Tuesday, December 4, 2007

CALARTS - 'Genitalia' Essay

The 1971 film is, from shot to shot, a close up of women’s genitals. Each shot is similar in structure: a woman in a spreading position with her vagina taking up a large portion of the screen. The lighting is flat as in a clinical presentation. Each vagina has a unique set of qualities. There are a variety of shapes and sizes accounted for. From the group, one woman’s vagina had their lips sticking outward and tightly shut, like the closed mouth of a Venus flytrap. Other than shapes, there is also a range of ages presented. There are older women with dry wrinkled lips with the texture of a buzzard’s head, to infants with hairless (prepubescent) lady parts. There were menstruating woman with tampon strings clearly visible. Some had stranger characteristics, at least one showed extreme wear and damage. Where another one had clear signs of some sort of viral growth.
The film forced the viewer to acknowledged the female reproductive organ - A part of the body that has been covered and out of sight for so long. As it has been deemed a sexual, and therefore “sinful” organ, vaginas are mysterious to a historically Christian, male society. A society with a long tradition of female domination and subjugation. There isn’t a whole lot explained regarding the vagina beyond: This is where baby Jesus came from and this is where your penis goes. Where are young growing adults supposed suppose to learn about their sexual identity?
When the film was made in the early 1970’s, the body was being rediscovered after having been off limits since the dawn of religious delusion(a while). Media that acknowledged women’s sexuality, such as Kinsey’s “Sexual Behavior in the Human Female”, were widely available for public consumption. The 1950’s female contraceptive “The pill”, gained in popularity and put the choice of when to get pregnant into the woman’s hand. Women were re-discovering their independence from a system that had engineered them to be breading machines. Not only was this film an educational tool for women to learn about their sexual identity, it was a media entity that helped rupture from the structure of Christian conservatism.
Just as when this film was released, there seems to be little information for growing adults to learn where things go. Porn is easily accessible to anyone with an Internet connection and therefore the concept of this film as an educational tool has been overwhelmingly replaced by the presence pornography.
After seeing this film more than thirty years after its release, the audience was scandalized in all the ways the film was designed. The material seemed to evoke a variety of reactions. Most notably, there was a strong presence of uncomfortable giggling during the film’s discussion. Statements were prefixed or suffixed with laughter as if alleviating an uncomfortable situation. This must have been the first time anyone had seen a Godzilla sized vagina or group watched a vagina outside of a private setting. Similar to my reaction above, one student found the onscreen vaginas to be very different from the vaginas he had seen in his daily life. Maybe the abundance of body hair is what threw this gentleman off. The audience’s disgust with these hairy genitals startled me. There is a fashion in porn where the actors paint their bodies and shave their genitals. When did porn become real life?
It’s alarming to hear the audience’s disgust with characteristics that defy the porn vogue. The film incited a lot of my personal frustrations with the prejudice of the present society. Between when this film was made and now, not much has changed in terms female equality. Our most widely used sexual educational tool, porn, has become hurtful towards women and the women’s movement. Not that porn itself is offensive, but the principles it demonstrates is harmful. Manufactured from good-Christian concepts, a majority of porn sells the concept of sex as a male sport. Very often, women are sexualized in subservient roles. What does face ejaculation mean to the growing American girl and boy? These principles are an expression a male driven, woman enslaving, social conservatism. Porn is teaching the public, through example, woman are the lesser sex. An attractive woman is one her willfully emasculates herself by shaving off her body hair and sporting a hairless, prepubescent vagina. Who knew women would become embarrassed by their own genital hair? This film successfully uncovers our inner bigot. Illustrated by our apprehension towards an educational presentation of women’s genitalia; we are admitting our fearfulness of the sexuality of women. A reflection of the traditionalist environment we are a product of.
The End.

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