Bechdel Test Review - In Honor of Oscars 2012

In honor of the Oscars last night, I thought I would post about the most baseline of tests out there to see how ladies are doing as far as representation in the story lines of movies. It's called the Bechdel Test. Below are the basic rules of the Bechdel Test.

Just think about this test while watching the next few movies you see. I'd like you to also feel free to apply the opposite test. See how often 2 named men talk to each other about something other than a woman. I think it's a good idea to do both, because it points out the glaring differences in male and female roles. For real though, pay attention to stuff like this because people won't make a fuss unless they know it is a problem, and nothing will change unless people make a fuss. I mean, just for the sake of giving poor up and coming actresses something else to play besides "girlfriend" - that shit gets boring, people. If you want to see how many movies make the grade you can go to BetchdelTest.com, and it has ratings for pretty much all movies.


Suraya Sidhu Singh, Editor Filament Magazine - The SSL Interview

I've been a fan of Filament magazine ever since I received some back issues in the mail last year. Not only is it simply a good read (and quite nice to look at), but it is also an important contribution towards the female inclusive kind of sexual culture that Science Sex and the Ladies promotes. The goal is a future that incorporates female orgasm, desire, and fantasy as fully into mainstream media as is male orgasm, fantasy, and desire. The creation of Filament magazine is an important step in that direction, and that's why I invited the editor of Filament, Suraya Sidhu Singh, to be part of my SSL interview series. 

It is not simply that Suraya created a magazine for women with smart articles about things other than shopping, fashion, celebrities, and weight loss/fitness/cosmetics or that Filament includes erotic pictures of men. It is that she took the female gaze seriously (check out more on that HERE). 

In a society where the bulk of the depictions of female sexuality hover in the "looking sexy" arena, and where most depictions of male sexuality hover in "desiring sexy ladies" land, Suraya Sidhu Singh flipped the switch. She gave women a platform for creating erotic imagery of men, and frankly, ladies loved it. What I suspected from my own and my friends' experiences is confirmed on the website, "Since its first issue in June 2009, Filament’s readership, distribution and advertising has grown steadily. More people are reading Filament than ever before and according to our recent readership survey, you think it’s getting more awesome." Unfortunately (and surprisingly), Filament closed its doors in November of 2011. Suraya decided to end the magazine for entirely personal reasons, and you can see more about the decision HERE. There is still a lot of love out there and tons of avid fans still hanging with Filament on Facebook and following it through Twitter. It defiantly resonated with people.

Filament was groundbreaking; a fantastic example of what a modern magazine, catering genuinely to the female gaze, might look like. The success and love that this magazine has accumulated should be seen as a beginning - not an end. Obviously, I was more than excited that Suraya agreed to speak with me. I decided to focus many of the questions on the pictures in the magazine because I am really interested in them; the idea of the female gaze, how we can increase female gaze in the media, how hard it is to find and access quality female-gaze-photos, and also men and women's reactions to it. I imagine in at least some ways, her experiences and struggles could be viewed as a sort of microcosm for the struggles that happen while trying to pursue genuine female gaze in larger established media like Hollywood movies. Here goes.... 

Me: Could you describe what you were ideally looking for in the pictures?

Suraya: We published a document of guidance for photographers on our website that was formed through discussions and polls that had been conducted on an online community we’d created. It was in a sort of ‘we want to see more...’/’we want to see less...’ format, because nothing we were looking for was absolute and we didn’t want to dissuade anyone from submitting anything.

The methodology obviously wasn’t ideal, but I think it worked quite well – the list of criteria pretty much exactly matched the feedback we later received about photoshoots, although it did amaze me that most readers assumed that the photoshoots we were publishing were our “ideals”, when in fact we didn’t really get much of a chance to apply our criteria in choosing photoshoots because we never had enough choice to do so.

Me: How often were you seeing what you were hoping to see in the submitted photos, and what were some of the common problems you saw among the submitted photos?

Suraya: I think the overall quality of the photographs themselves was good – most of the photographers were inventive with concepts and good with lighting and post-production.

I was hoping to receive more images that were more spontaneous, lively, fun and erotically charged. We did tend to get a lot of very posed, static pictures. I think that’s a lot about the fact that nobody has much experience with this whole ‘photographing men for a female audience’ thing – neither the models nor the photographers. If you look at the work of some of the more experienced female photographers of men though – Britt Marie Trensmar, Sita Mae Edwards, Dianora Niccolini and Shami Kiely for example – their work seems a lot more lively.

