Shirley Valentine - The SSL Review

Shirley Valentine
First off, I recommend this one. It's a fun, sweet, thoughtful movie from 1989. It's also funny and I just really love some of the female to female kindnesses in it...and ya just got to love ol' Shirley Valentine. Honestly, this is the kind of movie I love finding because it's my comfort genre (ya know, the types of movies you can always watch not matter their quality). Plus, it's a well done one in this genre, and I had never even heard of it before I saw it on Hulu. It was a streaming win for me. 

As luck may have it, it also had some content that allows me to SSL Review it, so I'm happy about that. 

The SSL Review (for those that don't know about them)
Only depiction or discussion of female orgasm and/or female masturbation and/or the clit are eligible for SSL Review. Nothing else counts, including plain 'ol sex if it doesn't include anything listed above. I specifically critique the realism (for instance, were the physical things happening to that women while she orgasmed things that could realistically cause orgasm for a woman?) and also speak on what the depiction/discussion reflects from and adds to the larger cultural discussion around lady-gasms and female sexuality.

You can see all the SSL movie Reviews HERE (and as always you can find all the SSL TV Reviews HERE).

This movie is about Shirley Valentine, a house wife from Liverpool with grown children and a rather stodgy husband Joe.  She's actually quite a fun, kind, interesting lady, and well, we get to see her have some adventure. 

The 2 scenes that allowed me to do this SSL Review are below.
The First Scene: The Clitoris Generation
Shirley's remembering a time when she was out with her grown daughter and her daughter's flat-mate. They got her started on drinking wine (instead of Rum and Coke, which is apparently out of style).

Shirley narrates:
"Kids. They know everything, don't they?" (looking at the two young women at the bar getting the drinks) "Our Millandra shares a flat with Sharon-Louise."  
(We're back in Shirley's kitchen and she's talking to us while cutting a potato) "They're fascinated by sex. Well, I suppose I'd have been the same if I'd been born into their generation 'cause they discovered it, ya see." (She turns and looks into the camera earnestly). "The clitoris. The Clitoris Kids I call them, and good luck to them. I don't begrudge them a thing. Mind you, it was different in my day."

(We go to an even earlier flashback where Shirley is younger and with a few girlfriends at a pub. They're laughing.)
Shirley: You know, when I was a girl, we'd never even heard of the clitoris.
Friend 1: In those days everyone just thought it was a case of in out, in out, shake it all about. Stars would light up the sky and the earth would tremble!
Friend 2: Hey, the only thing trembled for me was the headboard on the bed!
(They all laugh)
Shirley: You know, when I first read about it, I though it was pronounced clit-or-is.
Friend 3: I think it sounds nicer that way.
Shirley: That even sounds like it could be a name. 'Oh hi Clitoris. How are ya?'
Friend 3: That makes it sound a bit crude somehow.
(they all dismiss it with a good natured - ahh!)
Shirley: Ah, shut up! Plenty of men walk around called Dick!
(They all laugh again)
Shirley: Well anyway, that's how I thought it was pronounced when I first mentioned it to Joe, ya know, sittin' in the front room there. I said, J...(laughs)...I said 'Joe, have you ever heard of the clit-ori-is?' He didn't even look up from his paper. 'Yeah,' he said, 'but it doesn't go as good as the Ford Escort.'
(They all laugh)

This to me is such a sweet, sad, realistic, and poignant scene. 

Sweet because Shirley expresses a real happiness and hope for her daughter and their generation. They would have been born around 1970 just a couple years after Masters and Johnson used physical scientific investigation to learn and tell the world vaginal orgasms weren't a thing and just a couple years before Shere Hite and the other fab 70's feminists took that research and built upon it to tell the world the clit was the organ of female pleasure same as the penis is the male organ of pleasure. It's not explicitly said, but I feel like the insinuation is that Shirley sees them as women that might actually have a chance of enjoying their sex lives. I also think the way Shirley and her friends share and laugh with each other about, well, basically the complete lack of orgasm in their sex lives seems sweet, and kind, and an important part of womanhood. 

It's sad and realistic because imagine men confiding and laughing about how their wives don't even know what a penis is...and not as a dumb joke about wives not putting out enough, but as, like, for real. You can't really imagine it because it's not a thing, but what Shirley and her friends are talking about is a thing. It's realistic, and it is so common a thing that it's in a movie and women all over watching that movie can relate to it. It's also sad because ya know what? These 4 grown-ass women that have had sex and children have also not had an orgasm. You can say that sex isn't about the orgasm all you want, but sex after sex with no orgasm SUCKS. But that's not even the saddest part to me. The sad part is that we know and recognize this reality Shirley and her friends speak of, but we just continue to ignore that clits largely aren't involved in partnered hetero sex. It's sad because that scene is still relevant to people watching 30 years later. Yeah, okay, I think husbands now days generally know of the clit, but do they know where it is and how to use it in partnered sex? Do women even know? 

