Flower - The SSL Review

I remember seeing trailers for Flower and wondering if I would like it. It felt like it could go either way for me. Was it a touch too much of the recently classic snarky-teen-girl-too-smart-for-her-own-good movie go-to character? Would I like Tim Heidecker of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! in it? There were a lot of questions, people. I kinda forgot about it for a minute until I saw it on Netflix, though. So, I watched it in order to answer all my questions. The main character, although certainly in the snarky-teen-girl-too-smart-for-her-own-good genre, was a really well done version of that, and although it took a scene or two to get past seeing Tim as the Tim in Tim and Eric, I did get past it, and I actually thought he was a pretty good fit for that role. The movie as a whole, I think, was a really solid one, and it also had a nuanced progressive approach to female sexuality that I thought was truly a breath of fresh air.

And...it had a little tiny line in it that made it eligible for an SSL review, so I get to write about it here in this blog. An SSL Review, for those that need a little refresher is a review specifically of any discussion or depiction of female orgasm, female masturbation, or the clit. I critique the realism of the depiction/discussion and also write about what the depiction/discussion says about and/or adds to our cultural understanding of female sexuality and orgasm. I try my best to just stick specifically to those SSL Reviewable moments, so it usually stays pretty focused on those moments in the movie only, but sometimes I like to digress.

So here we go. I have tons of these reviews btw. You can find all the other movie SSL Reviews HERE and the TV SSL Reviews HERE.

The joys of a gay brother
I'm going to just describe the SSL Reviewable moment real quick. So, Erica is a 17 year old, and she's getting a new stepbrother, Luke, who is around her age. She's telling her friends about him, specifically that he didn't want a blow-job from her, and they are kinda discussing that he might be gay. One of them points out a solid positive,
"Dude, if you have a gay brother, you can both jerk off to the same porn."
Indeed you can...granted, of course, that as a straight gal you're into a little gay porn, which I think you really should be, but that's just my opinion.

So, that was a lot. I think I need to go back and explain a bit.

Why try and give your stepbrother a BJ? Great question. For money. Luke was in a rehabilitation center for a while, and he's coming home to live with Erica, her mom, and the very new stepdad. They pick him up and all 4 go out to eat. Erica's mom has asked her to be nice to him, and when he freaks out at the dinner table and runs out of the restaurant, her mom asks her to go talk to him, and eventually bribes her with $20 if she can get him to come back in.

Let's go back a bit further. Erica is accumulating and saving money for a very specific thing, and she's making some pretty sweet bank by basically blowing for money and then blackmailing older men (she's 17 - remember) that totally know how old she is. She blows them, and then her 2 friends tape it and appear once he's come and paid so that they can get even more money out of it, which they all 3 split. She's good at blowjobs and has a pride in her jobs well done.

So, that's why she asks her brother if he wants sucked off. She's good at it. She assumes it would make him feel better, and there's money at stake to get him feeling better. Simple as that.

The SSL Review
As for my take on the SSL Reviewable line up there, I think it's excellent. What's not to love about teen girls openly and apologetically speaking amongst each other about their masturbation habits? The more masturbation among girls is normalized, the more girls will feel like it's okay to do it, and the more women and girls we will have that enter into their first partnered sexual encounters understanding what exactly makes their bodies orgasm. That is a win for orgasm equality, because we have too many a gal that doesn't know how to orgasm when they start having sex and end up real fucking confused and orgasmless when their bodies find intercourse doesn't actually cause orgasm like the world would have us believe.

And I also want to talk about how the movie treats her sexuality
So, that line gets a good SSL Review from me, but I also want to just talk about the tone of this movie in regard to female sexuality because I think it's important. The movie did not give Erica's sex-for-money endeavors a heavy weight the way I have seen in so many movies. The character herself spoke about it casually and really quite fondly. She doesn't mind doing it - like it doesn't disgust her or anything at all. She's good at them, and she feels good about that. She also clearly likes that it is a skill she can turn into money. Her friends are also casual about it and supportive of her. She did get one rando mean girl at school that called her a slut, but it didn't bother her until the girl poked at her about something else. Overall, her BJ-centric activities don't feel like a burden to her - quite the opposite.

