AnC Movies Presents
Science, Sex, and, the Ladies
1. Why did you want to make this movie?
There is an orgasm disparity among women and men that drastically affects the way each understand themselves and each other. The truth is, women go through their sexual lives having very few orgasms compared to their male partners, and this has become a matter of course, a sort of unspoken accepted reality. This discrepancy, however, is not a result of innate differences between male and female biology, but a result of how we as a culture have come to understand, teach and experience sex.
Science, Sex and the Ladies aims to make it known that this orgasm disparity is culturally created, harmful, and in no way inevitable. It's actually quite an appalling and over arching problem that creeps into every aspect of our lives and relationships. Neither modern women or modern men are fully responsible for this problem, but a change in both are necessary for a solution. Science Sex and the Ladies, as part of a larger Orgasm Equality Movement, is a call to action.
2. You call this movie a visual essay. What is that?
Science Sex and the Ladies is a new form of non-fiction cinema, the visual essay. It is well researched and meticulously scripted with engaging visuals. There are no interviews or experts. Instead the argument is made thru a series of vignettes or sketches. Citations are presented on screen throughout the film much like a traditional research paper, and a complete bibliography is included in the credits. The visual essay allows audience members to engage themselves with the film in a direct transparent way. In film it is something new. There is no movie quite like it.
3. When was this movie made?
Trisha began exploring books and articles related to female sexuality after her senior year of college in 2002, and her interest in the subject grew from there. By 2005, she had a lengthy essay, and along with the other members of AnC, began a long process of turning that essay into a script. Shooting took place against a large greenscreen made of painted wallpaper in an Anderson, IN warehouse on weekends from April to July of 2009 using a variety of local actors and, on occasion, a couple friends to help crew. Post production was fully completed in January of 2014.
4. This movie took a long time to finish. Why?
First, AnC is literally three people working on a movie. Most work from research and writing thru post production was done by Charlie, Trisha or Barnaby.
Second, ninety percent of the shots were effects shots, meaning that some retouching or compositing was required to complete them before editing could begin. Of those 90 percent, most were shot on a greenscreen, and the background was either extended or completely created during post production.
Third, one person handled most of the editing and effects work, which was a significant amount. There were also a number of re-shoots required to fine tune the film. Like any film, things look different in the edit bay than on shooting day. The difference here was that elements had to be at least roughed in visually on the computer before they could be assessed, a process that for a single scene could take weeks. In short this style of working involved a large learning curve that required a significant time investment.
5. Why shoot all on greenscreen?
Faced with a bare bones crew, limited resources and having to fund out of pocket, AnC had to design a filmmaking environment that could accommodate these limitations and still create the innovative look that Science, Sex and the Ladies needed. Working with greenscreen allowed this and more; hiding microphones, combining actors shot at different times and different locations, enhancing lighting choices, expanding small practical sets, and even creating entire new sets digitally helped AnC shoot fast, with less investment, and with a three person crew.
It also peeled away a typical filmmaking restriction where decisions are made quickly and permanently. In effect it allowed AnC the opportunity to experiment after the fact. Background images were changeable. Posters were all finished in post as well as our animated hand character who went through several iterations. It gave back a lot of creative control that simply wouldn't have been possible with traditional set design.
6. What is the Science, Sex, and the Ladies Blog?
The Science, Sex and the Ladies companion blog was created in 2009 to continue discussion on subjects touched in the movie. It is a focal point for the Orgasm Equality Movement and includes detailed reviews of movie, TV, and song depictions/discussion of female orgasm (SSL Reviews), interviews with authors and activist such as the artist and masturbation advocate Betty Dodson, and commentary on everything from online orgasm advice to the ups and downs of making this movie. With 2 to 3 posts per week, the audience has grown steadily over the years and currently enjoys about 5000 page views per month.
7.I hear this movie was very Hoosier. Is that true?
Science, Sex and the Ladies was thought up, written, shot and edited in Central Indiana, particularly in the cities of Indianapolis, Greenfield, and Anderson. Trisha was born and raised in Indiana. Barnaby and Charlie both spent most of their childhoods in the state, and they all went to Hoosier colleges. The actors were all local, and even the LA based composer was raised and attended undergrad in Indiana. Not only that, but the subject matter is classically Midwestern. This movie’s aim at shaking up the sexual status quo is in the grand tradition of The Kinsey Reports coming out of Indiana University, the revolutionary St. Louis based physiology of orgasm research from Masters and Johnson, and the recent groundbreaking book about the evolution of female orgasm by Elisabeth Lloyd, also of Indiana University.
8. How was the movie financed?
AnC Movies financed the entire shooting and visual post production of Science, Sex and the Ladies out of pocket and with the help of family and friends donating time, food, and space. The gear used in this production was owned by AnC, given that they had slowly been acquiring equipment since shooting their first short movie in 2001.
The sound post production was a different story. In December of 2011, AnC ran a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised $20,000 for score and final sound.
9. How’d you get that score?
By some act of fate in 2003, Charlie’s older brother introduced AnC to his then co-worker and burgeoning composer Nathaniel Blume. They talked about working together early on in the process of SSL and even as Blume moved from Indiana to LA to attend graduate school at USC and begin his career in film and television composition, they kept in touch. Nathaniel kindly donated his time to compose, working tirelessly from cryptic notes generated by three non-musical people and created an amazing score that was recorded late in 2013. He continues to work in the LA area doing the Hoosier state proud.
