I began working on this entry in November 2010, and then set it aside for a considerable time. It still needs work, but I have decided to see it as a diary entry rather than a serious, organized article. I don't really want to continue on with it, however, the subject matter is an example of what I might find interesting to discuss with others. -Xesce, 21/04/11

In my 20s, during times when I actually left the house or apartment I was living in, I made an effort to track down arty and/or controversial films. It was only a couple of dollars to buy a ticket at an alternative theatre.

It would take a while to style my hair - I would try to give it a 'sexy' look. I would dress completely in black, wear a lot of eyeliner, and paint lips and nails red. Performing these rituals seemed to help me access different layers and levels of personality, awareness, consciousness.

I went alone to these movies. I took the subway. I went at night. There was always an element of danger. Some of the theatres were a distance from a subway stop, in areas of town where it might be considered 'unsafe' for anyone to walk alone.

Back then, there was always possibility. I didn't know exactly what I wanted to find, but I did know that I wanted something more than the everyday, the conventional.

Thinking it over, I have had a good number of unusual experiences and relationships in my life, but I still feel somehow that a kind of potential remains unfulfilled. I still try to track down unusual movies sometimes, but when I watch, I am less hopeful. There is not the same excitement or sense of possibility for me.

These are some of the movies I have seen (in recent years) which include varying degrees of controversial sexual content:

The Brown Bunny, Shortbus, Happiness, Romance, The Notorious Bettie Page, In the Realm of the Senses, Salo/120 Days of Sodom, Caligula, Don't Look Now, A Dirty Shame, 9 Songs, Irreversible, Anatomy of Hell, Preaching to the Perverted, Baise-moi, Ken Park, Fat Girl.

What is most shocking is that it is so difficult to get movies made (except for porn) when they depict sex, when sex is supposedly a 'healthy' and 'natural' part of life. Everyday acts often become something scandalous or troublesome for censors.

For now I will only comment regarding the two movies that made the strongest impression of the ones listed above, and which I think demonstrate well fears related to parts of the body which are hidden, and of processes and practices with which we are unfamiliar or which some people consider taboo: Anatomy of Hell, which represents fear of the vagina and vulva, and Irreversible, which represents fear of the rectum.

What did I do with the various thoughts and impressions inspired by the movies I saw in the past? I didn't have anyone to talk to about them. I would sometimes write about them, but eventually I would destroy those thoughts, along with all my other writings. My thoughts were not usually well-organized enough (I feel similarly about this entry itself), and so it would seem to me that without editing, without trying to shape my thoughts, it was pointless to attempt to share them with others.

Vulva relates to the exterior genitals, including two pair of labia, while the vagina is internal and 'hidden'. In Anatomy of Hell the vulva is filmed in such a way as to confront the discomfort or revulsion that people are taught to experience at the sight of normal female genitalia.

In Australia, there is a 'one crease' rule that pertains to softcore porn. In this case, some female external genitals are considered too obscene or unsightly to be shown legally. If a woman has more than one crease, the 'excess' must be Photoshopped out.

People are given misleading impressions about the reality of range amongst female vulvas. A surgery called labiaplasty/labioplasty has increased in popularity, and so now women have one more part of the body to add to the list of things they are supposed to be ashamed of if they are not 'pretty' or 'acceptable' enough.

In Anatomy of Hell, the woman's anus and external genitals were shown, and the particular ways in which they were shown caused many to remark upon the 'ugliness'.

Anatomy of Hell begins with a notice that some sort of substitution has been made for the actual genitals of the actress (Amira Casar) in the film. We can see the erect penis of the actor (Rocco Siffredi), but for some reason Amira's genitals in their actual state are not permissible. This inequality relates to the theories 'the woman' in the film seeks to express.

I probably relate in some way to the woman's frustration regarding gender inequality, although I can't be sure to what extent our frustration is similar, or if we are coming from significantly different places.

