The Year of Spectacular Men - The SSL Review

The Year of Spectacular Men
I caught The Year of Spectacular Men on Hulu. I was interested because it was directed by Lea Thompson, was written and stared her daughter Madelyn Deutch, and co-starred her other daughter Zoe Deutch. What I found was some very interesting sex scenes that I simply had to SSL Review.

An SSL Review
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 parts of 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.

Simultaneous table-bang orgasm in under 25 seconds (the first sex scene)
So the scene started with Izzy, played by Madylen Deutch fighting with her ex Aaron about T-shirts. Then they sort of stopped, you know, because of all that the sexual tension, and started kissing and grabbing ravenously. He quickly picks her up so she's sitting on a table facing him. He's standing between her legs facing her. They are really getting hot and heavy, and she starts saying they shouldn't be doing this, but is still really kissing him and being into it.Then he says.
Aaron: Shut up. Don't you want to see it again?
Izzy: What?
Aaron: Don't you want to see it again?
Izzy: Who says that?
Aaron: I do.
Izzy: (pauses for a sec and then emphatically) Yes.
At this point they both lick their hands and move them down to their genitals - we can only assume to lube up the fucking that will ensue. And it does ensue immediately. Although we are only seeing them in profile from the chest up, almost instantly we can tell that the dick is pulled out of the fly and put in her vag. We see her kinda get on it with an "umph" sound, and then she starts bouncing up and down. We see them banging occasionally now from a wider shot. Her dress is hiked up, but they are fully clothed. We see how hard they are rocking the table and vases are falling off of it. There's no time skip. We're seeing the the whole sexual experience from beginning to end.

To be honest the mechanics of how she is bouncing up and down on the table doesn't seem quite right from my understanding of how dicks are attached to men. Like, he is pelvis to pelvis to her while she's bouncing, but the bouncing is really very vertical instead of more angled toward him yet also kinda up-down like one would expect from this sitting/standing sex, but whatever. Maybe I'm wrong. The point is she's bouncing.

She's definitely not grinding her hips against him, and both of their hands are clearly visible and not anywhere near her vulva. We kind of hear him breathing, but she is quite vocal with "uhs" and "fucks" and things like that. At timecode 18:05, less than 25 seconds after he puts it in her, we see from behind that he does kind of one last strong thrust, and then they both vocally seem to have a simultaneous orgasm.

Oh, I forgot you were there, but that was the best sex of my life (the second sex scene)
Izzy and a dude named Logan are in a bed, naked, but with covers on. They are kissing and then she says, "we should have sex, we should definitely have sex. Do you have a condom." 

They awkwardly get the condom. She reaches down and puts it on him, and his dick goes in the vagina kinda of all in one fell swoop. Like, it seemed real quick from when she reached down with the condom to when they were fucking, but maybe that's just me. Anyway, he starts pumping into her, and as soon as he does, she asks, "Do you have any lube? It's just, like, so rubbery down there?"

They again awkwardly get the lube and put some down there. Although they are covered up, we see her knees are up around his hips, and he again starts pumping into her. After a few pumps, she asks if she can get on top. And he says something like, 'yeah, let's get on the floor,' for some reason I don't understand. However, when they roll down there, awkwardly of course, she's still on bottom. He pumps a few more times while she gets distracted by his sweat. Then she asks again to get on top again.

He's absolutely into this fucking thing - not at all distracted like she is. However, he's always cool with doing what she asks, so she gets on top. She's stick straight, perpendicular on top of him with her hands pressed against his chest. She is bouncing straight up and down. She keeps doing this but gets distracted by him asking if his dick is big and also by some floor stuff that had gotten stuck to her back. She reaches to her back, asking what's on it and then Logan says, "you should come," to which she says, "Oh no no, you go. you go." And so he definitely does while she, still very distracted and frazzled, is trying to pick the things off her back.

The sex is done. He says it's the best sex he's ever had and we see her raise her eyebrows like, really?

Came in my pants (the third sex scene)
Lizzy and a dude named Charlie are both fully dressed and laying on a bed making out heavily. She starts reaching for his dick, but he starts telling her they should stop. She's confused and asking why (free PSA - just stop if someone says to stop. Ask why later if you need to) until he tells her he just came. He rolls over, embarrassed and also as if the sex is for sure, completely done.

She asks if he wants to wait a few and try again, and he's like no, I'm so embarrassed and all that. There are some mildly funny lines. He tells her it's kind of a compliment because it was a lot, but he needs to take a shower and clean up, but then they can hang. He leaves and they never have more sex.

The Good, The Bad, And The Premature Ejaculation (or maybe just sex minus the lady-gasm)
So here's the deal. There are 3 sex scenes in this movie. In one we see "good" sex. In the second, we see "bad" sex, and in the third we see sex that ends too early because the man could not perform...maybe you could call this "really bad sex, " but I think this is its own particular category of sex we commonly see depicted in media. I can only assume these were all meant to show quite varied sexual experiences, but I suggest that these are all quite similar and very much represented of the female sexual experience.

