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Skins, Entirely In Gifs

1 Aug

Any Sunday where I wake up to find someone posted this Tumblr full of Skins Gifs is a good Sunday indeed.

Wow! Sounds Risque! Virtual Abstinence Game…

28 Jul

According the Orlando Fox station:

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) – FOX 35 has learned that the University of Central Florida is spending thousands on a surprising project where video game developers are creating life-size avatars and real life scenarios.

But this is no ordinary game. At a price tag of approximately $434,000, it’s a new concept aimed at helping to teach pre-teen girls how to resist peer pressure when it comes to sex.

“They have an opportunity to interact with the avatars and they’ll earn points for particular social skills that they develop.”

So basically, girls can put on a skin tight black suit and stand in front of infared cameras and act out sexual situations created by two creepy looking grown ups in an effort to teach them… abstinence.  Not well educated abstinence.  No.  This is the classic form of “abstinence in the absence of knowledge.”  The kind of fake education that tries to convince girls (and its always girls because we’re weak, dontcha know) that sex is too scary to contemplate.

No biology.  No mention of STDS and how to prevent them other than abstinence.  Just a girl and her crappy avatar saying NO! and learning that abstinence is a form of treating guys like they are primed to rape.

I’d like the Our Bodies, Our Selves and Scarlettteen gang to come up with a new game.  Its called, “Girls, You’re Smart, So Get Educated And Make Choices That Work For You.”  But I have a feeling the black body suit won’t be part of it.

The video won’t embed here on WordPress (blargh): UCF developing virtual game about sex: via @addthis

If You Have Sex, The Nazis Win

8 Jul

Turns out this is from Modern Humorist!

You Must Be This Feminist To Ride This Movie

8 Jun

My name is Beth.

I am a feminist filmmaker.

(hi Beth)

The thing is, I’ve never not been a feminist.   I was raised to believe that women deserve equal pay for equal work, in all its many iterations.  That reproductive health is a right, not a privilege.  That women are not victims and should not be victimized.  And that I could do whatever I wanted.

So I want to do what I do and I don’t want the fact that I have girl parts to be a part of the dialogue.

But it always will be.

See, the assumption is that because I have female parts I have some sort of special sense of what makes women tick.  I’m “writing what I know” which is exactly what every 11th grade English teacher implores you to do.  I should be writing from a place of authority.

And this is just one of the reasons the Bechdel test rubs me the wrong way.  In case you haven’t heard of it, go here, read this.

Now John is making a great point and an interesting observation about his own writing.  And about the obligation writers may have to presenting women as something other than craven lovers of product and penis (hi, SATC2!)

And still, the whole thing rubs me the wrong way.  For a few reasons.  First, I think that trying to balance romantic love and personal fulfillment is one of the great dilemmas of the third-wave feminist world.  Secondly, it concerns me that this is a random bar that doesn’t create equality.  And third, no movie I have written would have passed the Bechdel test.

Let me say that again.  I do not pass this test.  And my feminist credentials are tattooed next to my Bikini Kill tattoo.

Why don’t I pass the test?  Because the things I am writing about – sex, culture, the idea of who we are as women and as people – all these things require girls and women to discuss stuff like sex and relationships exclusively.  Normal Adolescent Behavior is exclusively about sex, love and identity.   I went back into AVM and thought about rewriting a scene to pass the test.  I felt awful.  I was subjecting the script to an arbitrary line in the sand.  Someone wanted to be the boss of me.  Isn’t feminism supposed to do away with the bosses of me?

And more importantly, shouldn’t the development of well rounded female characters be about the full inclusion of the various elements involved in being a well rounded female?  If two women, with names, discuss how they aren’t skinny enough to feel good about themselves, are they somehow better than the women who discuss wanting to get married to a guy who doesn’t make them feel like shit?  When a character spends an entire movie debating the health of her marriage and going to comical and pathetic ends to prove herself right or wrong – is she somehow damaging the progress of women?