And that's why it's poignant.

The Second Scene: Where did that orchestra come from?
So, I won't go into the details, but Shirley Valentine is making love on a boat. We don't see anything of the two people except their first naked, laying-down kisses. The camera moves away. We see the waves crashing on the beach, the boat swaying in the sea, and the music swells. It cuts to a close-up of Shirley's face. She's lying on her back. The dude is on top of her in a seeming missionary position, but we really just see the back of his head. 

She looks at the camera and says, "My God! Where did that Orchestra come from!" Then she kinda closes her eyes a bit and says, "Ohhh." The 'oh' could be interpreted in a couple way. 1. She had a soft orgasm when she said 'oh.' Or 2. She had just orgasmsed off camera (during the orchestra swell) and the oh was a gentle little sigh of relief and joy after the orgasm. I tend to think it was the latter, and we were seeing the aftermath of the climax.

The next scene opens with her and a friend talking.
A friend: Oh for God sakes Shirley, you're acting like a stupid teenager.  I suppose the next thing you'll tell me is that the earth moved.
Shirley: Jane, I thought there's been an earthquake. 

I'm a little disappointed that when we got back to the couple on the boat and saw Shirley's face, we weren't seeing the aftermath of cunnilingus. Ideally, if I'd written this, I'd have a certainly had the sex act that caused an earthquake and an orchestra swell be something that would realistically make a lady's loins spasm - a mouth stimulating a clit. Instead, it seemed as though all that ruckus was created by some basic missionary intercourse. Now, if there had been any inkling in that scene that her clit was being added into the intercourse session, I'd have gone for that as well; something like him off to her side with his arm reached down towards her crotch or her hands seemingly down there. However, everyone's hands seems to be above the waist, and there simply wasn't a sense that anything happened except some ol' in out. I mean it's not impossible that she was taking control of the pelvic movements and grinding her clit against his pelvis to orgasm while he was up in there. If Shirley were a real person, I sure hope that's what happened, but unfortunately that's not what the general feel of the situation was, and I'm probably the only one that would consider how she might have held him still and grinded her clit against him until she came, while deftly keeping the dick encased in her vagina. 

It seemed like Shirley had plain ol intercourse that caused her an orgasm. Yeah, the whole situation was more sensual and exciting, and probably slower than I would imagine Shirley was used to, but in the end, it's just a dick moving into a vagina, which on it's own doesn't cause orgasm. Intercourse also doesn't facilitate, on it's own, body movement that one could expect to create enough clitoral glans stimulation to cause orgasm...If it did then it wouldn't be the case that the vast majority of women never orgasm during intercourse at all.

The Vulva Rating
This is a mixed bag, but I'm soft on it because I like it, and  I feel like it's such a kind, lady-centric story. 

On the one hand, I love the the scenes about the clitoris - for all the reasons I discussed above. It's sweet, sad, realistic and poignant. Anytime there is real talk out there from women about the lack of clit and orgasm in their sex lives, it's a win. Truth has power. 

On the other hand, it depicted a woman that had an orgasm from what, if you take all the clues around it (since it wasn't technically depicted on screen), was just a dude on top of her moving his dick in and out of her vagina. So, in the end this movie added onto the giganto pile of other incredibly unrealistic and distressingly common scenes of a woman coming from nothing more than the ol' in and out. These scenes are the most common way a female is depicted orgasming in our media (books, tv, movies, and porn). I don't have any statistics on that, but I would bet every last cent I had on that being the outcome of any study done on the topic. Point being, scenes like that reinforce the already deeply embedded and deeply incorrect sense in our culture that a woman can be banged into an orgasm.

So, although there were some great parts to the sex scene that I didn't talk about, the net affect of it was negative to the world of lady-gasm because it continues to give people the wrong idea about how lady gasms happen, what types of sexual interactions would be orgasmic for ladies, and how ladies' bodies are likely to react to a bang. And all that leads to LOTS more women than men having shitty, unorgasmic sex. 

So, since I really liked one part, really did not like another, and have a soft spot for Shirley Valentine, I' giving this a 2 1/2 vulva rating. 


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