Friday, April 2, 2010

"Our Bodies, Our Mind" A Film by Rebecca Alvin thoughts on this and sexual politics, why you should see the film by Suzannah B. Troy

Note: Before reading know I have been harassed and cyber stalked and it also involves sexuality -- sexual harassment so I have installed a tracker that helps me to see information on who is visiting my blog.  I have forwarded the unusual emails and comments to the NYPD.  Enjoy reading.

“Our Bodies, Our Mind” a film by Rebecca Alvin 
Why you should see this film, a a piece on sexual politics and NY politics as well written Suzannah B. Troy artist and activist NYC
I wanted to talk film as a canvas to express my anger and frustration geo-sexual politics, a term I made up to say we still ain’t equal.
Since writing this piece Mike Daly wrote an article about a serial killer being caught by a tenacious NYPD Det. years after the murders and one was a woman who was a prostitute.   The serial killer was already behind bars but this NYPD Det. was able to prove that this monster was indeed responsible for her murder as well rather than shrugging her murder off because she was a prostitute and had a record.
 I believe this is the exception rather than the rule but I do praise the Det. and  Daly for recognizing her value as human being.   Here is the piece I wrote below.
You can rent this documentary from the ITunes Store on line, purchase it directly from the film’s website or check your local video store but definitely find some way to see this important film.  Rebecca Alvin interviews porn stars, sex workers, dancers, and a woman that owns a sex store that caters to women and all the women interviewed are empowered, courageous people with insights on sexual politics.  I made a term up years ago, “geo-sexual politics” meaning world sexual politics and I bitterly joke it means “we ain’t equal.”  The women have been ground breaking in their attitudes which are extremely positive and they openness has helped but clearly we have a long way to go.
The film was released in 2001 but has many montages of what I call “seedy old New York City” that now has been “cleaned up” and  shifted to the outskirts as much as possible although the  small club in Tribeca  Alvin refers to in the beginning  of the film probably still exists.  Alvin narrates the film and points out when she visits this strip club her friend works at,  she did not see the women being degraded but powerful women in control of the men.  In fact the men know this and try to regain control and feelings of power by putting dollar bills in their thongs.   I remember a friend told me her girlfriend worked there and named some big stars that would often pay visits.  What has not changed is the attitudes and prejudice against sex positive women, not just sex workers.  More on this later....
The film maker briefly touches on the line between the women in the sex industry and I guess women like me and her, who are not in the industry but fascinated by women that are.  We are not alone because Hollywood has been intrigued with the industry as well known for being patrons.  I provide a long list of Oscar winning actresses who played the role of prostitutes and it is very long.
Returning to “Our Bodies, Our Minds”, one of the most animated women interviewed by the film maker is Carol Leigh who defines herself as “sex worker and former prostitute.”  Leigh coined the term “sex worker” in the 1970’s.   She was ground breaking being open and proud about being a sex worker and busting through barriers with in the feminist movement which at the time did not welcome prostitutes as equals.  Thanks to outspoken women like Carol Leigh, this has begun to change but to date violence towards women period not just prostitutes is not treated with the seriousness it deserves right now and here in NYC, 2010.    I can see it from the scandals rocking Albany right now with a top aid and personal friend of governor David Paterson accused of roughing up his girlfriend and the governor is implicated in the coverup.   Senator Hiram Monserrate was  accused of cutting his girlfriend’s face with a broken glass.  He claims it was an accident but Monserrate, an ex-NYPD officer, did not call 911 and is seen dragging her through the lobby roughly on his way to a hospital but not the closest hospital.  I was deeply moved by a video from two days ago  of protestors shouting “Women’s Rights!” at the ousted senator who tried to regain his office.   I fear these inspiring protestors including men are a minority but the good news is Monserrate is out.   
I saw a young woman with black eyes who is a known heroin addict and has I am sure turned tricks for money as many homeless women do.   I am sure she did not seek help from the police regarding the violence she endured and it was not the first time.  The NYPD do not have accurate statistical data on violence towards women and girls because many will not come forward and not just sex workers but women that are financially dependent on men or fear reprisals.  In the film women state the police do not treat rape of a prostitute as a crime and in fact it is and the same for any physical violence  towards sex worker.  It must be addressed for what it is, a crime.    Just another irony with regard to Alvin’s film made in 2001 and the spousal abuse scandal that the present governor is implicated in. Paterson would not be governor if it wasn’t for a sex worker name Ashley Dupree and former governor Spitzer’s predilection for prostitutes.  
Priscilla Alexander, editor of Sex Work & Prostitution points out women are all  treated like sex workers in the sense that society condemns the sexual woman.  Society wants you to be closer to Mary rather than Mary Magdaline.  You have to prove you are closer to Mary.
Nina Hartley one of the most enduring porn stars and most articulate as well says in the film,  “If I won’t do it for free, I won’t do it on film.”  She says that is why she never burns out.  Nina Hartley is an exhibitionist.  She loves turning people on.
Carol Queen is a sexologist for  Good Vibrations which is a sex store which caters to women with books and videos which also supports women writing and making movies. Carol also shows you a history of vibrators which was funny.  She also shows you the words largest collections of dildos.  She also shares insights and stats on sex toys including one that is very popular and you might be surprised what it is and who wants to use it.  I won’t tell you.  You have to watch the film.
Not in the film but very current in NYC is sexual McCarthyism with the Babeland Stores that I believe were inspired by Good Vibrations  both being  raided and are no longer allowed to rent videos.  By the way, many of the DVD’s where educational films as well as adult entertainment catering to female audience.   Babeland can sell porn movies but not rent them.   Welcome to NYC in 2010.  Mae West was truly from the future.  
Rebecca Alvin interviews other porn stars, dancers, peepshow performers and a dominatrix share their insights.  Siobahn Brook, is a stunning African American peep show stripper turned activist who fought and helped form a labor union for her co-workers.  She also talks openly about racism she encountered while performing.  Brook points out that now there are different types of  feminism  in contrast to the original concept of feminism.
You will learn so much from watching this film including film maker Alvin pointing out Hollywood’s fascination with sex workers and dancers with such film as Pretty Woman, Exotica, Strip Tease and a personal favorite of mine Klute, starring Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland.  Here is an article from The Wall Street Journal  about Marisa Tomei stripping her way to a possible Oscar in the film, The Wrestler.
There is no doubt that Hollywood and the men that makes the films as well as star in them are fascinated by sex workers...
In fact here is an entire list from this website I found:

