Parenthood - The SSL Review

Parenthood (the movie not the TV series) will always remind me of my best friend Leslie. I don't know exactly why. I'm pretty sure we saw it together at the movies, but there aren't a lot of quotes or anything in it that we kept saying to each other or anything like that to keep her and it connected in my brain all these years. None the less, it just generally always makes me think of her. I also just kinda like the movie. It's a comfort food movie to me.  None of that has anything to do with this SSL review. I just wanted to say that stuff.

Okay, so SSL Reviews - that's why we're here. This movie has something that is maybe not technically SSL Reviewable, but it is close enough that I want to do a review anyway. As you know an SSL Review is a critique of depictions or discussions of female masturbation or female orgasm. I only discuss those scenes - not the movie as a whole (unless I feel like talking about more), and I try to focus on the realism of the depiction/discussion and also how it fits into a larger cultural discussion of female orgasm and sexuality.

Check all the SSL Review movies HERE and TV SSL Reviews HERE.

The Vibrator!
The SSL Reviewable part of Parenthood is pretty simple. The whole fam-dambly is over to this woman's house; her teen son and daughter, her parents and grandma, her siblings and their children and spouses are all there around the table eating. Then the lights go out, and her brother gets up to get flashlight.
Brother: "I'll get a flashlight. Where is it in the bedroom?"
(The family murmurs about this and that)Brother: (coming out of the hallway with the 'flashlight') "Where's the switch. Oh here it is." (There's a buzz) "What is this?"
(The lights come back on. The brother sees it. Laughs out loud and heads back into the bedroom.)A kid "What was that?"
Kid's mom: "That was an electric ear cleaner."
Kid: "It was kinda big."
Great Grandma: (with a big smile on her face) "It sure was!"

Wrong idea about how a vibrator is used, maybe...
First off, this vibrator was an old school kind. It was completely phallic - looked like a dildo. Just an off-white, plastic, rounded tip, long cylindrical thing. It looked like it was meant to be put into the vagina. Granted, people do put vibrators in their vaginas, and it can feel quite pleasurable and all that, but let's be honest, the real beauty of a vibrator is the vibrating of the outer clitoral area (because clitoral stimulation creates orgasm not vaginal stimulation...at least as far as scientific research has told us thus far). Not that you can't just put those long, dildo-ish vibrators against the ol clit/vulva area instead of inserting it. In fact, that's probably what most women do with vibrating dildos if they want to come, it's just that I think to many viewers, the understanding they get from what they saw is that this woman uses it to mimic a penis - a vibrating penis, but a penis none the less. And so, to me this movie easily puts out the impression that women masturbate by mimicking sexual intercourse with something that vibrates. There was even that joke with the kid saying it was 'big' and the grandma liking that. That's a joke that relates the vibrator to a penis. It doesn't make as much sense if one is thinking about that vibrator as something that sets against the outer vulva/clit area.

In fact a while later in the movie idea of the devise as a penis/intercourse substitute is further strengthened. The vibrator owning woman is chastising her daughter about her sexual relations with her boyfriend and the daughter storms out of the room saying, "Well, I thought at least someone in this house should be having sex, I mean with something that doesn't require batteries." 

Mama gets real pissed off at this point and yells a lot through the daughter's closed bedroom door ending with, "Do you know why I'm having sex with machinery? It's because your father left to have a party and I stayed to raise 2 kids, and I have no life."

The truth is a lot, if not most verging on all, people get from our culture a deep and strong yet very incorrect sense that women orgasm from things moving in and out of their vaginas, and scenes like the ones above don't do anything to remedy that incorrect notion. I really think plenty of viewers watch these scenes and are left with the idea that she is using the vibrating dildo as a substitute penis, having intercourse with it instead of just rubbing it against her clit like most women actually do.

It doesn't help that the woman who owns the vibrating dildo is a divorcee who in the movie is clearly lonely and struggling to raise her teenage son without a father figure. So, I feel like her use of a vibrator in this movie to some degree was specifically intended as a way to show how much she needs a man. Thus, I feel in this movie, the use of a vibrator is mocked in a way. It's not depicted as a normal and fun thing any woman might have. It's shown as a sad thing that a woman might have to resort to if she doesn't have a man in her life.

But it is still a depiction of a vibrator at least...
On the other hand, I do like the simple fact that a woman was depicted as owning a vibrator. It means she masturbates, and anytime we see a woman in movies or TV masturbate, even if the circumstances are not exactly positive, it normalizes that women masturbate...and that's a good thing because more normalizing of lady-bation means more ladies masturbate, which means more women learn to orgasm, which means more women might be able to transfer that knowledge of their orgasms during masturbation to their partnered sex experiences...which is a great thing for womankind given how little we ladies orgasm during partner sex as compared to men.

The Vulva Rating
So, the depiction of the vibrator and thus female masturbation was not exactly progressive. Whether intended to or not, the shape of the vibrator and the way it was discussed as a substitute for sex with a man made it seem as though she might use it by sticking it in her vagina a la intercourse, and that's not a very realistic understanding of how women orgasm (clit stim, people!) or how women tend to use vibrators for orgasm. Also, the general feel in this movie was that she wouldn't need the vibrator if she had a man, and by god, that's BS. Vibrators are fantastic to have with a man because penises in vaginas do not make orgasm...but penises in vaginas accompanied by a vibrator on a clit sure can make one. It's not all bad though because at least a vibrator and female masturbation was spoken of. So, this gets 2 1/2 vulvas. It's not a terrible contribution to the world of lady-gasm knowledge, but it's also not that great.


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