10. Where can I see Science, Sex and the Ladies?
Science Sex and the Ladies is now available on Vimeo on Demand and Indieflix. AnC is also encouraging small group showings anywhere there's a screen - from art galleries to private homes. This was inspired by the feminist consciousness raising groups of the early 70's. We love the idea of people getting together, watching the movie, and letting it inspire discussion and hopefully impetus for change. We're a little filmmaking trio in a big world full of big media, but we have a crazy vision that we can spread this film's message in a unique way with these smaller showings. The idea is that one showing sparks another one and so on.
They would love to attend or Skype in and talk after the showing. Anyone interested in these small group showings should contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
11. This movie doesn't go into LGBT issues. Why is that?
The hetero focus of Science, Sex and the Ladies was a conscious decision, and there are a few reasons. Firstly, the cultural obsession with male-focused, hetero, vaginal intercourse as the end all be all of human sexuality is at the root of our society’s deep misunderstanding of female orgasm and ultimately female sexuality. A focused dismantling of that sexual worldview is essential in creating any real change. Thus, keeping that focus was a priority, and there simply was not time to discuss every aspect of every related subject. Frankly there could have been a whole other documentary made from the subjects that had to be cut, including LGBT issues.
Secondly, as a piece of activism, it was important that this movie appeal to and change the perspective for non-feminists, non-sex activists, people who don't think deeply about LGBT activism, people who don't think of themselves as sex-positive or particularly progressive. These are the majority of Americans. These are the lives the movie needed to focus on, and ultimately these are the people that have to change in order to shift our culture.
Thirdly, no matter where one falls on the spectrum or how one defines him/herself, we were all raised within the same basic hetero, male-centric, intercourse focused media, education and popular lore. Although LGBT issues are not specifically discussed, the filmmakers believe that any amount of widening or challenging of that narrow sexually worldview is beneficial to us all.
12. Do you really think that vaginal orgasms don’t exist?
We knew that discussing the vaginal orgasm in the way we do would be controversial. However, this discussion is a fundamental elements of SSL’s argument, and we believe it opens up important conversations that our culture must engage in if there is to be any real change.
What the movie actually states is that an orgasm caused by stimulation of the vaginal walls has never been documented. Given the media omnipresence and the cultural importance of women attaining orgasm merely through the penile/vaginal penetration, and given that there are women who clearly say that they do orgasm this way, this statement could seem overly bold and even harsh. Yet, it’s a true statement, at least as true as we can tell. Of course, one never knows what may pop up in the literature, but we do keep up pretty well on the research.
There are some popularly cited studies used often to give credit to the idea of this vaginally activated orgasms (VAOs); studies involving the close proximity of the inner clitoral legs to the vagina, brain scans of women claiming (although not physically verified) to have experienced VAOs, instances in which arousal is recorded or pleasure is reported due to g-spot/vaginal/cervical stimulation. However, we have yet to find a study where there is a causal link between vaginal/ g-spot/cervical stimulation and a verified instance of orgasm (orgasm being the universally accepted description documented by Masters and Johnson). In fact the only physical sexual release related to vaginal stimulation that has been recorded is ejaculation, which is physically quite different from an orgasm. It may seem like VAOs should exist, but if they do, the scientific community has yet to document them.
13. So, are you calling women who say they have vaginal orgasms liars?
The movie speculates that most women who claim to orgasm from vaginal stimulation alone – actually may not be orgasming in this way. Shaming women by calling them liars is certainly not our intention, and we hope the movie reflects this. Name calling and blaming is of no use to such a nuanced and important topic, but clarity and honest discussion most cerainly is.
It is uncontroversial to say that the vast majority of women do not orgasm through vaginal stimulation. Most surveys would put that number at 70-85% of women. However, to speculate about the accuracy of the vaginal orgasm claims of the remaining 15-30% is quite controversial. Yet, the fact remains that there is a discrepancy. There has never been a recorded instance of orgasm caused by vaginal stimulation, yet some women claim these happen. Something has to give, and we argue that of those 15-30% of women, some may actually be ejaculating and calling that an orgasm, or having some kind of spiritual/emotional climax and calling that an orgasm, or attaining a high level of physical arousal and calling that an orgasm, or simply claiming on a survey that they orgasm this way when they do not.
We understand that women have traditionally had explanations of their own experiences ignored far too often, and we know that second guessing a person’s answers may strike some as condescending. We get that, but we don’t think it does women or the scientific understanding or orgasm any good to blindly slide past this hard issue.
We would argue that given the saturation of vaginally stimulated orgasm in our media, given the cultural importance placed upon orgasm through penile vaginal stimulation, given that our society often leaves women and girls ignorant about their orgasm functioning and genital structure in ways it does not for men, and given that even sexual advisors and researchers, when speaking about women, are known to use the word “orgasm” in relation to things other than the established definition of orgasm (such as ejaculation, emotional/spiritual climax, and high levels of arousal) - given all of that, we don’t see why it would be such a leap to wonder whether the last 15 to 30% of women might not actually be experiencing orgasm.
As opposed to seeing this inquiry as a means to call women liars and creating a harsh hierarchy of female orgasm, we see this as a means for giving women the accurate information they are craving and for creating a clear vocabulary for which women can speak about their sexual experiences. We believe women are fully capable of moving forward in this way without judging each other or themselves for the way all women have had to rather blindly negotiate their way around this confusing sexual landscape thus far.
If you’d like to read further about these ideas, check out the following posts on the SSL blog.
AnC Movies Presents
Science, Sex, and, the Ladies