As we work though the tough process of boiling down 70 hours of interviews and Miley Cyrus videos into an hour-long film, I've been looking back at some of the things we've been writing about. This is a pretty good distillation of the things that have driven me batty enough to do this film. So for those of you just joining us, a little distillation and review:
I want to thank a group of fantastic bloggers who have spread the word about our project far and wide. A few of them did Q&As with me, and their questions were so good, they made my brain hurt. Here are some of the hopefully smart-sounding answers I produced in response.
From Amanda Hess's The Sexist who asked about the different meanings of virginity in the contexts of abstinence pledging, porn and the wedding industry:
Therese: I think they’re remarkably similar in that they all work within the fantasy of female sexual purity as something to be fetishized. They have different props—the Big White Wedding Dress, porn’s white panties, and the purity ring—but all use a sort of ritualized process whereby a symbolically virginal female is offered up to a male for deflowering. I say symbolic because the porn actress is definitely not a virgin, we’re pretty certain that most modern brides aren’t either, and given our shaky definition of the V-word, we might not even consider some purity pledgers to be totally chaste. But it’s the fetishization of all three that really fascinates me. For whose benefit is it this being played out?
From Australian journalist Rachel Hills' Musings of an Inappropriate Woman about mainstream media coverage of virginity and female sexuality:
Therese: There’s still a lot of alarmist hand-wringing about so-called ‘hookup culture,’ the evils of young women having casual sex, and the death of relationships. It’s exhausting trying to keep up with it. I think most of us find ourselves in all sorts of sexual situations in our lives, some good, some bad. Instead of talking about how many partners someone has had, it’s more important to talk about consent, doing things because you want to, not because you’ve been coerced, or you think all your friends are doing it so you have to as well. I’ve read that about 1/3 of college students identify as virgins, which is a far cry from the media portrayal of college as one big scary female-soul-crushing orgy.
And from Kyna Morgan's blog about women filmmakers Her Film who asked about the origins of the film from a personal perspective:
Therese: I was planning my own wedding at the time of the shooting, and was getting a little freaked out by all the chastity-based wedding rituals and coded wedding accessories. What would it mean for me to embrace the white dress, don a veil, and be ‘given away’? What would that say about my own sexual autonomy and identity? It echoes the narration of I Was a Teenage Feminist where I refer to myself as “a woman who feels incredible pressure to conform to an ideal that I don’t even buy into. Is it possible to be who I want to be without judgment, or apology or compromise?”
And this post written by Melanie Klein at Feminist Fatale on why the film is important amidst our culture's contradictory messages about sex:
Melanie: These manufactured, one-dimensional images of heterosexual sexuality constantly shoved down my throat (no pun intended). Running parallel to the cultural obsession with sex (and nude or near-nude ladies that grace countless magazine covers, billboards and populate advertisements), is the obsession with female virginity (so much so that many women opt to have their virginity restored via plastic surgery).
Clearly, with all this sex out there, the important issues regarding sex and sexuality are glossed over and given little media coverage. What remains in the public eye remains a vapid, one-dimensional image of sexuality and a perpetual reinforcement of the good girl/ bad girl (madonna/whore dichotomy)
[With thanks to superintern/editor Sara for her help!]