We rarely received explicit shoots. Ideally I think the audience would’ve


The Holiday - The SSL Review

It's not the holidays, nor is it that I just happened to catch this holiday movie recently. It is simply that I remembered a line from it and thought I should blog about it before I forgot. There are no specific depictions or discussions of female sexual release to critique, but the line I remember is still a poignant indication of our culture's understandings, expectations, and fantasies about female sexuality.

The Holiday is about 2 women wanting to escape their lives (particularly their love lives) for the holidays who end up deciding to do a vacation house swap. Diaz, the high-powered movie trailer director with a beautiful, modern LA mansion goes to the English country side to stay in Winslet's cute little cottage, and Winslet goes to enjoy the LA living. Of course, they both find love interests, conflicts arrive, etc. It's a Hollywood form movie, but I won't knock it. If these kinds of Hollywood form movies are the kind you enjoy on a Saturday afternoon (cause we all have a type that we'll watch no matter how bad), then you'll probably like this one. This is definitely my type, and it was actually quite an enjoyable watch.

But let's get back to the SSL review... Diaz is chillin' in the English cottage, when Winslet's brother arrives drunk, to catch some Z's on his sister's couch. They're both a little surprised - cause he didn't know his sister had swapped houses, and she didn't expect the woman's brother to show up and spend the night. However...why not?! They drank a little, talked a little and decide to go to bed. Oh, did I mention the brother is Jude Law, and he's hot. So, Jude kisses her goodnight on the lips, and she says  that since she's on vacation, they should probably do it. Before they head up to get it on though, she says her boyfriend said she's not good at sex, and Jude absolutely cannot believe that. He asks her what she thinks of foreplay, and she tells him it's overrated. He's way totally cool with that...and end scene. It is then the next morning, and we can't be sure about what may or may not have happened, but Jude does tell her she is not bad at sex BTW.

So we have a hot woman who just wants to fuck - the ol' in and out, ya know? Finally, (Jude must be thinking) a woman who is man enough and sexual enough to see how silly and unnecessary all that romantic bullshit foreplay crap is  - I mean finally, a woman who gets it! Honestly, though, I think that is the sentiment there. It's like foreplay is a woman thing that men have to do in order to get what they want. Foreplay is looked at like the thing that women, being the less sexual of the genders, need to warm them up for the real stuff. A woman who doesn't need the foreplay, like Diaz, is prized as a woman who got over the womanly tendency to need warming up. She's sexual. She has sex like a man.

Here's the problem though. That's a completely backassward understanding of women's sexual needs. I'll say this for the 500th time. Women do not orgasm


A Male Perspective on the Female Gaze

I have a lot of love and respect for Filament Magazine. I am actually including the editor of this magazine in my series of SSL interviews - where I talk with people that I believe are contributing positively to understanding/depiction/experience of female sexual culture that my movie promotes (so keep an eye out - it's coming soon!) Filament has more super hot erotic stories, sexy dudes, and not-boring articles for women than you can shake a dick at. It's a good read, and if you can get your hands on one, do so. Unfortunately Filament recently closed its doors, but it still has loads of super fans and a Facebook page that I enjoy pursuing. Feel free to Friend them. They won't mind. In my pursuing, I saw they had posted a link to an article by Noah Brand that I thought was a pretty good. It discusses, among other things, the female gaze, and I think we should be thinking about (and creating media that includes) the female gaze as much as possible. Check it out HERE.


Happy V-Day - Shake Yourself Tonight!

Since it’s Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d focus on some important products for a grown-up V-Day…sex toys. I hope that the earth shakes just a touch tonight for all the vibrators that are being used. However, I am not going to focus on lovely vibrators making our clits shake in orgasm. I am going to comment on something else. Now, I have an interview with the fantastic Betty Dodson cooking. It should be done and up in about a month, but yesterday I saw the last email she sent me, and she mentioned all the books, videos, and toys that are made for G-Spot stimulation. It’s actually quite a commercial investment, and as Betty said, “You know in America, commerce is far more important than a woman’s orgasm.” Ah, I love Betty, and she’s right. In case you haven’t read my blog before, let me fill you in on the point of view portrayed in Science, Sex and the Ladies, this movie I’m making. It begins with the statement (and backing evidence) that the only physical orgasm (that has ever been physically recorded) is a clitoral orgasm. The scientific indication is that the G-Spot may cause ejaculation (which is physically different than an orgasm) in some women, but does not cause orgasms. Then the movie goes on to discuss how our understandings and expectations of female sexuality necessarily change when viewed through that realistic understanding of female sexual release...opposing it to the misguided understanding of female sexual release our society and media hold dear. That's a very basic overview, but as you might guess, my opinion is that the G-Spot is overrated, misunderstood, non-orgasm causing, and yet somehow heavily promoted as a source of orgasm by sexperts and our sexual culture.

