We've all heard the words that bags both dirt and douche have for sexually active women: skank, slut, and ho. You would think a girl who is generous with her sexuality would be respected and revered amongst such people, who presumably want to get laid one day. But any club that might want their membership is not only deigned but derogated. Phrases like 'suck my dick' and 'cocksucker' are instead the height of insult rather than gentle requests, reflecting deeply repressed sexophobic anxiety. In any sexually sane society they would be positives; "may your parts be fairly and gently sucked" could be a nice way of ending a letter to a friend, for example. After all, most of all of us love oral sex... so why, forgive the expression, badmouth it?
|The Nympho Ward -Shock Corridor|
In the writing of Slavoj Zizek and Todd McGowan via Lacan, we can think of this in terms of the objet petit a, wherein sexual gratification with some ultimate hottie is the ultimate status symbol, status being of course in the eyes of the other; therefore we must never 'get' that final puzzle piece because our need for the other's desire constructs our whole identity. Winning the hottie is only one part of it, the other part is the boasting to the friends and winning their respect and acclaim; this is where the real objet petit a dwells, finding what the Other wants and getting it for ourselves, essentially becoming then what is wanted, but after boasting the man is shocked that his friends don't really care beyond a few words of awe; his emptiness is still there, and now he has no idea what to do with himself. This moment of emptiness and disillusion is exactly the whole point of existence, according to our Lacanian model. In between chasing illusions he can see the world as it really is, but yeeesh, it's a mess!
Thus female desire is terrifying because it inflicts an external desire onto us rather than vice versa, and we know about disillusion from our own sexual pursuits -- in a sense someone wants to lay us and then blame us for leaving them still empty at the core, just as we did to our last conquest. However, since it's a man's world, the female orgasm is considered more traumatic and X-rated than if she's merely disemboweled, which is why the ratings board is so screwed up (Check out This Film is Not Yet Rated), regularly giving NC-17s to any film where a girl is seen having an orgasm but gang rape and butchery may only garner an R. This shit's been making me super mad ever since Porky's introduced the misogynistic sex comedy deluge in the early 1980s, turning me instantly into a 13 year-old proto-feminist.
I had a girl do this to me back in 1987. I instantly remembered The Seduction scene and realized this girl had just hoodooed the hoodoo man and I no longer wanted to go out with her now that she was hanging all over me, whereas before her prior aloofness made me pine like a Twilight character.
We can see this switch in the public's eventual rejection of silent era siren Clara Bow, for example. In the 1920s Bow was a huge success; her sexuality was legend, a matter of national pride. But when the Great Depression and sound came along the public rejected her wild sexuality and renounced her. Indirectly, I'm sure they blamed her promiscuity for the economic collapse. I remember a similar moment right around 1980, when the 1970s free love vibe succumbed to AIDS awareness, slasher movies, the death of John Lennon, and various daycare sex scandals, it all coalesced into a backlash against the free love of the late 1960s-70s. As a child in the 1970s I'd basked in semi-erotic attention from cute babysitters and my dad's secretaries at late at night at drunken bridge games. Nowadays all those girls would be jailed as pedophiles as would our teachers in elementary school for spanking us on our birthdays, one spank for every year, while the other kids cheered. laughed, and counted along. So I resent that the 1980s stole my girls, and every time some dirt bag says words like 'slut' or 'skank' I feel the urge to go back in time and sabotage the filming of Porky's. Instead, I guess all I can do is round up some examples of super nymphs:
In their overview for Dorothy Malone, TCM notes she "made her first impact as a nymphomaniac entertaining Humphrey Bogart one thundery afternoon in 'The Big Sleep' (1946)." Nymphomaniac is a pretty strong word since we don't really know what goes on between them in the fade-out between their first drink and her spotting Geiger leaving the shop. Did someone at TCM get this role confused with her Oscar-winning turn in Written on the Wind? Or is it just that if a girl invites a man for a quick tryst in a 1946 detective movie she's a nymphomaniac? I think the real nympho in the Big Sleep is Martha Vickers as Carmen Sternwood, but I mention the nympho reference as an indication of the casual offensiveness that goes unchecked in our American social codes vis-a-vis girls who are highly sexualized, and I assure you it's not that bad in countries like France, Argentina, and the UK. We're a nation of easily shocked prudes!