Best Supporting Actress Oscar Winners: Prostitute Roles
A large number of actresses have won the supporting actress Oscar for portraying hookers (girls of the night, party girls, whores, call girls, madams, etc.) or loose women (mistresses, promiscuous ladies, etc.), for example:
  • Anne Baxter won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar as a thrown-away woman who turned to prostitution after the car-crash death of her husband and child in The Razor's Edge (1946)
  • Claire Trevor won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar as a faded, torch-singing floozy turned into a gangster's alcoholic mistress in Key Largo (1948)
  • Donna Reed (playing against type) won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar as a sailor port 'club' hostess in From Here to Eternity (1953)
  • Jo Van Fleet won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar as a wizened madam and James Dean's estranged mother in East of Eden (1955)
  • Dorothy Malone won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar as a wild, frustrated, and seductive nymphomaniac in Written on the Wind (1956)
  • Shirley Jones (also against type) won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar as a vengeful prostitute in Elmer Gantry (1960)
  • Mira Sorvino won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar as a bubble-headed prostitute in Mighty Aphrodite (1995) - in the same year, two other nominees for Best Actress also played prostitutes: Sharon Stone for Casino (1995) and Elisabeth Shue for Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
  • Kim Basinger won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar as a Veronica Lake-look-alike hooker in L.A. Confidential (1997)
  • (Jodie Foster was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role as a young runaway prostitute in pastedGraphic.pdf Taxi Driver (1976))
The women in Rebecca Alvin’s film “Our Body, Our Minds” are not victims.  They are using sex in some way to gain economic power and earn a better living than they could waiting tables.  The film will entertain and educate you.  Issues about violence towards women and stats on sex abuse are also touched upon but this is not a black and white film. These women are activists that talk about their rights and their voices which counts and they are correct.  There is no doubt prostitution needs to be legalized and this could help prevent violence, abuse and exploitation against sex workers.  
I do not tell you everything about this film but it  will raise your sexual IQ and make you more aware of misogyny if you are not aware already as well as changing your views on sex workers and entertainers in the adult industry.  (Note: Nina Hartley released a book after this film which is worth checking out if you really want to raise your sexual IQ Nina Hartley's Guide to Total Sex
Candida Royalle porn star turned film maker with her own film company Fem production catering to porno for women viewers  sums it up this way. 
After a contentious  relationship, her father finally came to terms with what she did for a living.  Many years later he said, “With all the things people do in this world, politicians, how the industry pollutes the air and water we drink , and politicians lie, people kill and all you are doing is bringing pleasure to people’s lives. You have nothing to feel ashamed of.”