 I was at a sex-toy party (a party where friends eat food and buy sex-toys from another friend – like a Tupperware party but dirtier - not a party where we have group sex-toy sex, in case you were wondering) and there were pages of vibrators; clitoral vibrators, vaginal vibrators, g-spot vibrators. I’m not going to judge where you put your sex toys. I mean, we all do our own thing. However, I was annoyed that a company touting how much they care about the female orgasm and about sexual research, would so clearly promote the idea that orgasms could happen by vibrating the vagina. If in some way the vagina vibrating happens to also shake the clit indirectly in the process, then maybe a tiny little orgasm may occur, but that would be kind of a fluke. The outer part of the vagina has some nerve endings, and a little vibrating on the ol’ V-hole could be stimulating, but again, that alone won’t cause an orgasm (unless, of course, the clit is indirectly stimulated in the process). Vibrating the G-spot, which sits inside the vagina, may cause ejaculation in some women sometime, but again, no orgasm.

I know it sounds like I’m being close-minded. However, everything I’m saying is consistent with the scientific research, the good physically based research that has gone into studying female and male orgasm. If you want to define the orgasm as some sort of mental state, then I can’t help you there, but there is a specific physical process that is identifiable and designated as an orgasm. Ejaculations are physically different (in men and in women) than an orgasm, and they have been associated with g-spot simulation in women, but ejaculations are rarely discussed when talking about g-spot toys – particularly in comparison to how much orgasm is discussed in relation to these toys.

I guess what I’m saying is this Valentine’s Day, don’t be fooled by all the crappy videos, toys, and advice telling us ladies how amazing our G-spot orgasms could be if we just watched this or did this or used this. It’s a bunch of bullshit – G-spots don’t give us orgasms, and if you are a person that ejaculates through g-spot stimulation, you probably already know it and probably make good use of towels. Female orgasms come from clitoral stimulation just like male orgasms come from penile stimulation.

So, ladies, if you don’t already have one, get yourself a vibrator, and whether it’s touted as a clitoral, vaginal, or g-spot vibrator, just use it however feels good, but remember…if you’re looking to orgasm, scientific inquiry would suggest you eventually end up on or near the clit.



Super Bowl Special

This is not a normal SSL post - mostly becasue I'm lazy and thought putting up a couple pics would be easy. (I've got an SSL interview or 2 in the works though, so keep a look out...)These are from a sign a man was holding at the SuperBowl festivities here in Indianapolis. As is to be expected within any large gathering, there was a group of religious cooks ranting to happy families/drunk college kids/etc. as we all walked by. The sign was two sided, and I thought it might give us all a reminder of what exactly we should be doing ;).

Also...I want to just throw this out there. I was feeling some unexpected city pride the last week while the Superbowl was in town. Not that I normally hate Indy. I often hear people who have moved from here or want to move from here crying about what a wasteland of country-bumpkin bullshit this place is. I gotta tell ya, that's always annoyed me - mostly because I think people who rag hard on their hometowns are over-dramatic whiners who don't know how to make the best out of what they have. At the same time, I'm not going to romanticize Indy as a relaxed land of midwestern hospitality and neighborly livin'.  It's just a place like anywhere else - a place where I was born and raised. There are ass holes, and there are super cool people - just like anywhere else, and if you care to look, there's some pretty interesting things going on too. So, I generally like my city just fine, but this week made me feel strangely excited about it. I loved seeing friends, family and acquaintances all week with Facebook updates from the Superbowl village, or the Jimmy Fallon audience, Zip-lining, celebrity sitings, posing in front of the big Roman Numerals.

People were having fun, taking the day off, riding city buses downtown. I normally have little school spirit, but I loved seeing Jimmy Fallon dance out the doors of my alma mater Butler University. I could care less about football in generall except for the whole eating wings and Doritos while watching the Superbowl (commercials) each year, but I sorta liked how all the Colts fans around here were totally 100% behind the Giants. The whole Superbowl in Indy thing just seemed kinda like a fun distraction for the week...Plus the weather was insanely beautiful for February in Indianapolis. Anyway, just thought I'd let out my tiny touch of hometown pride. Hope you enjoyed the signs...and just in case you didn't think I got a pic of my country bumpkin face in front of the giant Superbowl Roman Numerals, let me assure you, I did. (I'm actually having more fun than it looks like).