Scene 1: I meeeaaan, did she come?
That female sexual experience I speak of is, ya know, basically a lot of sexual experiences and very little orgasming. Granted Izzy "came" in the first scene. I mean, I'm pretty sure the intention was that this character was supposed to have come, but like, did she? Does it even make any goddamn sense that she would? Or, and hear me out, did she have a really hot sexual experience where her vagina was filled up but her organ of sexual pleasure (the clit) wasn't touched at all, and instead of actually orgasming, she made the sounds of orgasm at the time when the guy fucking her started to actually orgasm?

Now, I don't know if Izzy would have called that faking or not or even recognized it as faking or not, but what I do know is that assuming a woman would come in that situation is like assuming a man would come in a scene where his balls and nips were being stimulated but his penis was left to chill on its own. We don't see those kinds of scenes often because as a culture we're not ignorant about what physically makes males come, but we are very off base about females. Thus we get scenes like this where a lady character orgasms from something that would be deeply unlikely to make any female come, and why is that? Because it doesn't seem strange or unrealistic since realistically scenes like this happen all the time in real life.

Women make orgasm sounds at times when there is no sensible way that they would physically be orgasming. And why is that? Well, I guess because with the abundance of ignorance and misleading, incorrect information about lady gasm out there, we're all just doing the best we can and way too often, that means lady=gasms get vocalized instead of getting had. (Seriously, I'm not crazy. Orgasm caused by nothing more than something stimulating the inside of the vagina (pure intercourse with no additional clit/vulva stimulation for instance) has never been recorded in all of scientific literature. The clitoral glans area is the orgasm area. Prove me wrong).

Scene 2: Male-centric, shitty sex with two people that are not CLITerate disguised as awkwardly cute, distracted sex with a modern, sex-savvy lady
The second sex scene was meant, I think, to be one where the whole thing was too awkward and distracting for Izzy to come. I definitely also saw it as a depiction of an oblivious, self-involved male lover, and it may also have been meant to be that too, but I don't actually think that was the intention here.

In the next scene she tells her friends (well, sister and brother-in-law) what happened in the sex and how she felt about it, and she never mentioned that it felt selfish or that she didn't come or that his only seeming interest in her orgasm was a half-hearted "you should come," before he happily took her invitation to come himself and then apparently completely forgot that her orgasm even exists. Instead she said it was awkward that the lube exploded (it didn't, though, so must have been cut from the sex scene) and that he sweated on her forehead. She also said the asking if his penis was big was awkward, but the brother-in-law said "That's important to a guy, you just have to lie." The sister said, "I agree" (cue awkward look at each other). They also said the first time is never amazing, but she told them he said it was the best he'd ever had. They all mumbled about that being sad for him. Also, she goes on to date that guy. Point is, that sex scene was meant to show awkward sex not selfishly male-centric sex where the dude is obsessed with the size of his penis and remained completely oblivious to how distracted she became from the moment she asked for the condom to the moment he orgasmed (and the sex ended). She was nowhere close to coming and the dude did not even notice.

All that aside, though, there is still something important to note here. Ain't nobody in this whole scene went anywhere near her clit. How's this dude gonna tell her that she should come when her clit is just chilling alone in the cold? Can you imagine the audacity and idiocy of a woman, looking at a man and telling him he should come, while she's vibrating her own clit and ramming a dildo up his ass - with nothing touching his penis at all? Nah. That dumb shit wouldn't happen. But, like we discussed earlier, our culture is pretty ignorant about ladygasms and how they actually happen.

The truth is that Izzy would never realistically have orgasmed in this scene even if she wasn't distracted by the awkwardness. When he was on top, he was just banging his penis into her vagina. There was no grinding of her clit area onto his pelvis. When she was on top, she was just bouncing on his cock. She was not leaned forward in a way that her vulva/clit area could touch his body and get stimulation, and at no time did either of them use their hands on her clit.

So, from my perspective, this sex would have been trash no matter what, but I think Izzy's verbal initiation of the fucking, her ask for lube, and her continued asks to be on top were meant to show her as assertive and knowledgeable about her own sexual pleasure, even if she was distracted by the awkwardness. I will say I appreciate the attempt in this scene to give her agency in this situation.  Asking for what you need is classically something women don't do in bed, so I'm not mad they wrote that in.

However, I have a thing about women asking to be on top in media. I think it's usually meant as a signal that she knows how to orgasm and isn't afraid to ask, but unfortunately it's also usually written by people that don't actually understand how female orgasm works. They've just heard that getting on top is dominate and better for lady-gasm. 'Getting on top' is a hallow attempt to show female sexual empowerment if the orgasmic power of 'getting on top' is completely missed. The power in the lady-on-top position is that she is able to get the clit stimulation she needs while he still gets to have his dick stimulated by her puss. Either she could just reach down and stimulate her own clit, the dude could reach up and stimulate her clit, or she could position her body so that her clit/vulva area presses against his body. That way she would have the freedom of motion to grind her clit against him any way she needs while the dick's still in there. Alas, that's not what happens in this scene. Izzy basically just got on top to, I guess, exert more effort to do the same thing - stimulate his penis with her vagina while nothing touched her clit. Hell, if he were on top, at least she could just lay there and relax while nothing happened to make her come.

