ya what - it's pretty fun and explanatory.

I'm not tootin' my own horn here either, Charlie rocked this (and really all the technical post production bad ass-ery). He did things that I didn't even imagine were possible when we finished writing this a few years ago. Whether it's deemed sucky or worthy, one thing that can be said for this movie is that it taught Charlie a shit load. I mean it schooled all three of us pretty good, but Charlie got some professional level compositing skills out of this. Other than the animation, there were a few other small changes, and the scene relating to the book Dilemmas of Desire got a nice revamp.

Right after our first submission, the 3 of us went through the movie with a fine toothed comb and made a ridiculously large (and Charlie would say a bit confusing) spreadsheet with every change that we thinks needs to be made in order to get this in a polished final form. The changes that were made for this 2nd submission were just the top priority ones. Now Charlie will be starting at scene 1 and moving through all the changes till he gets to the end. Barnaby will be helping out with some rotoscoping and that kind of fun thing, and B and I both will be working on putting together the couple of short reshoots and obtaining needed materials, like pictures, sound effects, and voice overs.

But...before that, we will all be focused on one single thing for the next few days - getting our kickstarter.com fundraising campaign started. It's an awesome site that brings backers together with for-profit creative endeavors. Projects offer project related rewards for different levels of funding. The thing is, though, that once we set a fundraising goal and a campaign time frame, we have to make that much money in that amount of time, or we don't get any of it, and the backers who pledged don't get charged. Kickstarter does that so that backers' money only goes to projects that are fully funded and thus can actually get finished. Anyway, what all this means is that we have to have a kick ass project page and project video, and we have to have our press kits and get-the-word-out-further-than-our-circle-of-friends campaign ready to go as soon as we launch. So, you'll be hearing more about that soon. In the meantime, I will go to sleep and dream of the cinnamon rolls and bacon I will be eating for breakfast tomorrow, cause that's important too.


SSL Interview: Dana Edell of SPARK part 2

If you haven't checked out the first installation of this interview, check it out HERE. I particularly encourage you to check it out if you're thinking, "What exactly do you mean by the sexualization of girls?" or "Maybe it's not too big a deal, that's just how things are." Otherwise read on as I talk with SPARK director Dana Edell about how SPARK and what it is.

SPARK came out of research the APA (American Psychological Association) conducted; an amazing research project - looking at the impact of sexualization of girls on girls and young people all over the country. It was a massive study where there were a lot of researches involved and their research findings were not so surprising. They realized there's a lot of sexualization of girls happening in this country...and it has a huge impact on all areas of girl's lives; on their mental health, their self esteem, and their academic achievement...It's oppressive, and it's getting worse quickly, so one of the big things at the end of the study is researchers said, "Well we know things are really bad. What do we do about it? We have all this evidence now. We've collected all this data. What do we do?" And, one of their core recommendations for what we do now is we actually need to create a movement in collaboration with girls to really address this problem. We need to talk to girls. We need to create ways that we're not just protecting girls from this problem, but we're inspiring them and training them to be active agents and activists in their own lives, and that's how we're going to solve this problem, and get out of this crisis.

So, SPARK kind of erupted as a summit...one day where we're gonna bring together girls and researchers and activists and people who work with girls and have like a one day summit where there are trainings and action stations where girls are learning tools to become activists. There were workshops on things like public speaking for activists, and how to write your own radio show and broadcast it, and dance workshops on getting in touch with your body....There was a street theater performance workshop where girls created monologues that they wanted to perform in public spaces to raise awareness and get people thinking about these issues. Then there's also research presented at this summit, and it was an awesome day. I think there were over 300 people there. It was really inspiring, and at the end of the summit, people were like, "okay, so now what do we do?" It just all came together ,and we're motivated and inspired and pissed off, and ready to take action, and so SPARK the Movement really came out of the summit and SPARK the movement has been taking off in pretty amazing ways since them. 
In the time since I conducted this interview, SPARK has announced the 2nd SPARK Summit on October 29th, 2011; this time in Portland and in conjunction with Girls Inc. Check the summit site HERE. It is sure to be a fantastic event. One of the many interesting aspects of the original one in 2010, was that Geena Davis spoke at the opening ceremony. I never fully realized how passionate an activist she is about the roles and depictions of women in media. She created the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.  If you have a few minutes, watch the video of the SPARK Summit 2010 opening ceremonies HERE. Geena Davis comes in at about 37:30, but the rest of it is also worth watching if you have the time.

Now, as I mentioned in the first installment of this interview, one of my favorite parts about SPARK is the emphasis on girl activists, because girls are the ones living inside this situation. It's not that adult women are unable to understand or to help, but we adult women did not grow up in the same world as these girls, and we may not fully understand the problems we are trying to solve. We need their help and their buy in. However, I also really really love that SPARK cares about building critical thinking in the girls they team with.
We're not just flat out saying that any girl who wants to write anything is gold, and we'll publish because it's from a girl's voice and that means it's great. (What we are doing is) really encouraging girls to see and critique the world around them. One of our core partners is the Women's Media Center , and they do fantastic media training - really guiding girls to think very critically about how media is produced, where it's coming from, and who's interest it is that these images exist and are perpetuated. 
Some of these well-educated young activist blog for SPARK and I recommend you check out their work.

