South By Southwest
If you’ve been living under a rock or quarantined, then you know that SXSW2020 was canceled this year in Austin, Texas. This festival has literally been a part of my life as a local native. It debuted a few months after I was born and I’ve participated recreationally when I could. Sure, its global status draws in tens of thousands of people each year, but the economic impact has been thriving. That was, until 2020. But forgetting about the millions it attracts, there’s something else that this great festival brings: The Art Of Filmmaking.
Directors and Producers spend months on end, creating short films and feature-length films to showcase to the world during the film festival. So, how can we spread awareness of some of the great films that SHOULD have debuted? Luckily, we live in a digital age. So I was fortunate enough to be given some of the films I had hoped to screen in theaters. Since theaters are shutting down for the foreseeable future, these artists are left in limbo to showcase their work. So my goal is to highlight some truly incredible work. First up is an amazing Documentary Film that might make some uncomfortable but shouldn’t, and uses language you should.
An exploration of “cliteracy,” and the clash between gender politics and the imperatives of female sexual desire.
That logline captivated my curiosity; this film changed my perspective.
- The quality or state of being cliterate, especially the ability to navigate the clitoris based on an understanding that it is fundamental to the female orgasm. Fluency in clinguistics.
- A person well versed in clinguistic pedagogy.
The Dilemma Of Desire
Now you may be asking yourself “What does HE know about the female sexual desire?”. Well, honestly, not as much as I thought. Which is why I felt compelled to watch this film. And I quickly learned it wasn’t JUST about sexual desire, but about the embodiment of being female. I believe in equality and think any medium that highlights female empowerment should be the focal point when discussing male and female roles in society. With an almost teenage daughter myself, I’ve done my best to show her that she has all the weapons she needs to the patriarchal world we currently live in. It’s not about anyone being better than one another, but about seeing each other for who we are: Human Beings.
This film, directed by Maria Finitzo, is on a whole nother level though. It has a brilliant way of crafting the ignorance most of us share about the Clitoris and subverting the dogmatic approaches with women expressing themselves. Within the first 5 minutes, a question was asked to Dr. Stacey Dutton, a Biologist on female anatomy, on-screen: Can you draw a Clitoris? And it was at THAT moment I had zero knowledge of what it even looked like. Thinking back on school teachings and I realized I couldn’t remember a time we even discussed the Clitoris, much less saw an illustration. We always saw the male penis, but it might shock you to know that the first Clitoris extracted fully was in 1998 by Dr. Helen O’Connell. That means the textbooks probably weren’t updated to reflect her studies in my high school years. So I say again: I didn’t know about any of this.
What’s So Important About The Clit?
Did you know that the clitoris was the equivalent to the male erection? That when aroused, blood rushes to the glans in the same manner as it does for a male and becomes erect? I know I was ignorant of that. But more importantly, it made me think “I’ve been doing this all wrong“. Ask anyone where they think women receive pleasure, and 9 times out of 10, they’ll say the vagina. But that’s just one of the myths Finitzo breaks when she introduces Sophia Wallace, an American Conceptual Artist, and Photographer. She’s responsible for the critically acclaimed project “Cliteracy: 100 Natural Laws”.
Vagina: The Single Most Misused Word In The English Language | Cliteracy, 100 Natural Laws #10
So knowing that above, imagine telling a man this: The most sensitive and pleasurable part of his body we study ISN’T where he receives the most pleasure. That would sound silly, right? But because the male anatomy is external and studied more, we know that to be absurd. What’s shocking though, is in the US, only 24 states require some form of sex education. Only 13 require that the information be medically accurate. That means that most of the conversations and education discuss reproduction, not pleasure.
Where’s The Research?
With the lack of equality for centuries in medical science, there’s a reason it’s very male-driven. Why would men need to know about the area of female pleasure when their colleagues are all male? You can see the challenges, or lack thereof, for women to gain control of their own sexual anatomy. With an organ that’s internal, how could it be studied in the past and for what purpose? It’s easy to see what happens to a man when he’s aroused. There. Job well done. Easy. Simple. And really that parallels the difficulty about female desire. In order to please a woman, you need ‘cliteracy’.