Point is this scene, if you really look at it, was not about awkward sex. It was about shit sex where the dude didn't pay any attention to her arousal level and no one, including Izzy herself, gave the clit any attention. It tried, but it was also not a depiction of a woman who knew how to get herself to orgasm. She was never realistically going to come from the non-clit focused position she assertively got herself too.

Scene 3: Clits don't need dicks to come
In the third scene, well, in this scene it was a bunch of selfish male bullshit. Listen. Just because the dude comes doesn't mean his lady partner is done too. I mean, if a dude starts off by eating a girl out, he's not gonna just be done after she comes. He's gonna expect some head or some puss.

This dude came. Sure it was 'pre-mature' or whatever, but he got to come. So, she doesn't get the same opportunity? She was horny too. It's fucked up. However, it feels kinda sensible, though, because very, very wrongly, we think that women need a hard dick in order to come. We actually don't - at all.

In fact it's probably more likely we'll get a chance to come if the dick is limp. If it's hard, then there's a good chance it's going into our vaginas, and (you should probably know this by now) intercourse is actually one of the worst ways to get a woman off. For intercourse to sensibly have a chance at including a lady-gasm, it's got to be paired with some stimulation of the clit, and in that case, no problem, just skip the in-out and work on the clit. Put a finger or two in if she wants a little razzle dazzle to accompany the clit stim. Point is - fuck that guy for not even considering that his dick might not be the center of that experience and that she might want to come too and that. Not really, though - he's just going by what he knows. You can't blame anyone too much for how this shit sexual culture erases the clit and the female orgasm out of our lives and minds and sexual experiences. She seemed to think the sex was done until he got hard again too. Damn cultural lady-gasm ignorance again! None of us are immune.

All Together: lady-gasm is left in the dust - in this movie and in real life sex 
So, overall we have a scene where Izzy and her partner start and end the process aroused. He comes. She fakes it (i.e doesn't come, i.e. is left without physically taking her arousal to completion). The next scene starts with them both aroused and ends up with him taking it to completion and her losing her arousal. He comes and she doesn't. The next scene starts with them both aroused and ends up with him taking it to completion and her still being aroused. He comes and she doesn't.

See the pattern with orgasm there? Of course women as a whole come during sexual encounters sometimes, but for men as a whole it's more like almost always  or always. I think the sex scenes in this movie were meant to be realistic, but in that attempt, I think they became a kind of poignant look into the reality of the female sexual experience. Because it's not like these scenes weren't thought through deeply. They were. The writer, who also plays Izzy, is Madelyn Deutch. Her mother is Lea Thompson and also the director. Madelyn says of the sex scenes in an interview:
They were incredibly important to us. I mean, me and my mom had a lot of really frank conversations about the representations of consent within the film; the sex scenes, the representation of the scene that was actually happening within the sex scene, why each of them are in there. I feel like it's a bit in vogue right now to just make them inherently miserable. And I'm like, I feel like that's slightly fashionable to be like, this is the worst thing you've ever, literally, ever seen. And that also feels gratuitous to me, just as gratuitous as like, a luscious, perfectly shot, body make-up. To me, they're both at the end of the spectrum and I wanted to do neither of those things. It was really important to me that I try to show that, like, people when they're trying to connect, that I think they are a lot more empathetic towards one another in a sexual setting. That stuff was huge to me.
These sex scenes were not throw-away. They were cared for and written by women. That's why there is clear consent in all of them, and I appreciate that. Lady-gasm, though, was not given the same depth of consideration because our culture does not give it that consideration. These scenes are reflections of our world because they were written and acted by people in our world who were trying to make non gratuitous sex scenes from our world. Lady-gasm was placed in these scenes much like it's placed in actual sex, as an afterthought or an incorrectly understood vague thought. Like too often in real life, the lady-gasms in the movie sex were faked, non-existent or completely ignored after the dude had his.

I love though, how these scenes turned out to be poignant peaks into how little thought is given to the lady-gasm during sex and when there is thought given, how deeply physically incorrect those thoughts are. And most disturbing of all, how normal that all seems. Recognizing that poignancy, however, can only really happen after a lot of analysis. That's not how these scenes exist out in the real world to all the people viewing them casually in a movie though. What happens is people see these scenes without any criticism of the physically unrealistic methods for getting lady-gasms or of the obliviousness to female orgasm in sex. Physically unrealistic paths to lady-gasm, clearly male-centric sex, and a clear sense that sex is over once the dude comes just sit out there for people to take in uncritically. So these scenes act to continue normalizing those already very normal things.

The Vulva Rating
So, this movie doesn't really take us backward in cultural understanding of female orgasm, but it does press us even more firmly into this current cultural mindset that is really quite shit for lady-gasm. So, this isn't getting a good vuvla rating. However, I will be a bit more lenient because I appreciate that the writer created moments to show obvious consent and in sexual ways, which was nice.

So The Year of Spectacular Men gets 2 vulvas out of 5.

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