Natalia Dyer doesn't remember the first time she discovered female masturbation. "I remember it being, in my mind, far too late,” the Stranger Things star tells Bustle. “[I was] ‘Like, ‘Why has nobody mentioned this to me?’” But it’s Dyer’s hope that her new film Yes, God, Yes will help younger women own their sexuality — and desire for self-pleasure — from a much younger age.
Yes, God, Yes, tells the story of Alice (Dyer), a young girl at a private Christian school exploring her sexuality against the backdrop of the online chat rooms of the mid-1990s. While female masturbation has been featured in recent teen movies like Lady Bird and Booksmart, the scenes are often lighthearted and not central to the plot — like in Booksmart when Molly (Beanie Feldstein) puts Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) on blast for "mounting that old fuzzy panda every night." In Yes, God, Yes, these frank and funny moments of sexual awakening are front and center.
After rumors spread at Alice’s school about her apparently “tossing someone's salad,” and she’s propositioned by a much older person in a chatroom, Alice signs up for a religious retreat. It’s there that she's forced to reckon with her growing awareness of her sexuality. Like when she finds herself drawn to a touchy-feely student staff member — and to ease some of her sudden “tension,” she starts to experiment with the vibrate function on her mobile phone and a mop handle.
But Alice's clumsy attempts at masturbation are never portrayed as overtly sexual moments for the audience. "There were bits [in the movie] about how the body is funny, and how sexuality can be [funny too]. It’s not all beautiful," Dyer says. "There are parts of it that are awkward, fumbling and objectively kind of silly and ridiculous."
The power of Yes, God, Yes lies in its ability to deftly balance raunchy, teenage humor along with a poignant reminder that we’ve all been there before — no matter how awkward it can feel. "I think it’s important when you get older that you look back on that period, and [realize] it is funny," Dyer says. "When you’re [discovering your sexuality] you think it’s so serious and important. But when you look back on it, you’re like, 'Oh, there’s so many things that I worried about that I shouldn’t have.'"