Malone's character in Written on the Wind is a stellar example of the intimidating sexual woman. If Rock Hudson had a ball in his sac he'd throw the lady a sympathy f--k, but instead he gets all stoic and takes her down by the river for a picnic to renew their vows of eternal besties friendship, but it always seems a little bit like he's afraid of her. If he slept with her just once she'd maybe realize he ain't all that and be able to move on. As it is she's stuck in a town where nothing good ever happens, and the best she can do is get drunk and have flings with the local talent (and a sorry married lot they are, too). At least in the end she's assumed control of the company and there's an indication her sexual heat can find a sublimation outlet in big oily business, and then she can lure handsome designers home like Ruth Chatterton in Female (1933)
There is no condemnation or prudish judgment of Ricci's character in Moan and that's one of the reasons it's so moving and awesome. Meanwhile she is a nymphomaniac in the true definition yet she's allowed to be still hot, vulnerable, and sympathetic. Never a caricature or an object, not even of pity, she's a fucking person. As my fellow pro-Moan preacher Kim Morgan notes when discussing the initial chaining of the Ricci's wanton to the radiator:
"...here's the movie's daring twist--she eventually wants to listen. But not because Lazarus is a strict prude, preaching the lord and imposing scripture, he's fractured himself, a depressed musician, still stung by his young wife who just left him for his younger brother, he understands Rae's problems. He's also wise to the wanton, something he can truly express through his music, especially when Rae is nearby. While he encourages her to go straight, she inspires him to let loose, culminating in a gloriously sweaty juke joint jaunt. Singing a wonderfully profane "Stagger Lee"/"Stacker Lee"/" (to a gorgeously gyrating Rae) Lazarus shows that sin, goodness and redemption aren't so (and this is perfectly suitable here) black and white." (more)
One of the more disturbing cliche's in our modern lexicon is 'the dead hooker.' Even in comedies like 30 Rock and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia the dead hooker in your hotel room is a handy signifier of black-out decadence, right up there with the face tattoo and drunken Vegas marriage. Fonda as Bree in Klute gives you an idea why this threat is so real. She's drop dead gorgeous and self-possessed but languishing in the back of your mind while gazing at her awesome body is something of the terror and concern Klute (Donald Sutherland) seems to feel for her. Somehow, despite whatever amount of sexy ooh yeah, fantastic's she throws your way, there's a feeling you are not going to connect with this chick at all no matter what kinky shit you come up with or how deep you pour out your heart. The best Klute can do is maintain his deadpan expression and let Bree do the talking. The man who turns out to be the killer is even sympathetic in that he feels that in Bree, at last (as we hear on his tape recording of their first encounter), is a woman who can handle his kinky needs, who digs on his violence and accepts it, so when she rejects him it's the last straw. In a way, as Todd McGowan might say, the beating up is his one last ditch attempt to satisfy her... to actually reach her and deliver the amount of sensation she needs to get off. Just plain sleeping with Bree is like sleeping with an echo, a ghost, like a waitress you think is super into you as she waits on you at breakfast but then, as the glint of hope fades from your eyes, you realize she's just angling for a tip; she doesn't even really see you. If you kill her, maybe she'll finally notice you.
"Her bathroom masturbation leads to a flashback where she is five or six and spying through a keyhole on her brother Allosca making out with his girlfriend. The image of her eye in the keyhole serves as a gateway for all that is to follow: the young girl as Peeping Tom, her directorial eye looking in on whatever "dirty things" strike her fancy, daring to seize the reins of spectatorship back from the “male gaze.” Anna as voyeur is turned on by her own lurid life, and as Anna/Asia she is turned on by making the viewer uncomfortable instead of turned on in turn. But again, if a man films what a man desires and it shocks the audience, he's brave and cutting edge, if a woman does the same she's considered self indulgent and dirty (unless she's Catherine Breillat, i.e. French and not a sex symbol acting in her own films).