The movie doesn't treat it heavily either. Sometimes movies will take something like this where the girl seems unworried and confident, but the movie shows us the truth. We eventually always learn the dark side to her being so young and so casually involved with sex. This movie never takes us there, and why should it? She's mastered a practice that takes finesse, and patience, intuition, and practice. We all like mastering something. She isn't giving her hard earned skills away freely. She gets paid handsomely. She is fucking over dudes that she sees as shit bags. She's going into these sexual encounters with her eyes wide open and with a clear, realistic idea of what she expects from them. She's living the dream really. The only thing that would be better, I imagine, is if she were somehow getting paid to get eaten out.

So, to me this movie is very different than most in that it allows sex things to just be sex things for a young women. It doesn't unnecessarily burden its female character with guilt, shame, or damage from sexual encounters that were completely consensual and thought through. It felt refreshing to see that because although there is certainly a lot of damage done to women and girls through sexual means, there is also plenty of sexual encounters women and girls engage in, sexual encounters that lack some or all of the elements of love and monogamy so often deemed necessary for healthy sexual female engagement, that are fulfilling, fun, and/or useful for a multitude of reasons and really not damaging at all. We don't often get to see that side of sexuality for women, and I think that ability to intentionally engage sexually in alternative but healthy ways is something that we should see modeled more often. A wider breadth of female sexual experiences than just romantic/loving sex and damaging/painful sex deserves to be told. I think this movie expanded the conversation.

The Vulva Rating
So, I give this movie a 5 vulva rating. The SSL Reviewable comment was small but mighty. I'm a sucker for anything that normalizes teen girls masturbating. That in itself would just get this movie a solid 4 rating, but I'm also a sucker for progressive, fresh takes on female sexuality. So, I'm going to give this a full 5 out of 5 vulva rating.



Random Hite Report #28

Hello, welcome again to one of my favorite segments on the SSL blog, Random Hite Report! It's simple really. I flip through the pages of the The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality  (or sometimes The Hite Report on Male Sexuality) by a one Ms. Shere Hite and copy the contents of the page where I land - no more no less. Anyone who reads my blog will know that this 1976 book is a fave of mine; not only because of its realistic and progressive insight about the female orgasm that is still shockingly relevant 40 years later,  but also because of its very touching insight into the lives of the women who took part in this huge, comprehensive survey. This is an under-appreciated and under-read book if you ask me - I suggest you buy it online (seriously, you can get them for like 1 cent) and read it.

 So, sit back, getcha a beverage, and enjoy a little...Random Hite Report.

The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality Dell. 1976.
Pg. 136 From the chapter "Is Orgasm Important."

...partner reach an orgasm - and find it just as stimulating."
    "Sometimes it's more fulfilling without orgasm because it's possible to experience my partner's orgasm more completely."
    "I think sometimes it's okay not having orgasm during intercourse, but perhaps I am too concerned with making the sexual experience whatever he wants."
    "Giving is more important than taking, therefore if there is a choice between my partner's and my orgasm, I take theirs." 
Some women came to the conclusion that orgasm during sex was not important.    "Orgasms are exceedingly pleasurable and as I haven't given up masturbation, I guess you could say they're 'important' to me. But that's exactly the point of something else - I totally associate orgasm with masturbation. I don't have to come, and often when he comes, it's the peak of sex for me."
    "To me orgasms have nothing to do with regular male/female sex. Orgasm is not necessary because I can give them to myself in masturbation."
    "Since I don't have orgasms during intercourse, therefore I enjoy it without."
    "Personally, I don't mind very much if I don't have one with a man. I don't expect to."
    "Orgasm is something I am able to give myself any time - so it's no big deal to not have one. Cuddling and touching is more important to get from my partner."
    "I think orgasms are overrated. When I masturbate, it is to achieve orgasm, but with my lover, I really don't care if i do or not. I just want to feel warm and close."
    "Orgasm is not always necessary during intercourse. It's still okay because of the warmth and comfort and just to let someone know you accept their physicality."
    "Orgasms are only important in context. If all I wanted was orgasm, I'd masturbate. If someone wants to give me an orgasm, and it is an act of love and affection and consideration, then that is important."


