In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Kevin Heffernan teaches media culture and history in the Division of Film and Media Arts at Southern Methodist University. Divine Trash, a documentary on the early career of John Waters on which Heffernan served as associate producer and co-screenwriter, won the Filmmakers ’Trophy in Documentary at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival. He is the author of Ghouls, Gimmicks and Gold: Horror Films and the American Movie Business, 1952–1968 from Duke University Press and co-author, with Frances Milstead and Steve Yeager, of My Son Divine from Alyson Publications. He is writing a book on contemporary East Asian cinema tentatively titled A Wind From the East and another book tentatively titled From Beavis and Butt Head to the Tea Baggers: Dumb White Guy Politics and Culture in America. I n June 2012, the Michigan House of Representatives had just passed a bill implementing sweeping new regulations on providers of abortion services and was debating a bill that would, if passed, have banned all abortions in the state after twenty weeks with almost non-existent exemptions for the life of the pregnant woman. During the floor debate, West Bloomfield Democratic Representative Lisa Brown ended her speech against the proposed law with the words, “Finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no.’” Responses of histrionic outrage from her male colleagues who had supported the bill were swift and shrill. “What she said was offensive,” said Rep. Mike Callton, a Republican from Nashville. “It was so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company.” House Republicans then banned Brown and a Democratic colleague, Representative Barb Byrum from Onandaga, from speaking on the floor the following day during debate on a bill concerning school system retirees. At a press conference held while her colleagues were debating the retiree bill, Brown asked, “If I can’t say the word vagina, why are we legislating vaginas? What language should I use?”1 Brown’s asserFrom “It Could Happen to Someone You Love” to“Do You Speak Ass?”: Women and Discourses of Sex Education in Erotic Film and Video Kevin Heffernan tion of ownership by using the first-person possessive and her mocking conflation of the twin male impulses of sexual interest in and patriarchal control of women’s reproductive systems was enough to impart a jolt of unspeakable pornographic obscenity to even the most medicalized vocabulary pertaining to female reproductive anatomy. This male squeamishness was, of course, nothing new. The nineteenth -century professionalization of medicine, particularly the field of gynecology, occurred at the same time that reformers such as Anthony Comstock were passing laws criminalizing unauthorized images and information about sex, pregnancy, and the body, which they saw everywhere after inexpensive, mass-produced books and pamphlets became commonplace. This ambivalence continued for the first three quarters of the twentieth century, as medical and educational discourses were used to both condemn and defend publically exhibited motion pictures, some of which featured images forbidden by the institution of Hollywood, from the “classical” exploitation films of the 1930s and 1940s to the dawn of hardcore cinema at the close of the 1960s. Recently, the niche marketing of home video has made possible the appearance of sexually explicit educational materials completely created by women and distributed online and on home video by the same commercial industry that produces and distributes pornographic videos and sex toys, all seemingly without religious, medical, or juridical vetting by middle-aged white males. For some, this is yet another onslaught of dirty pictures seeking the legal and cultural cover of educational value and social importance. The series of videos from long-time contraceptive and sex-toy supplier Adam and Eve produced by and starring porn actress Nina Hartley and a later-introduced line of how-to videos produced by author and sex educator Tristan Taormino do in fact share a wide range of aesthetic and discursive features with both exploitation films going back many decades and contemporary commercial porn. However, each of these series dispenses in its own way with the patriarchal voice of medical authority characteristic of earlier modes. In addition , many installments in the Hartley and Taormino series move the emphasis away from the genitals to a more whole-body sexual response; finally, both Hartley and Taormino attempt to portray active sexuality as a lived inner experience, unique to each woman, rather than as a discrete observable moment...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.