There are real problems for real and imagined women.  I’m not sure this is one of them.  I don’t think that women need to discuss one thing or another to be more or less real or inspiring or ground breaking.

I think the Bechdel test is an imperfect gauge for an entirely different problem – women in films who are not fully developed and who are written in such a way that “wanting a man” becomes shorthand for “having a character arc.”  Show me three dimensional fictional characters whose problems are huge, seemingly insurmountable and I will forget any sort of “you must be this feminist to ride this movie” test.  I’ll go with you to the ends of the earth.

ps – John August’s comment is a really good one:

I don’t think Dogma95 proves anything either, or that a director whose movie meets some published standard is somehow more real and worthy. What struck me as odd about the Bechdel test is that it seems like such an unbelievably low bar to clear, but it isn’t. Adding a scene just to pass the test is unnatural. Asking “what would change if” is natural, and generally useful. A good half of story development is this process of shifting things around. If Tom were Tara, what would that do the plot? It might not be anything good. But if the Bechdel test got you thinking about it, that’s positive, just the way Dogma95 arguably got filmmakers thinking about the crutches they were relying on.

The crutches go both ways.  Relying on a single matrix may be as much of a crutch as relying on previous archetypes.  Asking the hard questions about characters will always bring out the best in a script.  Asking the hard questions about feminism will hopefully always bring about more change.   It’s the dialogue that I think counts the most.  Inside the script, and out in the world.

Can Virginity Be An Ironic T-Shirt?

28 May

You wanna wear a Grosse Pointe Shooting Range tshirt that’s all vintagey, rock it. You think those old Harley black shirts should be resewn as a sexy tank top, go for it Ed Hardy.

But this is pretty out three.

Urban Outfitters.  Staying Classy.

And who wears that shirt?  A single straight dude?  A gay guy?  A girl?  Who the hell wears that shirt and pulls it off?  Could I pull it off?  I mean, I don’t even think the artwork on it is from any sort of Virgin Movement but from a WPA mural where Uncle Sam is preserving Liberty.  But if I could find a “Father/Daughter Purity Ball” tshirt I’d probably buy it.

Huh, maybe this shirt is for me.

How To Lose Your Virginity

21 May

Therese Shechter is the filmmaker behind How To Lose Your Virginity, a documentary about virginity culture and why we are so obsessed with virgins (and slutting them up then judging them.)  She’s in Istanbul right now because she’s fancy, and so we did a virtual interview.

Beth: I’m diving right in with this one, because as someone who had no business wearing white at my wedding (and didn’t) I’m wondering how much of the virgin-ey stuff did you have at your wedding?

Therese: The ‘white wedding’ construct disturbed me but, I decided that I would try on some white gowns with an open heart and see if I really did feel like a ‘princess.’ And of course I also filmed it for the documentary, with the amusing results you see in the trailer. It turned out I was excruciatingly uncomfortable being in those dresses, and I ended up wearing a gorgeous long  lime green and black dress for my wedding.

My total discomfort with chastity-based wedding rituals went further than the gown, though. I refused to wear a veil even though it was sort of part of the Jewish ceremony. I wore a big red flower in my hair instead. And I really  didn’t want to be ‘given away’ by anyone, so my groom and I walked down the aisle together.

Beth: And is virginity being redefined or are we just talking about it more?

Pre-marital sex is nothing new, I just think we’re talking about it a lot more, and we’re more open about sex in general which is a good thing. It’s allowing people to see that their own feelings about sexuality are shared by many others, and that there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to our intimate lives.

Not only can more open conversation give young women the space to be sexual beings on their own terms without shame, but it also tells people who don’t feel ready for sex, or aren’t into it at all, that they’re not freaks. I get a lot of letters along the lines of: “I generally feel like I’m harboring a shameful secret, and before I found your blog was pretty convinced that I was the only woman in her mid-twenties who had never had sex.” Speaking as someone who became sexually active only after college, I can really relate and am making that dynamic part of the film.

