For 'Female Pleasure'!


CinéDOC-Tbilisi just ended and we thought it important to pay tribute to the amazing documentary “Female Pleasure” by Barbara Miller, screened last Sunday.

It portrays five women all over the world, each part of a religious community that supresses their femininity, their identity as women, their rights, and ultimately their humanity. The film director follows these five women into their hard and exhausting fight for freedom and sexual liberation within a patriarchal society that has for long normalized these power relations.  

Deborah Feldman grew up in an ultra-orthodox, Hasidic family in Brooklyn, New York. After being married to a husband she did not know and whom she had to have sexual intercourse with, she gave birth to her son. She realized that she did not want her son to be raised in such an enclosed community and decided to leave the community with him. She had to break all ties with this society and received a lot of very violent threats from her family. She re-built her life in another neighborhood of New York and bravely began a new life of her own.

Leyla Hussein is a Somalese woman who experienced genital mutilation at the age of 7 because she comes from a Muslim community. She gave birth to her daughter and refused to make her undergo this atrocious practice. According to her, no girl should suffer from female genital mutilation (FGM) since everyone is responsible and master of their own body. She also condemns the practice that prevents women from ever enjoying sexual pleasure. She denounces society’s pressure that pushes people to go on with the tradition of FGM. She lives in London and fights FGM in African communities as well as in Europe. Her message is especially striking since the public faces the violence and inhumanity of such practice on little girls. It is simply off-putting and deeply revolting. Her story is moving and it is impossible to feel indifferent to it. 

Rokudenashiko is a Japanese artist who creates artworks representing vaginas. She fights the demonization of female sexual organs in Japanese society. Even though pornography that objectifies women is normalized and widely spread in Japan, she was arrested by the Japanese authorities in 2014 for obscenity. Thanks to her humor and easy-going character, she is able to twist our vision of female genitals and make us reconcile with it. She breaks the taboos and makes us see the vagina as a natural, beautiful and even artistic part of the woman.  

Doris Wagner comes from a Protestant-Catholic family and became a nun at 19. She was raped several times by the superior priest in the convent. She denounces the whole religious system that uses the name of god to perpetuate the patriarchal power relations of society. She relates her experience as a nun, someone to whom everything was dictated, who was not allowed to think by herself or even have feelings. She explains that the religious system in which she lived deeply depressed her and supressed her identity as a woman as well as a critical and alive human being. She finally had the courage to denounce her sexual aggressor publicly, she left the convent and is now enjoying the happiness of living with her husband and child.

Vithika Yadav grew up in a traditional Hindu family in the north of India. She experienced sexual harassment and was always told to cover herself to avoid male abuse. She is the only one of her family who refused to have an arranged marriage and who was able to marry a husband for love. She created a platform promoting love, sexual education, consent and sexual pleasure for women as well as for men.

The documentary cleverly treats these very sensitive subjects. It shows the imprisonment of women in the religious context as well as its other extreme in the secular one. Indeed, women are also the subject in the overwhelming presence of sexuality, pornography and sexual advertisement in the society. It objectifies them as banalized sexual beings instead of giving them the possibility to define themselves and seek their own sexual liberation. It is a sometimes heart breaking but passionate, human and instructive film to see.


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By Gabrielle Colchen

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15 May 2019 21:16