SNL Killing It With Girl's first Masturbation Skit - An SSL Review

This is a post from November of 2015. I thought it a good one to re-post on this fine summer day. Please enjoy.

Um...I just saw the recent Saturday Night Live with Elizabeth Banks. You know how SNL kinda goes up and down? Well, I tell ya, I'm feeling good about his crew. They were killin' it. It was full of good shit...and then, like the light of sweet jesus engulfing my being into paradise, I saw the following skit:

It's called First Got Horny 2 U, and I just about flipped my lid when I saw it...Uh, depictions of teen girls with desire and sexual autonomy? Yes, thank you. Adolescent ladies masturbating in wierd awkward adolescent ways? Well yes, of course I'll have some of that too. Insinuations of insertion along with my masturbation? No, of course not, but you already knew that didn't you ladies of SNL?

That Skit is Revolutionary as Fuck

Seriously, it was so perfect. The masturbation was so awkward, but it was ON POINT. It was all about getting some friction on the outer parts of that little lady junk. It shouldn't be so amazing that the masturbation depictions were done with some actual realism, that there wasn't insinuations about cucumbers and self-finger-banging and stuff like that, but yet it is amazing because it's almost unheard of.  This was a bad-ass, revolutionary little skit. It might not seem that way, because it's just one skit, but a lot of people saw it, and it's something that people just don't see. It will be remembered, and it will change things and inspire a different ways of depicting and talking about girls. It will change how girls see themselves and how boys see girls.

How many little 13 year old girls watched that in their pj's in their friend's basement and awkwardly laughed because it hit too close to home. That is important shit because it normalized the fuck out of all the things that have been traditionally stigmatized so harshly for teen girls - unabashed sexual desire, masturbation, and sexually touching yourself in a way that doesn't look like intercourse.

That last one is wierd, but important because we girls learn from early on that sex involves sticking things up our vag, which is super unhelpful for learning anything about our orgasms. If we did masturbate as adolescents, we probably felt wierd about it because when we really thought about it, our outer genital stimulation that we used during masturbation didn't quite jive with what we knew would happen one day when we actually started having sex. If we didn't masturbate, we never learned what actually made us orgasm, and continued not learning about our orgasm through all the PinV sex we would eventually have. Hell, it could've been years of doin' it before we ever orgasmed. EVER.

I can't even imagine how that skit would have affected my 13 year-old self. Rubbing up against my stuffed animal in my bed looked a lot like Cecily Strong wiggling on top of that pillow at the end, and I sure as hell never saw any depiction or insinuation about female masturbation that seemed anything like that until I was well into adulthood, and barely so even then. I mean I still masturbated...a lot...even without depictions to legitimize my choices, but what if 13-year-old me knew for sure that cool actresses understood my circumstances in the same way boys can be certain by watching any number of comedy bits, teen movies, and tv that cool actors understand their masturbation/horniness circumstances? That would change things...it will change things.

The Formal SSL Review

I'm going to do a formal SSL Review because this video has depictions/discussion of female orgasm and/or masturbation, so let's get into it real quick. I rate on realism and what it contributes to the cultural understanding.

In the skit Infinity + 5 is a 90's style pop group including Cecily Strong, Kate McKinnon, Elizabeth Banks, Vanessa Bayer, and Aidy Bryant. The song is about the people who they first got truly horny to, and all 5 of the women tell their stories.

Not all the stories specifically talked about/insinuated masturbating, but 3 did, one with a mention of orgasm. The rest were just about how horny they felt.

1) Cecily Strong sang, "I got up on the couch and I knocked my first one out." And by god she did. She climbed on top, laid down with her legs straddling it, and grinded against it. Although she said she orgasmed, that part wasn't depicted. (This was right at the beginning, and I for real jumped up off the couch with my hands in the air when it happened). There was also an absolutely fabulous shot of her in front of her couch laying face down on the ground, with a couch pillow under her crotch area and moving side to side. She's watching Carson Daily on TV and her father causally walks into the background, sees her and promptly walks right back out - Gold, I tell ya GOLD!