"This double standard carries its own erotic charge, which Anna is addicted to. In the bath she shares with Alloscia she mentions to him she might be an actress when she grows up. Alloscia dismisses actresses as "like mom" and "whores." This prompts little Anna to confess she "keeps her panties on" (when she masturbates) which shocks Alloscia and prompts him to angrily dunk her head under water. Thus we see from this early age how Anna is addicted to both doing "dirty things" and, in true Catholic style, "confessing" to an authority (male) figure in order to then masochistically receive his violent reaction. This form of erotically-charged penance and provocation is really the backbone of the whole film: First Asia invites us to identify with her character, and then she springs a shock on us so fast we don't have time to form a moderate response. She's like a police detective, tricking us into slips of the "mask" of innocence, or in this case, our delusions of our own feminist liberal tolerance. Anna may get her head dunked, but all of her brother's fatherly scolding cannot change the fact that she made him lose control. This is where she takes her victories, such as they are, by proving the fallibility of those she unconsciously enslaves herself to."(Her Body, Her Ashtray - Acidemic #1 -2003)
"... Mae is genuinely subversive, which is why the Catholic Legion of Decency was so quick to have her censored... It's nothing in her double entendres so much as the copious admiration and financial gain she shows herself getting, onscreen, for her unmarried sexual congress. If Mae's characters had died alone and unloved, having sacrificed all for her daughter, raised in a convent, to marry a prince, etc., she would have been fine with the censors. But daring to indulge in the forbidden fruits and end the film all the richer and with Cary Grant on your arm and no harm done? It was just too dangerous to a rigid class and sex system like the Catholic censorial 1930s.
Those moralists wanted sex to be served in little teacups to a temperate nation. Mae served it by spreading tea leaves on the floor and flooding the building with hot water. It was like showing the corruptible females of the world a magic faucet with which they could drown their men's precious capitalist system with a few flicks of their diamond-bespangled wrists.
What was more than a mere threat to the Christian status quo, though, was Mae's willingness to peek behind the magic curtain where the big deals are made, and to point out that regardless of how much they bellow and bluster, they're all just men underneath the suits and uniforms. The whole social ladder seemed to shake and buckle from the force of Mae's tsunami hips.(Desperation and Divinity- Bright Lights Film Journal #64, 2009)
In a way I see the Jung-Spielren relationship as the analytical extension, with more geniune sex in it, for educational purposes only, of the one between Jackson and Ricci in Black Snake Moan. You can say Jung violates ethical codes by sleeping with his patient but where I come from there's a saying: the two worst things a man can do are intrude on someone's privacy, and refuse the advances of a pretty girl. Oh wait, that's from Edie Sedgwick: Ciao! Manhattan. Well, anyway, I heard it before... and I subscribe to it. Truth is: men who are married and yet tempted by the advances of a hot young homewrecker are really in a no-win situation. If you spurn the girl she might create more trouble than if you just get it over with. Perhaps you can spook her off by being suddenly needy and really bad in bed, but if you're a young Carl Jung and the hot young thing is seminal nymphomaniacal masochist patient Sabina Spielrein you're bound to get a lot farther in treatment if you agree to a little rough trade spanking and sexual consummation. After all, as T.S. Eliot said, "the awful daring of a moment's surrender / which an age of prudence can never retract / for this and this alone have we existed." Man, I use that quote an awful lot, don't i? It rationalizes just about everything. I mean wouldn't you risk your career and stable family for Keira Knightley? If you said no then man you art a pussy; if you said yes then man you art eines richtiges schweinhund!
It's surely no accident that Liz Taylor frequently played women whose voracious sexual energy cowed the men around her, indirectly turning them all gay: there's Brando's closeted cavalry commander in Golden Eye; closeted Paul Newman in Cat, and gay cousin Sebastian, to name just a few. Sex with Taylor seems very daunting. She's just too smart, too beautiful, and could probably drive you to suicide if you failed to perform like a stud instead of a houseboy.
She was so tough you'd best not call her a tramp, only she can do that, as when she dubs herself "the slut of all time!" in Butterfield 8. In that movie, alas, she has to reform and hate herself at the end, but most of the time Taylor's characters got home all right, dignity intact no matter what, even if they end up stuck with a pompous houseboy too proud to fill the ice bucket while Georgie Boy staggers down the driveway. Taylor's sexual heat is so 'pure' it's pre-Christian, moving her into the same sphere as Olympian deities like Aphrodite and Athena (though she wasn't a convincing Cleopatra). All her targeted men can do to try and match her was get roaring drunk for courage, and like as not pass out while thinking of poor... poor Skippuh.