The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: The SSL Review

Okay, this may be my quickest SSL Review ever (I will keep that sentence in, but as you can see, I am too long-winded to make this short. Sorry). Just as a bit of a reminder, an SSL review is a rather specific type. I'm specifically critiquing the depiction and discussion of female sexual release. I also usually speak a bit on my general feelings about the movie, but I think I am going to largely ignore that in this review - partially because I want to get it done quickly, but also because I think there are actually some really good reviews of this movie already out there.

But, just as a little taste of my general feelings...I was entertained while watching it. As a movie, it kept me interested, and I particularly liked the dynamic editing style. However, if I thought too much about the actual plot/characters, I felt like there were some silly holes. I also thought the girl with the dragon tattoo's character (Lisbeth) was a little bit all over the place. In a nutshell, I thought the movie was fine. I think most people (except those who don't want to see sexual aggression in a movie) would enjoy the ride. I wouldn't call it a great movie, though. To be critical (it is my favorite way to be), I thought there were some really typical, unoriginal depictions within this movie, and some of the character didn't hold together and make sense to me as the movie progressed. That's my two cents on that.

Here's my two cents on the depiction of Lisbeth's orgasm. That orgasm was the only depiction or discussion of female sexual release in the movie. Lisbeth was in a bed having intercourse with Mikael, the character played by Daniel Craig (not such a bad gig this actress has if you ask me). He was lying on his back in bed and she was on top of him, facing towards him.  He actually was talking about something not related to sex as she was rocking her body up and down his (as in towards his head then towards his feet - as opposed to up in the air then back down towards his body). The viewer could assume, because of the urgency in her actions and the relaxed non-sexual style of his, that she was trying to orgasm and that, at that time, he was uninterested in getting his orgasm - whether because he had already gotten his or because he was simply just being there for her to get her's.

They were covered from the waist down with blankets, so what was actually happening down there has to be partially assumed. It was her body position against him and her body movement that I think is important here. As I said before, she was sort of sliding in small strokes up and down the length of his body instead of the more common movie style of bouncing up and down on his penis. In the position Lisbeth was in, it is entirely possible to assume that her vulva/clitoris area is pressed against his pelvis while he is inside her, and the way her body is sliding back and forth instead of bouncing up and down ensures that her vulva/clitoris area stays in contact with his body. It seems that she is having sex in a way that allows her to rub her organ of sexual pleasure (clitoral glans) against a soft object (his pelvis) while maintaining steady pressure and controlling the specific movement. This is easily a situation that could bring a woman to orgasm. In fact, rubbing the clitoral/vulva area against a soft object is exactly one of the ways that Shere Hite, in The Hite Report - her important and comprehensive early 70's survey, identified as a method of masturbation that women do engage in.

Now, although I heavily applaud when a movie shows a female orgasm in a situation that could actually elicit an orgasm, I am not blind to the fact that this is subtle. I doubt anyone watched this and got their mind blown by the progressive way that a woman and her orgasm were depicted. I would describe the situation as one where a woman was rubbing her clitoris against a man with the specific intent of stimulating her clitoris in a way that would elicit an orgasm...oh and she had a penis in her vagina too. However, I also understand that it easily just reads as a woman having an orgasm through intercourse.

Women need clitoral stimulation in order to orgasm, just as men need penile stimulation, but, I wouldn't call this scene an in-your-face shoutout to that fact. For all I know, this more realistic depiction may not have even been intentional. The actress may have simply depicted the type of sex she as a person enjoys and didn't really think much about it, or it could have been a result of movement limitations due to lighting..who knows? (I would actually love to speak to actresses about the intentions and thoughts behind their depictions of orgasm...someday...).

Intentional or not, I'll take it as a small step forward. The reason behind critiquing media depictions of female orgasm is to move towards a situation where reality is considered, noticed and incorporated into future depictions. I believe this could lessen the confusion, feelings of inadequacy, and misguided sexual expectation that go along with a regular diet of incorrect media depictions - particularly when the incorrectness goes almost totally unnoticed or unquestioned. 

So a realism is the goal, and this scene achieved that. I'm still waiting to see, in a mainstream movie, the progressive situation in which a woman uses her hand to masturbate herself to orgasm during intercourse, but that time has still not come. I will settle for the little ray of light, intentional or no, that this movie brought to the female orgasm.

I give this movie 4 vulvas.

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