We have what we call SPARK's team which is really at the heart of what SPARK is about which is a girl's movement that is fueled by girls in collaboration with people who work with girls and care about girls. The SPARK team is made up of young women who are amazing, brilliant activists and advocates for girls issues. So, we have a group of girl bloggers. We have about a dozen of them now, really cool girls from all over the country - a very diverse group of girls. The youngest is 13 and the oldest is 22, and the girls iChat as a crew once a week. They talk about the issues that are going on in this country today, what's urgent, what do they need to talk about, what does the world need to hear from them about the status of the sexualization of girls in this country. How is it escalating? What are girls doing about it? How do they feel about that? So, the blogs range from a critique of Kanya West's new Monster video to talking about Bristol Palin's new memoir that just came out to talking about Slut Walks to Forever 21. They're challenging media. They're challenging corporations. They're challenging artists. So, all of the blogs are written by girls, and we're planning in the Fall to have a retreat for those girls, so we're bringing them all to New York and doing a 3 day activist, leadership training for the girls, and really empower them to be stronger leaders as bloggers but also in their communities, their peer relationships, their relationships in school, and in their lives and help them kind of have a greater platform in their activism also. 
We're also going to launch a new program in the Fall called the IT girls, and they will be on college campuses...I'm not saying we're the first group ever to care about girls' issues or women's issues from a college students perspective, but we are a very inter-generational movement, and our focus is on girls, particularly it's on young girls and teenage girls. So, the college initiative is to work with college girls but to also help them create partnerships with local schools, with teenagers, with younger girls, and really creating activist projects with college students and their peers and then also girls younger than them. 

We also have as part of the SPARK team, a young woman who is a research blogger and she is taking research that is coming out now...grounded in data driven projects, grounded in long term quantitative and qualitative research, often published in total academic jargon ,and these are rarely accessible to anybody who is actually dealing with the issues. She does a translation of the research and then blogs about it, so this is a way for us to make the research about the sexualization of girls more accessible to the people who work with girls and to girls - people who are probably not going to subscribe to a certain academic journal and then read these academic research articles. So people can actually use that research in their fund raising and their advocacy work, and it becomes useful. Often academic research feels like it lives in the academic world and it's not often used as an activist tool.  

The other, and I think pretty exciting, part of SPARK is its partnerships.
One of the big things that SPARK is doing is working with individuals, organizations, people who work with girls, girls themselves and raising the visibility and advocate more for the work that they're doing. So, we're not necessarily running our own program, or we're not a direct service organization, but we're really trying to build awareness and help people find ways to take action and really make a change in the ways that girls are being sexualized. So another project that we have going is called the SPARK Kit. These are ways for SPARK to partner with organizations that are working with girls and have specific projects that they do which are sort of an activist training tool kit idea.

For example, we have been working on a SPARK kit with an organization in Canada, and they have a curriculum that is geared towards middle school girls that is sort of a body awareness and self esteem curriculum. We're working with them to take a small piece of their curriculum and repackage it and rebrand it with SPARK and with their organization. It's a couple activities that girls can do, and we make it something that is available on our website as an activity for girls, so it would be a much smaller version of their entire curriculum, and it would be the type of project that would have some kind of creative outcome for it. Let's say they make a collage of media images as part of the project...We have a gallery of all the things that were made with the SPARK kits and then the organization that we're partnered with also has a gallery or links to our site. So it's a way to raise the visibility of the organization; about what they are already doing and then also start building more tools for girls to use across the country.

 We're really trying to build these partnerships over the next few years and have a core base all over the country, and in other countries eventually, with organizations of girls and people who work with girls; people who can mobilize, people who can take action, people who are activists in their community, who are doing amazing work. We are helping scale that work out and raise the visibility and awareness of what they're doing so that it can be replicated in other cities, so we want to really help what's already happening so it can get better and stronger and bigger, but also offer new tools and new inspiration and new energy for organizations that want to do something but don't know what to do or how to do it. One of our big goals for next year is to have 2 partners in every state. We want to be everywhere and not feel as through we're in one particular place, because it's a national crisis and it will be an national solution. 
 I asked her about working with girls and what kinds of challenges that creates.

We were very consciously thinking about ways that we can support their activist work without necessarily having our own agenda and our own strong opinions about it....In terms of working with girls, I mean it's been amazing. They've been so inspiring and surprisingly ready to dive in and learn and grow. The girls that we're working with are brilliant. They're very aware of what the issues are and what the controversies around those issues, and there have been some controversies, like one of the recent blogs was about Rhianna's new video, the S&M video. It was a pretty complicated argument about whether that video was empowering or exploitative.(Rhianna) got a lot of backlash for this video, and a lot of it came from the idea that she had been a survivor of physical abuse from Chris Brown, and now she's making this video that is about S&M and violent sex, and how dare she do this. So our blogger's, critique of this was that she has every right to be whatever kind of sexual person she wants to be, and it has nothing to do with her history of sexual abuse. She got a lot of push back on this. A lot of the comments were like, "I thought SPARK was supposed to be about challenging sexualization and how dare you say that it's empowering - it's not empowering at all. She's being totally exploited and objectified. She's basically like the woman you're critiquing in Kanye West's video. What's the difference?" It was an important moment, I think, for us and for the blogger and for our community. How do we really support girls, not censor their work, not tell them you can write this, you can't write this, but really provide spaces for them to speak honestly and authentically about how they feel about these issues and be prepared to deal with the backlash they might get. We need to really make sure they're trained and confident enough to respond to their criticism.  
I think SPARK is an amazing organization, and as I said in the last post, their mission is a powerful one and one that is crucial to moving female sexuality forward. It was wonderful to speak with Dana Edell, and I again think her for her time. If you are want to support SPARK, want to read their blog, or are just interested, head over to their website HERE