The notorious tampon scene of Anatomy of Hell takes on the idea of the 'impurity' and 'uncleanness' of menstruation and woman, and occurs with a large crucifix on the wall in the background. The gay man the woman pays to watch her tells her that her genitals are slimy (like the skin of a frog) and basically ugly. There is at one point an association between female genitals and the squashed guts of a baby bird.

Filmmaker Catherine Breillat might be trying to question the 'official' version of what women's bodies and genitals are supposed to look like, as well as the double standard which allows Rocco Siffredi's penis to be shown, but not the actual genitals of Amira Casar. Are women's bodies less 'acceptable'? Are they obscene, unclean? Are women themselves less acceptable than men? How can anyone have a 'healthy' sexuality if women and men alike are given the message that female genitals are unsightly?

However, she is contributing to the perpetuation of unrealistic standards of beauty in other ways. Women are taught to deny or understate the efforts they undergo to appear beautiful because 'natural', effortless beauty is the ideal.

Although 'the woman' says she didn't have time to shave, and we see a little armpit hair, her legs are completely hairless, and her pubic hair is trimmed and shaved a little at the sides - it is neat and tidy, controlled. When we see a closeup lower down, there is a lot more hair, and it is a slightly different colour - the top bit is very dark, almost black, and the bit underneath is a less dark brown, and it is more unruly. So 'the woman' appears to be 'natural', to not have time to think about her grooming, and yet there is this discrepancy related to shaving. And I think the issue is that the director didn't want Amira Casar's beauty 'marred' by having leg hair or messy pubic hair in the full body shots, because this would diminish her power or be distracting. It would detract from her feminity, and from the luminosity of her skintone. We only see her armpits briefly, and we only see the vulva shots briefly.

She's not muscular, she has luminous skin, and is undeniably a very beautiful woman. If she wasn't, would anyone want to watch the movie all the way through? Would anyone care that she wanted to kill herself or that she had any theories about life, the universe and everything, or about gender inequality?

I have to admit that I like looking at Amira Casar. If she had been less groomed, I would still be able to see the beauty, but watching might be a different experience. Do we really want 'truth'? Is the ugliest aspect of truth somehow truer than the most beautiful aspect? Isn't it perhaps better to recognize that as complex beings we can appreciate different aspects of truth, and that a variety of different settings or contexts can help us to see more of the whole?

It's a bit silly that a woman goes into a gay bar to attempt suicide, and I would have preferred that if she wanted a gay man to watch her for a few days that she would have just directly approached one, rather than create all the drama and associated obligation of sympathy that goes with a 'suicide attempt'. I think the idea is that a gay man will not be encumbered by the same desires as most men and will not try to enslave her. She will have a chance to explain her philosophies without having to deal with the usual unconscious strategizing that kicks in when men are intimidated by her beauty. I think she is trying to express frustration that it seems impossible to get beyond men's conditioning, or inherent need to dominate. Even the gay man eventually finds the need to subjugate her, and stick things in her, including a gardening implement (pitchfork) that ends up looking like a devil's tail. Woman is a temptation (if you give in to temptation, you will go to Hell), and in a sense a kind of 'devil' who must be controlled or stripped of power. When men give women money, they have a kind of power over them. They feel they own them. In the end, the man feels uneasy in taking the money the woman has agreed to pay, because he feels the shift in power, and has perhaps also discovered that it feels 'wrong' somehow to take money when genuine intimacy has been experienced.

I suppose that for a gay man, a vagina or vulva might represent 'hell', and that for a woman in love with a gay man, it may be hell to possess these body parts.

Also, it is hell to have a period, and then a different kind of hell when you no longer are young enough to have one?

I think the movie is about the inequality of power available to those with a vagina. Men fear it, call it ugly or smelly, even though it is associated with life itself. Women's power is diminished if they are 'ugly' in any way - the easiest way to dismiss a woman (no matter what her accomplishments) in the modern world is to call her 'ugly' or 'unsexy'. Women are so powerful that contact with them is associated with the everlasting punishment of Hell, but this does not translate to a positive kind of power. This power leads to fear and to measures to control or take away this power. How is intimacy or equality possible if what women offer is looked at with suspicion, and if all relationships become a kind of competition in which men are programmed to try to get the upper hand?

