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,
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
, The Notorious
, In the Realm of the Senses
Salo/120 Days of Sodom
Don't Look Now
, A Dirty Shame
, Anatomy of
, Preaching to the Perverted
, 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
represents fear of the vagina and vulva, and
, which represents fear of the
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
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
The notorious tampon scene of Anatomy of Hell
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
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
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
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
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
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
, 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.
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
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
received two religious tracts in the mail from the Fellowship
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
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
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
possible to cross over to other genres.