The Commodification of Female Sexuality

Sexy Baby

Directed by Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus (2012)

Film Review

Sexy Baby is a documentary about the commodification of female sexuality and its destructive effect on young women’s identity and self-esteem. It follows three particular women over two years: a 13 year old girl in conflict with her parents over her sexually provocative Facebook postings, a 23 year old who undergoes labioplasty to make her genitals conform to what her boyfriends are seeing in on-line pornography and a pole dancer struggling to cast off her stripper persona for her to be fully appreciated for her intelligence, assertiveness and compassion.

I felt all three stories were very sensitively portrayed. They were interspersed with images of soft porn that most modern teenagers with Internet see from age 12-13 on via the Internet and interviews with teenage boys and men about their attitudes towards pornography and female sexuality.

I found the 13 year old Winifred’s story the most engaging. Winnie is a highly intelligent high achiever. Despite a close and loving relationship with both parents, she succumbs to massive peer pressure to dress provocatively and to post revealing images of herself on Facebook.

I strongly empathized with the parents’ struggle to deal with this behavior. I also strongly support their decision to ban her from Facebook (eight times over six months) whenever her postings became too extreme.

I must admit I prefer her father’s approach to her scanty outfits to her mother’s. Her mom takes the attitude: “It’s your body – you can dress the way you want to.” In contrast, her father is honest about the anxieties her provocative dress provokes in him.

Over time, this seems to be quite effective.

Do Communists Have Better Sex?

Do Communists Have Better Sex?

Directed by Andre Meier (2006)

Film Review

Do Communists have Better Sex? is a comparison of sexual mores in East and West Germany prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Studies suggest that East German women found sex more satisfying. A 1980 study found that 50% of West German women were unable to achieve orgasm, in contrast to 15% of East German women. The filmmakers attribute this difference to three general factors: the greater economic independence of East German women, a more relaxed attitude towards sexuality that allowed people, rather than the media, to control their sexuality, and the availability of well written sexual manuals about women’s sexual needs.

The Role of Economic Independence

At the end of World War II, East Germany experienced a severe shortage of men as most returning soldiers settled in West Germany. This made it necessary for women to assume men’s roles in East German industry. In contrast West German women were pressured to leave their war jobs to free them up for men. Government, churches and the media bombarded them with the message their chief role in life was to make men happy.

Owing to the large number of war widows raising children, the East German government provided generous social programs, including free child care and cooperative laundries to enable them to work full time. This made them economically independent from men and significantly reduced the pressure for them to marry.

Role of Religion

In West Germany, the church’s preeminent influence made sex a taboo topic until the late sixties. This included sex education in schools, and teachers could be prosecuted for explaining where babies came from.

In East Germany, the Communist Party took the view that healthy sexual relationships were essential for people to develop fully as human beings. The East German government introduced sex education in schools in the 1950s, though they put more emphasis on TV programming that educated parents on dealing with teen sexuality. Consensual sex was legal from age 16 up.

Access to Birth Control

In East Germany oral contraceptives were free for all women 14 and over from the early sixties when they first became available. Abortion (prior to 12 weeks pregnancy) were legal and free from 1972 on. In West Germany, feminists had to fight long and hard to gain access to birth control pills in the late sixties and abortion in 1976.

Pornography and Sexploitation

While the East German government had strict laws against pornography, sex shows and sexploitation,* they were extremely tolerant of nudism at public beaches and campsites. In addition, they directly subsidized the publication of popular sex manuals to keep men up to date on women’s sexual needs.

In West Germany, nudism was illegal, while male-oriented pornography, peep shows and strip clubs proliferated with the 1975 repeal of their pornography law.

*Sexploitation is the commercial exploitation of sex, sexual attractiveness, or sexually explicit material.

Sext Up Kids

Sext Up Kids: How Growing Up in a Hyper Sexualized Culture Hurts Our kids

Doc Zone (CBC) 2012

Film Review

The ubiquitous sexualization of children in the mass media is having devastating effects on our adolescents. Sext Up Kids interviews a range of experts, including teachers, psychologists and teen sex bloggers. They all agree that pop culture has become a virtual porn culture, with the increasing prevalence of sexually provocative teen and pre-teen (as young as 9) girls in advertising, music videos and movies.

Teenage girls seem to bear the brunt of the psychological damage. They feel immense pressure to copy the sexualized image of their teen idols, at risk of being unpopular or socially excluded if they don’t. The pressure is aggravated by boys, who are also constantly exposed to the same soft porn and call them sexually abusive names if they don’t measure up.

With boys as young as five accessing hard porn on the Internet, there’s also intense pressure for girls thirteen and up to engage in sexual activity. Because boys base their sexual expectations on male-dominated pornography, intercourse is frequently painful because the girls do it without being aroused or lubricated.

Pressure for girls to engage in oral (fellatio) and anal sex is also intense. Teenage boys expect it because they see it on-line. In one study by an Atlanta psychologist, 22% of teenage girls reported having anal sex in the past sixty days.

Sext Up Kids also covers the controversial topic of sexting, sending sexual explicit texts and selfies. Sexting can have extremely painful consequences for both girls and boys, especially aggravated sexting, a form of bullying in which the naked photos a girls sends her boyfriend are forwarded and go viral.

Apparently girls succumb to their boyfriends’ requests for nude selfies out of fear boys won’t like them if they don’t flaunt and promote themselves. While increasingly boys run the risk of being charged with sex crimes for possessing pornographic photos of girls under eighteen.

The documentary concludes with a plea to parents, urging them to talk to their teenagers about their sexual choices. Experts agree this is the best way support them in resisting pressure to be sexual before they’re emotionally and psychologically ready.