One thing that’s very important to talk about is the complexity of the virginity construct. How do we define virginity? If it’s penis-in-vagina, where does that leave people who identify as queer? If it’s something else, then why are we so obsessed with hymens? Do we suddenly become sexual beings or is it gradual? What are we losing, if anything? My film is called “How to Lose Your Virginity,” and ultimately I’d like to show how absurd every part of that familiar phrase is. I sort of like  “making your sexual debut,” even if it does sound a little too elegant for good old-fashioned sex.

Beth: Where does abstinence only “education” fall into all of this?  How much did the teens you interviewed know about sex?

Therese: Shelby Knox, who is also in the film, (and starred in the doc The Education of Shelby Knox) speaks movingly about the shame and misinformation doled out in equal measures in her abstinence classes. Things like if you have sex, you’re nothing but a dirty used toothbrush. And the lack of information on preventing pregnancy and STIs is just plain criminal. Shelby told me a story about a young woman she met who asked Shelby about using birth control pills correctly. Seems she was inserting them into her vagina instead of swallowing them.

Nothing good comes of keeping information from young people. It creates a vacuum that gets filled with even more mis-information, usually from popular culture. If someone tells me everything they know about sex came from watching porn, it just makes me really sad. That’s fantasy, not reality.

Beth: The big one: what are you telling your kids about sex?  What happened to Our Bodies Ourselves being the go-to guide for teen girls?  I loved that book.

Therese: I don’t have kids, but I can see how it might be uncomfortable to discuss it, and my parents didn’t really talk to me about sex. I learned everything I know from Judy Blume, The Joy of Sex and Letters to Penthouse Forum! When I got to college, I bought my first copy of OBOS and I still refer to it today.

I’ve interviewed some really sex-savvy teens, and I think that’s thanks to some great sex-ed programs like peer sex education in high schools and online sex-ed sites like Heather Corinna, who founded and
runs the site, is in my film, and she’s awe inspiring in the way she provides judgment-free answers to questions from young people all over the world. Not surprisingly, a large proportion of the questions relate to virginity.

I was also a fan of the now-gone CosmoGirl! Magazine, whose editor Susan Schulz is also in my film. Despite the ‘Cosmo’ connection, I think that magazine provided a lot of good, frank and age-appropriate information to its readers. They once ran a little story on the vulva, complete with a whimsical diagram pointing out all the anatomy. They got more hate mail from parents for that than almost anything else. I think some people are freaked out by the idea that their kids know anything about sex. Like it will make them run out and do it right away!

And let’s not even get started on talking to teens about the fact that sex feels good! Even the most progressive programs still seem to stress all the bad stuff that will happen if you have sex.

Beth: Talk to me about The Sasha Grey phenomenon – porn, intelligent porn, all the 3rd and 4th wave stuff.

Therese: Conversations about porn are complex. I’ll just say that it’s not going away, and everyone likes different flavors of it. I think the most important thing is to help people understand that it’s fantasy. We get into trouble when we start believing that it’s the how-to guide for having sex in your real life. Also, sometimes people lose sight of the fact that the reason the actors look like they love everything they’re doing is because they’re being *paid* to.

I spent an eye-opening day on the set of the virgin-fetish porn outfit Barely Legal, shooting what I think is one of the most interesting parts of my doc. Everyone was fun and nice, and in a lot of ways, it was like any other well-run film set I’ve been on. Except that people were having sex on the hood of a car. And no, no one actually lost their virginity. They’re professional actors.

Beth: And one for the cheap seats: favorite/least favorite cherry popping moments in film/tv/literature

Therese: I have a few favorites:

A classic for me is “Buffy The Vampire Slayer,” where Buffy has sex with Angel for the first time. The pleasure it gives him breaks an ancient curse that’s been placed on him and he becomes a vicious vampire again – which Buffy cruelly finds out the morning after. It speaks to that classic fear that once you have sex with a guy, he’ll treat you totally differently. Joss Whedon was great at reflecting the everyday pains of high school into the world of demons, and this scene is a great exammple.