2) Vanessa Bayer, had a shot where she was sitting with her magazine with Lyle and Eric Menendez (that's who her firsts were) on the edge of the tub, and she looks up to the removable showerhead, and I think we all know what that mean, amIright?

3) Then Aidy Bryant sang, "I would sit on my hands and scoot - to a man in a dinosaur suit." Hers was the cool son from Dinosaurs, and we do see her sitting on her hands and scooting, getting that awkward teen clit friction. It was fabulous.

This skit realistically, though appropriately awkwardly, portrayed masturbation through outer vulva/clit stimulation. Plus, for all the reasons I discussed above, it was daring, progressive, revolutionary, and funny to boot. Infinity + 5 gets a strong 5 vulva rating.


P.S. I'm going to add Infinity + 5 onto the Orgasm Equality Hero List because that skit is the kind of comedy that can really change things. I'm adding them as Infinity + 5 because I want to include all the writers and behind the scenes folks who were part of it.


The Runaways - An SSL Review

The Runaways
So, I like Joan Jett. I'm not like a big fan. I'm not, like, listening to all her albums and reading all kinds of shit about her. I'm not that kind of music person. I'm a casual music lover. A fair weather fan. I ain't out there looking for the coolest new thing - I just really enjoy that cool new thing after it's popular enough for me to find out about it. So, Joan Jett - she's cool. I like the music of hers I know. I always thought she seemed badass, and she had a badass look. Her Joan Jett and the Blackhearts hits were coming out in my 1st decade of life, so it seems like I've always known them and known of her. I hadn't given her much deep thought though, and didn't really know her history.

On a recent lazy Saturday, I watched a shit ton of movies and one was The Runaways about the all girl (and I do mean girl - they were all high school age) rock band founded in 1975 by Joan Jet and drummer Sandy West. They had one hit you might know, Cherry Bomb (I have a performance of this in Japan below).  I really enjoyed this movie - it's a solid biopic, and although I don't believe it's 100% accurate, from what I've read of it, the spirit is there. Honestly, that's all you can hope from a good biopic, because they are all a little pretend. It's the way of things.

The movie on top of being entertaining, badass, and informative, also had a couple SSL Reviewable moments, and that's why I'm here today. An SSL Review, for those that need a little refresher is a review specifically of any discussion or depiction of female orgasm, female masturbation, or the clit. I critique the realism of the depiction/discussion and also write about what the depiction/discussion says about and/or adds to our cultural understanding of female sexuality and orgasm. I try my best to just stick specifically to those SSL Reviewable moments, so it usually stays pretty focused on those moments in the movie only. So here we go. I have tons of these reviews btw. You can find all the other movie SSL Reviews HERE and the TV SSL Reviews HERE.

I'm going to describe the 2 SSL Reviewable scenes first and then discuss them both at the end.

Ladies rockin' the fuck out is like ladies demanding orgasms
So in the movie, the Runaways are practicing in this trailer. There's 4 women in the band, but they are auditioning a lead singer, Cherie Currie, that they recruited because of her look...well they and this dude Kim Fowley, who is the music producer who loved the idea of an all-girl rock band when Joan and Sandy brought it to them. So, this cute, blonde 15 year old comes into the trailer and they are having her try to sing some gritty punk music. She's a bit weak at first and she's a bit unsure about saying some of the dirtier things in it. So Kim Fowley gives her this enthusiastic little monologue as a pep talk.
Okay Listen. Rock and roll is a blood sport. It's a sport of men. It is for the people in the dark. The death cats. The masturbators. The outcasts who have no voice, no way of saying, 'Hey I hate the fucking world. My father's a faggot. Fuck you. Fuck authority. I want an orgasm!' Now growl, moan. This isn't about women's lib, kiddies. This is about women's libido. I want to see the scratch marks down their fucking backs. Alright do it again...like....like your sister just fucked your boyfriend in your parent's bed. Like you want a fucking orgasm!"
I mean it kinda works. She gets grittier after that.