Know Thy Body | Cliteracy, 100 Natural Laws #58
The intricacy of the clitoris is vast but almost has little to no readily available information on it. Dr. Stacey Dutton highlights the abundance of research and papers written about the penis. The exact opposite can be said about the clitoris. In her words “it’s an after-thought“. But her studies on the clit might prove to be useful someday. We know that certain drugs that men take might cause erectile dysfunction. So if the clitoris is the female equivalent, why don’t we know medication a woman might take can do the same? On the site Pubmed, you’ll find 46,240 scientific papers published about the penis. Searching ‘clitoris’, and you get 2,194. That might be the reason.
Another thing this film opened up for me was the sexploitation of women. Beautiful women advertise various amounts of products aimed at men. And how many marketing ads do we see of Sialis or Viagra? Yet, the clientele is targeted for older men who naturally would not need arousal for reproduction. That means the ads serve as a pleasurable function for men. But if Ti Chang, founder of Crave which is a customizable vibrator for women, wanted to advertise her product, she’s not allowed to on almost all social media platforms.
All Bodies Are Entitled To Experience The Pleasure They Are Capable Of | Cliteracy, 100 Natural Laws #29
So essentially, anything that constitutes male pleasure is fine, but if it’s about female pleasure then it’s taboo. When you see a Victoria Secret ad, you probably don’t think “that lingerie clearly serves the purpose for reproduction“. A marketing advisor for Crave said it perfectly: “Women can be sexualized, but they can’t be sexual”. And again, this leads to another myth that shouldn’t exist. Women only have sex for reproductive purposes. Now that may seem a little obscure in today’s time, but how many women are shamed for having multiple partners versus their male counterparts? Women being ‘pure’ is still sought after for male fantasies, even in today’s society. Some women are even treated as if their pleasure is something to be taken from them.
99% Of Porn Is A Monocrop Of Rapid Penetration, Gratuitous Ejaculation. 1% Plot And 0% Cliteracy | Cliteracy, 100 Natural Laws #87
Where Do We Go From Here?
It was enlightening to hear some of the people interviewed not only as a male but as an American. When we hear Umnia talk about her family traditions growing up in a Pakistani Culture, you see a different side of how important pleasure is. She marries a fundamentalist Muslim who was still a virgin, yet, controlled the entire sexual relationship in the marriage. He was completely against it when she brought up ways for her to be pleased. The belief was that she was a vessel for him and that was it. In turn, that made her realize how cyclical her growing up was and how many of the women in her life likely go through the same thing.
The Hole Is Not The Whole | Cliteracy, 100 Natural Laws #79
What I loved about this documentary was that it really holds nothing back. When it comes to female pleasure, there’s always more knowledge that we can learn. And hopefully, anyone reading this gets a chance to see this film because it’s an amazing insight on both pleasures and knowledge. It shines the light on how vital sexual education is with the proper information and emphasizes the importance of both men and women. The clitoris isn’t a dangerous thing to talk about. And it never should be.
If Female Sexuality Is Muted Compared To That Of Men, Then Why Must Men The World Over Go To Extreme Lengths To Control & Contain It? | Cliteracy, 100 Natural Laws #97
“There are many kinds of power, used and unused, acknowledged or otherwise. The erotic is a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognized feeling. We have been taught to suspect this resource, vilified, abused, and devalued within western society. Women have been made to suffer and to feel both contemptible and suspect by virtue of its existence.
We have often turned away from the exploration and consideration of the erotic as a source of power and information. We have been raised to fear the yes within ourselves; our deepest cravings. The fear keeps us docile, emboiled, and obedient and leads us to accept many facets of our oppression as women. Only now, I find more and more women-identified women brave enough to risk sharing the erotics electrical charge without having to look away.
Recognizing the power of the erotic within our lives can give us the energy to pursue genuine change within our world rather than merely settling for a shift of characters and the same weary drama. When I speak of the erotic then, I speak of it as an assertion of the life force of women. Of that creative energy empowered. The knowledge and use of which we are now reclaiming in our language, our history, our dancing, our loving, our work, our lives.” – Audrey Lorde