8. Clara Bow
"After a handful of years as the most desirable woman in America, Bow became its most abused punching bag. Of course, that’s how stardom works — contingent, as it is, upon our ever-shifting affections. But that doesn’t mean that the story of Bow isn’t a tragic one, or that we should forget what was done to a woman whose bliss was so clearly written all over her body." - Anne Helen Peterson
Richard Burton does his best to avoid the advances of hot-to-trot, under-age Charlotte (Sue Lyon) in Tennesee William's Night of the Iguana, but it's only because he's been burned once too often, via the opening of the film when he's hissed at in church for bedding down with one of the younger female parishioners. He later defines statutory rape as "when a man is seduced by a woman under twenty." Charlotte eventually starts throwing tantrums, dancing with Maxine's beach boys, and finally hooking up with the bus tour's uber-bland second wheel, Hank, all because Burton wouldn't put out, but at least there's older women waiting their turn. In the end, I think he should maybe have gone for it. I mean just look at her in those white shorts. Jeeeezus Christ. On the other hand, what's the best you can hope for? Humbertville? Forget it. Either way, you already lost it all. What was that T.S. Eliot quote again? Oh never mind. (see also: My Night of the Iguana)
The famous leg crossing scene is a superb example of the threatening power the wanton female has over not only men but patriarchal authority as a whole. The police have deliberately arranged the cross examination in their favor, with three men facing one woman, along with rows of men behind them and behind the two way mirror, but one flash of her crotch and they are all reduced to gibbering baboons. Case in point, and career instantly made.
I know this film is beloved as a classic but I've always been irked by its treatment of Mrs. Robinson. After all she's just a lonely wife trying to seduce her friend's son, cougar-style. The film doesn't blame Benjamin for eventually succumbing, but is sure blames her. In a way the film itself acts as a destructive hypocrite, first egging Ben on into her bed then judging her for daring to be outraged when Ben also starts dating her daughter, considering him unworthy for a son-in-law since she's shagging him. It's certainly a hypocritical response, yet is it any different from the film's own attitude towards her, or society's attitude towards female libertines in general? If Ben was a real man he'd keep his Robinson thing going, maybe solicit her for rich presents, expensive watches, and would have been nicer to Ross on their first date so she wouldn't have liked him so much, and then found someone from a different family to date on the side. Instead we're supposed to boo Mrs. Robinson for daring to go cougar before the term was invented while Ben is innocent of all wrongdoing because he made a few lame attempts at stalling her? Golly, you are sure groundbreaking, 'Graduate.'
Part of the ample charm of Russ Meyer's oeuvre is his fondness for big-busted, cartoonish, very very horny and strong-willed female characters. Why they've endured so well and made Meyer in his way regarded as a kind of queasy-quasi feminist is that his amazonian nymphomaniac heroines aren't judged or derided for their appetites, rather it's the menfolk around them who are judged lacking. They are terrified of these women, and who wouldn't be without the safety of the screen to protect them? Sometimes a boy just likes to hold hands and take you to the movies first, to just make out or round second base before the third date deed-gets-done deadline. The girls in films like: Supervixens; Faster Pussycat; Mudhoney; Beneath the Valley of Dolls; Harry, Cherry, and Raquel; and Up!, don't play that punter tosh. They see you pumping gas, they look you up and down, lick their lips and make a grab for your zipper straight up. If you're a guy and a girl's ever come onto you like that then you know the score, it's something you always dreamed of and now it's happening 'too fast' for your drives to kick in... you instinctively try to run away, call you sponsor, make any excuse you can.
|Erica Gavin - Vixen|
Bottom line: every man is a sex machine when there's no chance of having sex. Once it's inescapable it becomes a matter of getting it up, keeping it up, and delivering the goods. Maybe afterwards you can bask but until then you are on trial and your whole definition of your own prowess hangs in the shifting urges of a drugged-up wanton! You should man up and go for it but if you feel dirty and guilty later, don't blame the her! Any dog can be brave on the leash, barking and straining, but don't snap at a bitch if she wants to chew it off. She's just free, and you're not. So suck it, Benjamin!