Friend don't let friend leave their teens without being able to orgasm
The gals are out on the road in shitty hotels, and it cuts to Joan Jett sitting just outside the hotel bathroom.
Sandy: (from the bathroom off camera) It still isn't working. The dicks aren't even hard.
We see Sandy in the bathroom looking at porn mags. She's on the toilet trying to rub her vulva and the mags are strewn on the floor and in her other hand.
Joan: Are you rubbing?
Sandy: Yeah. I think I'm doing it wrong.
Joan: Try using the shower head. Now think about someone you have a crush on
We see that Sandy is in the shower now. The water's running, and we see one leg lift up and plant itself against the wall so she can have better access to her junk.
Sandy: It's still not working
Joan: How about Farrah Fawcett. You like her?
Sandy: Yeah. Who doesn't? 
She's still in shower with leg up - the shower curtain is covering the rest of her body. We can tell the shower head is likely pointed right at her lady junk. Then we here a kind of dull 'uh...'
Sandy: Wait, I think I feel something.
We hear some more gentle uhhs, then a gentle 'oh shit' as we see her body kind of slide down the shower wall. Joan is listening outside and when Sandy says 'oh shit' - Joan rams the pocket knife she's been playing with into the wall in front of her kind of in celebration.

I mean, right on, right?
First off, what a good goddamn friend to hang in there with you while you figure out how to masturbate yourself to orgasm. That's a true friend. For real though, I love this scene. To begin with, it's physiologically reasonable. I mean, it has all the elements that are realistically needed for a female to orgasm. She's stimulating the vulva/clit area, first by rubbing it with her hand and then by stimulating it with a water stream. Both are viable ways to stimulate the clit to orgasm. The other part is that she is striving for arousal, first by shitty porn mags and then by thinking about Farrah Fawcett. The same things don't work for everyone, but we all need to somehow get our brains aroused so that our genitals get aroused, because you can't really orgasm - which is the release of muscle tension and blood congestion brought on by arousal - without actually being aroused. So the realism part of this scene is on point.

The other element of this scene is just that it's just plain bad ass and dripping with respect and esteem for the lady-gasm. It's saying something about the power of it. A clear theme in this movie overall is women, girls really, boldly jumping into an arena that wasn't really open to them, being wild and burn-this-shit-down uninhibited in a way no one thought they deserved, taking up space because they wanted to. Now, we already heard Kim's speech saying that this band was not about women's lib. It was about women's libido. As audience members we already have the idea that rock and roll is about about the type of taking-what-you-want that getting your orgasm is. And then we actually see these gals supporting each other in literally getting that orgasm, getting that satisfaction, taking up that space, it's poignant, I think. It quite rightly acknowledges the deeper power that authentic sexuality has to a person's sense of what they deserve in life and of what space they can take up in the world. It also very correctly seems to align female sexual power, not with sexiness, but with sexualness - with the power to get the orgasm you deserve.

This movie could, because lots do, depict female sexual power as women 'being as sexy as they want to be.' It's bullshit. There is, of course, some amount of power for anyone in being desired, fantasized about, and giving pleasure, and women clearly have a lot of space to do this in our culture, but the real power is also in unabashedly desiring, in fantasizing, and in getting pleasure (orgasm specifically). Women really don't have a lot of space in this world to do that, and so taking that space is kinda revolutionary - even, sadly, to this day.

Vulva Rating
The Runaways was unexpectedly full of female sexual empowerment. It bucked the idea that ladies can't rock, and it bucked the idea that female sexuality is about being sexy for men. Ladies can in fact rock, and ladies have a sexuality within them, a desire, that is about getting rather than giving orgasms. That, my friends, is important. Women need to know it's okay to be selfish, to desire, fantasize, and demand orgasms, need to see that these are parts of being a sexual person. This movie adds that element to the cultural conversation. It's taking the conversation forward not backwards or standing us still. Also, the depiction of orgasm was realistic, the physical thing happening is sensibly a thing that could cause a lady to get off. Those two things together give this movie a 5 out of 5 vulva rating from me.