What I relate to is the need to challenge men's (and women's) hidden beliefs. I think the woman has been struggling against a hidden limit. Amira Casar is very beautiful, and it is easy to imagine that most men seek to possess her and keep her to themselves, try to reduce her power, or keep her unaware of her power.

However, I think throughout the movie the woman is trying to 'conquer' this man in one way or another - even if it would be futile to attempt to change his sexual orientation. She may not recognize this in herself, she may underestimate her effects (or not be around long enough to see the long-term effects). It may be that all relationships are on some level about a power struggle. Each person seeks to dominate, and it may not be completely clear who has 'won', because there will be many different aspects to any relationship, with each party perhaps excelling in different areas.

What cannot be denied is that women still make less money than men, that women around the world have fewer practical options and resources in life, and that physical violence/rape of women is an everyday occurrence. They face attitudes about their value, their right to have an opinion, their physical appearance, their age, and their sexual behaviour that men don't.

Women still have far fewer rights. In many parts of the world they die all the time in childbirth because it is not considered a priority/economically feasible to invest in preventative measures, rape is commonly associated with wars, and in actuality more women die than all the men who have fought in all the wars, as a result of having less value.

On a personal level: I have made a conscious choice to try for something different in life and relationships, and it is disheartening to see my efforts so easily dismissed, or interpreted in conventional ways that don't make sense to me considering what I have communicated.

Moving on to Irreversible:

Anal sex between men is illegal in many countries, and can carry severe punishment, even when it occurs between consenting adults, and in some countries the punishment is a life sentence or even death. In practice, the punishment may not actually be carried out, but it must be difficult for those who are gay to feel safe in their own countries. Anal sex with consenting females is also illegal in many places. Same sex marriage is still only legal in a relatively small number of countries, and in most cases only became so relatively recently.

In the first scene of Irreversible, two men are talking in a small room that reminds me of a prison cell. The first man looks naked (it is only later during an unusual angle from between his legs that we see he is wearing underwear), and at first I thought he might have been pulling at his foreskin repetitively - I have seen this kind of thing in person before, while talking, a man pulls at this skin. It was actually the skin on his wrist that he was pulling.

The other man has more clothing on, but is holding something over his lap. The way the scene is filmed for me had homoerotic suggestion. I am not sure how the scene ties in to the rest of the movie. The first man explains that he had gone to jail for having sex with his daughter, says that he still thinks about what he did with his daughter, and he also says 'time ruins everything' which is one of the themes of the film. His companion says something about how when you are a young guy just trying out some mischief, you don't really know that others consider it a crime until later. This may represent a kind of male attitude that relates to entitlement, but also that our morality might not take into account the realities of human curiosity. Later, we see in flashback an innocent childhood scene, I think it may involve a sprinkler turning around and around on a sunny day (?), and we make the connection that as we get older and accumulate experience, as time passes, the original innocence can turn into something sinister. Throughout the movie in scenes which represent more recent experiences, the camera moves in a circular motion which is a more menacing version.

I think that maybe this scene (between the two men) was purposely filmed to be suggestive, such that the line between homosexuals and heterosexuals is blurred to make a point. We all may have some homosexual inclinations which we hide from ourselves and others, and this may be part of what results in violent reactions to those who openly express this preference or orientation. How many people are exclusively homosexual, and never engage in heterosexual activities or vice versa? It is OK for women at a party to dance together suggestively (this occurs in the movie), but nobody wants to know about what gay men do at their sex clubs?

Two men, Marcus and Pierre, enter a gay S & M nightclub called Rectum to look for a pimp who has just raped and beaten Marcus' girlfriend. Marcus is raving, filled with thoughts of revenge, and asks everyone he encounters if they know The Tapeworm. No one knows The Tapeworm, or no one wants to get involved. One man eventually breaks Marcus' arm and begins to attempt to rape him, but Pierre steps in and bashes his face repeatedly with a fire extinguisher. It's an extremely disturbing scene, and it brings to life a common phrase that is usually said without anyone thinking about what it really means. This scene demonstrates what it is to bash someone's face in. Was the man who was bashed The Tapeworm? I wasn't sure. He did try to rape Marcus, but did the punishment fit the crime? This movie brings new meaning to the term 'gay bashing'.

