We have long discussed the imbalance between male and female nudity in American film. Similarly (yet in an opposite vein), we have discussed the way women’s sexualities are rendered invisible, or at least outside their own control and purpose, in society and in film. And gender variant folk are relatively lucky to appear in film in any state of clothing. For sake of focus, however, I shall play mostly within a binary gender system for this entry.*

So, I’m not kidding when I express some excitement at the increasingly common vibrator jokes in comedy.

Sure, they’re poking fun—but this comedy only works because female pleasure is becoming valued, "female self pleasure" is consequently exiting the closet, and a male-proclaimed "natural" view of what sex should be is actually yielding (albeit slowly and through obliquely subversive means) to a more sex-positive "what works" approach. (Hell, in this Cultural Revolution, even straight men are being freed to enjoy a sex toys.) It’s also moving ever-so-slowly beyond the proprietary ownership of an American Pie style, pseudo-lesbian, beautiful young woman…to a place where even the old lady in Smokin’ Aces can have a dildo hanging out by the bathtub. Granted, we’ve a long way to go yet, in all the -isms, when this quick laugh occurs in context of literary absurdity. And female masturbation, much like lesbianism, is often co-opted personally and commercially for male pleasure. (But this is also yet one more power tool in the female arsenal, should she choose to own and use it.)

One can hardly imagine Gidget taking time away from her breast-building exercises to jerk off. We’re making headway. (yes, headway. Did you see what I did there?)

And it’s not just niche movies like Shortbus or Secretary that are looking at sex, and especially at women’s experiences of their own sexuality, differently. We also have suspense films like In the Cut, where girl-next-door Meg Ryan (of all the actors!) sheds her cute innocence to play a real person, one who lies on her belly and masturbates while thinking dirty thoughts. Mrowr.

Now, in addition to increasing the acceptability of cultural references to women's sexual pleasure, we really need to work on getting governmental and health care systems to value female sexual pleasure as highly as they do male sexual pleasure (see: the old debates on insurance and viagra). For that matter, we need to get comparable general care for women's bodies. My half-assed insurance won't even cover something as basic as an annual gynecological exam. (Yes, if it was ever in doubt, this genderqueer was born with a vagina.) Condoms aside, pharmaceutical companies don't bother to develop testes-based contraception when they can so easily continue placing much of this burden on the ones with the uteri. What about the massive expense that menstruation causes for roughly half the population? My Spanish friend wisely suggests the government pay for this is a general public health/sanitation service. (And again, what about the transgender patients?!)

But, we're out of space. On one last film tangent, I’m in my midtwenties, and I think it only just hit me that Johnny from Dirty Dancing ought to be a ‘mo, and Penny his hag. Maybe I just identified really strongly with idealistic, uncoordinated, determined, socially inept, loyal, sheltered, utterly without artifice Baby--therefore never questioned his interest in "big girls don't cry" Baby. More intriguingly, how did I never really question why the scenes where Penny and Baby dance together (with or without Johnny) were so erotic for me? I mean, at the end of the day, whatever, maybe Johnny’s cousin is the gay one.

*But while we’re on this tangent, check out 20 centímetros for an interesting foreign take on the transgender musical genre, nudity and sex both included.

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