(I love this promo video for the episode Therese talked about – can you imagine someone saying your first time was going to be a spectacular event that lasted two hours? Score! -Beth)

In “Real Women Have Curves,” I love that America Ferrara’s character has non-melodramatic sex with her boyfriend, enjoys it, doesn’t get pregnant or die, and when her mother finds out, she stands up the her. Then she gets into a great university and moves on with her life. Sex is just one part of her coming-of-age-story.

In “The Wackness,” the teenage male protagonist is your typical horndog chasing after the girl of his dreams. When they do finally hook up, his total awkwardness in bed leads to his confession that he’s a virgin. Her reaction is to say she’s had sex lots of times and can show him how it’s done. He reacts to the news with great joy. There’s never any commentary about her sexual experience defining her in any way that’s shameful or judgmental.

I think it’s telling that the best examples come from indy films, not mainstream Hollywood ones.

So now I have to implore you, all of you, to go to Kickstarter and help Therese out with her movie.  We spend a lot of time here and on GeekWeek complaining about the lack of smart versions of women and how movies all suck and how we can never get what we want and blah blah blah blah blah.  Skip two drinks tonight.  Take that $20 and put it towards a movie getting made.

Sweet Sixteen And Never Been Kissed

15 May

Found on the always awsome Four Four

So many things geniusely wrong about this video.  Of course we have the father entrusted with the daughter’s virginity because she can’t be trusted to keep it all alone.  Then we have the slutty girl (blond, while the brunette is good) and we have the perfect wavy haired husband who shows up… how the hell old is Pamela when she gets married?  I can’t tell.  Either 18 or 32.  Either way, she’s been living with dad and parking that pillow on her lap for far too long.

It Got All Virginey In Here…

11 May

What the hell?  I was so ready to just post and then ignore for a few weeks and then this hit my inbox:

Some guy is making a documentary where people auction off their virginity and it is taped. That seems very… well… listen I’m all for sexual autonomy.  But you have to do what you are doing because you want to and not because you think you should.  It’s the whole point of the movie I’m making.  I just have such a hard time believing that auctioning off virginity in a Nevada brothel is actually what someone wants.  I want to understand why (which is why I’ll end up watching this doc and then feeling really dirty about it.)

On the other side we have the amazing HOW TO LOSE YOUR VIRGINITY documentary that I am currently obsessed with.

From the filmmakers:

documentary-in-progress by Therese Shechter, director of the
award-winning and provocative I WAS A TEENAGE FEMINIST.

When a bridal consultant effusively tells Therese, a
40-something sex-savvy feminist planning her first wedding,
she looks virginal in her white wedding dress, it sets
her on a journey to uncover why virginity still holds
such importance in our hyper-sexualized society.

Her growing tension around chastity-based wedding rituals
is the narrative backbone of the film, but the true target
is idealized, fetishized virginity: its historical role in
U.S. culture, its power to mold and damage a girlºs
self-image and self-worth; its commodification as something
manufactured, sold, given away, taken.

You really have to see the whole site (and donate a few bucks on kickstarter, won’t you?)

I love all these movies about virginity and what it means.  So much more fun to watch than actually working on writing.

Why You Should Consider Visiting Beth Schacter Dot Net

11 May

I’m going to start blogging about my new movie Virgin Mary. I figure since we are in the hot hot heat of casting and I didn’t write a damn thing while I was directing my first movie, maybe I should be better about this. I’ll keep you updated here on the site and on the new AVM page.

Some of it I have to be cagey about, but I’ll do what I can to keep it updated and not too freaking boring.  In fact I will start right now.

So the script is called A Virgin Mary and is about a girl who promises her virginity to a guy, then he moves away and comes back senior year a complete Burning Man freak.  But, like a lot of what I write, its really about friendships and the two girls (Mary and Allison) and the guys (Zannder and Shawn) form basically a SOME LIKE IT HOT sort of ensemble.  So I have this thought I should change the title to THE VIRGE.  Or THE VERGE.  Or THE VIRG.  I need some help.  Some input.  Talk to me people.  Talk to me!