The rape scene unfolds later in the film through flashback. This scene is also extremely disturbing. I found that in watching Alex's hand on the ground, the movements she made with her hand, reminded me of the last time I had anal sex, which had started out consensual, but had become violent and nonconsensual. It probably didn't last all that long, but it felt like a very long time, and this movie emphasizes how long 10 minutes of rape can feel.

Alex is beautiful, and has only recently discovered that she is pregnant. What comes to mind for me is that those who fear or judge homosexuality want to have a justification for their judgment. Alex represents the heterosexual ideal. From the time we are very young we are continually asked if we have a girlfriend or boyfriend, and a great deal of all our socialization relates to developments in this area. Gay youths and gay men know that they are supposed to want women like Alex. Even though in some countries same sex marriage is legal, there may still be significant dissent, and in most countries it may still be dangerous to admit orientation openly in all situations. To grow up with the constant message that your desires are wrong, sick or not as worthy or valid as those of others leads to repression, suppression, low self-esteem and rage.

Alex didn't 'deserve' it. I think she is a symbol which represents our fear of what is hidden. The heterosexual majority fear what goes on in S & M clubs like Rectum, and the club is filmed in such a way as to emphasize those fears. Natural curiosity gets lost in fear, judgment and desire for revenge. The patrons of the club aren't human beings trying to find a safe place to express their sexuality, they become co-conspirators with The Tapeworm, deviant and possibly evil by association. In reality, they probably don't want to get involved in someone else's vendetta, and they probably realize that if violence ensues, whatever happens, the sympathy of the majority is not likely to be with homosexuals, and in fact they are likely to be blamed due to their 'deviant' lifestyle.

A common theme of action films seems to require a 'justification' for the hero to use his lethal martial arts training, to give up vows of pacifism or to come out of retirement. When a family unit has been threatened, when a friend or loved one has suffered an indignity or has been killed, there is no waiting for the law to step in - the action hero trusts only himself. All the primal violence which civilization requires we control is now unleashed justifiably. In Irreversible, the man least likely to lose control, Marcus' friend Pierre, who is a philosophy and history teacher, is the one who does. This is an example of societal value systems which affect us all. When someone who is not normally violent becomes violent, it only happens because it is justifiable. The blood and gore that results is justifiable blood and gore.

Irreversible is an unusual take on this theme. I wasn't sure that the guy who got his face bashed in was the one who actually raped Alex - I thought it was the guy standing next to him at the club who had raped her. If the need for revenge overlooks details like this, is justice achieved? Can we all learn to control our primal reactions long enough to sort through the facts, think about consequences and prevent 'irreversible' results? Can we learn to prevent certain outcomes by taking more care in regards to how we treat and look out for those we care for? Can we learn not to take unnecessary risks, even if someone we care for has disappointed us, perhaps instead deciding to have a calm discussion after that person has sobered up?

Earlier in the evening, Alex, Marcus and Pierre had gone to a party. Marcus was extremely high and spent most of his time making out or trying to make out with other women. Pierre tried to make him see reason and to recognize what he had with Alex, but Marcus wasn't listening. Alex was dancing with a woman, and some of the scenes with Marcus and Pierre made me wonder if it was being hinted that all characters had some homosexual inclination. Pierre had been with Alex before Marcus - even their sharing of the same woman seems like it might have been partly about their own feelings for each other.

Alex felt that Marcus was behaving immaturely, and she was disappointed. She was probably feeling somewhat depressed knowing that this was the father of her unborn child. She left the party on her own, and this is when she was raped. If Marcus had paid more attention to her, if she had stayed at the party, or if she had left with Pierre, maybe the chain of events which resulted in a lot of violence and Pierre going to jail would not have occurred.

