With the House recently OK-ing a GOP bill to defund Planned Parenthood, the state of women's healthcare in America could face drastic, horrifying changes in the coming years — meaning there is no better time than the present for the production of honest films about sex and sexuality in women. After all, the push for restrictive legislation is deeply compounded by a lack of honest depictions of female sexuality in the media: Most depictions of sex in film and television are presented from the male perspective, and relegate women to hyper-sexualized objects meant solely for men's pleasure. Accurate portrayals of abortion, masturbation, and sexual health in film could help spur social change around those topics.
There are a few films doing it right. Planned Parenthood, for instance, recently praised the filmmakers of Sleeping With Other People and Grandma for handling the topics of sex, sexuality, and abortion accurately and sensitively. Both films deal with subjects not often broached in film — sex addiction and abortion — but both do it in a way that are honest and respectful.
Take Sleeping With Other People, for instance: Alison Brie and Jason Sudeikis star in the project, which was dubbed "When Harry Met Sally for assh*les" by its director, Leslye Headland. The comedy follows two sex-addicted platonic friends who become attracted to each other. The film "addresses very real aspects of women's and men's sexuality, including masturbation, virginity, and sex addiction," says Caren Spruch, senior advisor of arts and entertainment engagement at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, according to Entertainment Weekly . “The movie also features a scene that depicts female masturbation, a topic that’s still relatively new to the big screen,” she said.
Grandma, on the other hand, features Lily Tomlin as a grandmother desperately trying to secure the money for her granddaughter's abortion. As one of the most feminist films to hit theaters this year, it deserves every ounce of praise it receives: Grandma has been lauded for its honest depiction of abortion without bias or judgement. Spruch explained:
The film highlights the need for every woman to have full, accurate information about all of her options so that she can make the best decision for herself — as well as the need for skilled, respectful providers who can ensure that she is treated without judgment or shame... When it comes to abortion, every woman’s situation is unique, and every woman’s decision about her pregnancy — whether to parent, choose adoption, or have an abortion — should be respected and valued
The realistic portrayal of sexual topics like abortion and masturbation remain extremely rare in film. Thankfully, Sleeping With Other People and Grandma aren't the only films to have broken away from the Hollywood norms to include a more accurate depiction of sex, pregnancy, abortion, masturbation, and female sexuality:
The Diary Of A Teenage Girl (2015)
The film follows 15-year-old Minnie as she enters a sexual relationship with her mother's boyfriend. Based on the graphic novel The Diary of a Teenage Girl: An Account in Words and Pictures by Phoebe Gloeckner, it depicts the sexual awakening of a female teenage — a rarity in Hollywood.
This comedy features Amy Schumer totally crushing it as a woman who shuns monogamy and social conventions. Schumer is easily the best at defying gender stereotypes and Trainwreck is her crowning achievement thus far.
Obvious Child (2014)
Most missed connections in the romantic comedy genre do not include tracking down a one-night stand because of an unplanned pregnancy — but Obvious Child does. Jenny Slate stars as a struggling comedian who decides to terminates a pregnancy after a one-nighter. She struggles less with the decision to have an abortion and has a harder time telling others about her decision. It is a heartwarming and raw depiction of an often difficult subject.
The Spectacular Now (2013)
Most teen films feature unrealistic expectation for first time sexual experiences — but this film does not. The Spectacular Now, aided by the perfectly nuanced performances of stars Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley, depicts a realistic (read: awkward) teenage sexual relationship.
For a Good Time, Call... (2012)
Sex work is often a taboo subject in film, because sex workers are often shown as one dimensional characters who lack empowerment and autonomy. For a Good Time, Call... features Ari Graynor and Lauren Miller as two independent women who explore their sexuality (including female masturbation) by owning and operating their own phone sex line.
Mosquita y Mari (2012)
Mosquita y Mari is the coming-of-age story about two teenage girls who strike up a friendship that quickly develops into something more. The usual trials and tribulations of a sexual awakening are complicated by the cultural and religious pressures on same-sex relationships.
Cheers to Planned Parenthood for shining a light on the importance of female sexuality in film and the other many important things that they do.
Images: IFC Films; Giphy (1)