WOMEN FILMING SEX: MARIELLE NITOSLAWSKA’S “BAD GIRL” (part 3)

In fact, porn activist Bill Margold is dead-on accurate when he lounges about shirtless on an X-rated shoot, describing VCA as “the equivalent of a Ford auto warehouse, only it’s videos and not Model T’s. The American public is a big, hungry baby, and it needs a new pacifier every day.”
Another prominent stop along Bad Girl‘s tour of female-driven erotica is France, where sexually explicit mainstream films directed by women have, according to director Catherine Breillat (“Romance”, “Fat Girl”), “become a fad.” The recently-released Baise-Moi (Fuck Me), praised by some as a more graphic variation on “Thelma and Louise” and denounced by others as exploitative, “Death Wish”-style nihilism, was banned from France, even as such movies become more common in Breillat’s home country.
Meanwhile, Bad Girl takes a pit stop at Hustler Hollywood, a sort of Costco of adult stores where you can buy espresso or fruit smoothies along with the latest plastic novelties, nudie magazines, and baseball caps that proclaim, “Masturbation is Not a Crime.” Later, the film flies to Las Vegas for a video trade show, where female smut celebrities sign autographs like mainstream actresses posing for cameras at a big-studio premiere. Pornography’s presence in such high-profile settings is bound to shock those who had always perceived the genre as something confined to dark, dreary corners in the worst parts of town. Which, despite porn’s growing visibility, is probably still the rule rather than the exception, a fact that has merely heightened its mystique.
Nitoslawska knows this well. “Even though it’s easier to find these days, pornography is often still very cleverly hidden as taboo,” she explains, “because its sales appeal hinges on the fact that it’s taboo. I often wonder if the people that are hiding it are people that are making it.”
As for the growing presence of women holding the reins in this once male-dominated industry, Bad Girl‘s director states that the female standard for porn is probably set at a higher level than that for men, who have often been satisfied with a very physical vein of “wham-bam” fodder. “You can’t just deal with the geography of the human body as an object,” she explains. “You have to also talk about the relationship. It’s two human beings doing something together.”
Nina Hartley, a nurse, political and social activist, and adult film performer who markets a series of “how to” lovemaking videos, is seen in one of her productions massaging a male member as she persuades women to take ownership of their desires. Off-screen, this blonde porn veteran admits to being a little embarrassed that she can make a comfortable living talking about things that most people are afraid to bring up in conversation. Especially women. Nitoslawska agrees that society’s close-mouthed attitude about such a natural human activity is a curiosity. “Sex is such an elemental thing,” she explains, “like eating and sleeping.”
Margold is more blunt, accusing porn’s critics – and a sexually ambiguous society in general – of being “frustrated, ignorant, and critical. No-one’s ever died from an O.D. on porn, unless you accidentally slam your dick in the VCR.”
Meanwhile, Nitoslawska comments that the movement towards female-friendly porn flies in the face of tired stereotypes of old, like a song which exclaims, “an honest woman has no pleasure,” or the view that a woman’s sexual role is always intrinsically linked to that of mother. As Bad Girl concludes, a French writer wraps up the film’s view that porn can exist for a feminist audience and not pose harm to women, by stating, “The separation of womanhood from motherhood has been a major milestone.”
Nitoslawska would appear to agree, as she explains the title of her pioneering documentary. “The film is called Bad Girl, not ‘Bad Girls,’ she clarifies. “It’s referring to the image of women (not being allowed to confess an enjoyment of sex); that whole guilty tradition going back to Eve. This is a film about trying to reverse that profoundly Western tradition.”
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Posted on February 11, 2001 in Features by
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