The movie begins with the end credits, and with various letters 'reversed', suggesting that this did not have to happen, or at least that similar things do not have to happen to the rest of us. I don't think it's as simple, though, as always paying attention to your date at a party or committing 100% to heterosexual monogamy, or making sure that beautiful women don't leave parties in dangerous areas of town unattended, or waiting for the police to solve crime.

It's also about getting to know ourselves. To understand the violence of this movie I think is to understand the fears, the prejudices, the repression upon which modern society has been built.

Bad things happen in the world. Most people just want to get through their lives without any of the shit of the world touching them. But if a 'safe' lifestyle has been built upon a foundation of hypocrisy and discrimination, and sometimes even if not, some of that shit is going to get through the cracks.

On the subject of fears and threats related to sex:

Perhaps somewhat coincidentally, at the time I watched both Anatomy of Hell and Irreversible, I received two religious tracts in the mail from the Fellowship Tract League:

I live in Australia, and the only address on the pamphlets was listed as Lebanon, Ohio (United States). (I received tracts #106 & 133)There was also an email address: JESUSISGOD777@LIVE.COM

According to the Bible, blood is required to pay for sin. "...it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul." (Leviticus 17:11). "...without shedding of blood is no remission." (Hebrews 9:22).

Our blood is polluted by sin, so it could not be shed to take away our sin. However, the blood of Jesus, God's Son, can take away all of your sins, because he is sinless, and His blood is pure.

The tracts were hand-delivered (no postage). Tract #106 finishes thusly:

Even if you never get AIDS, you will not escape death. Someday, you will die. Are you ready for eternity? Are you still in your sins, or have they been washed in Jesus' precious blood? The Bible says, "...him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." (John 6:37). Come to Jesus now.

I also saw a documentary several months ago ((Outrage)) which discussed the hypocrisy of gay political leaders who condemn homosexuality and vote against marriage equality, and other issues related to increased equality for those who are gay, while remaining closeted. I saw examples of political advertisements aimed at getting the public to vote against equality for gays, usually by focusing on a family composed of one man, one woman and some sprogs, and by emphasizing the religious aspects of these ideas.

Closeted gay political leaders may be acting out of self-hatred when they refuse to back initiatives for greater equality, or when they condemn or refuse to support others like themselves, but the example they set passes on to those they lead. A lot of people choose to remain in the closet because they do not feel safe in coming out.

I think Irreversible points out heterosexual ignorance and the intense fear associated with that ignorance, as well as perhaps a sense of entitlement that heterosexuals possess. The Rectum as a club name parodies this fear, and the club itself could look 'hellish' to many people. The filming technique leaves a sinister impression, and while I am aware that Bad things happen in the world, and that some of the perpetrators of Bad things may indeed be gay and/or into S & M, it particularly strikes me that this movie is a kind of extreme pointer to examine the hidden fears and ignorance.

Out of all the movies I listed above, the only one I think I actually enjoyed watching was Anatomy of Hell. I don't actually enjoy watching very many movies or television programs at all, and usually find myself watching the clock, so that I will know how much longer to try to concentrate on getting something out of it. That probably says something I should try to examine. The movie isn't actually about eroticism. It's not really about sex and it's not about love. There is a kind of unusual intimacy. I think some parts of the movie are silly, and yet I still found it much easier to watch than other movies. Maybe it is that I relate to the need to have someone to tell my 'philosophies' to, and I like the way the man in the movie watches or listens. He is burdened by certain prejudices, but seems capable of learning (or, ultimately, the woman has the 'power' to influence or change his thinking). I probably relate in some way to the woman's frustration regarding gender inequality, although I can't be sure to what extent our frustration is similar, or if we are coming from significantly different places. From an aesthetic point of view, I liked the way the movie was filmed, and I liked watching both of the main stars, Amira Casar and Rocco Siffredi. When I saw the movie, I was unaware that Rocco was a porn star, and I think he provides a good argument for how it should be possible to cross over to other genres.















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