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July 14, 2003

DVD Journal: "Sex and Lucia"

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Friedrich --

sex and lucia.jpg

I noticed at the video parlor that the Spanish movie Sex and Lucia is now available on DVD. I saw it some time ago in a theater and blogged about it here. It's classy modernist art-porn, featuring three stunning and talented actresses -- Spanish actresses are evidently the world's most daring these days. I had a good time watching the film both for art and eroticism reasons. But what I found most interesting about seeing the movie was how much the women in the audience enjoyed it. Coming out of the theater, they were smiley and happy, even a little flushed, god bless 'em.

Which prompts a classic old question: Why do women love the explicit erotic material they do love? "Sex and Lucia" isn't hardcore, but it's certainly hotsy-totsy -- pretty far out there in "Emmanuelle"-land. It prompts a slightly more oddball question too: Why do so many women not just shrug at the explicit erotic material they dislike, they seem to actively despise it?

I'm just generalizing here from personal experience, but as far as I can tell guys seldom get moral about the explicit material that doesn't stir them. They just move on. But women? When they don't react happily to explicit erotic material, they seem to want to morally condemn it.

The easy, or traditional, answer is that women are more moral about sex than men are, and there's certainly something to that. Yet since women clearly do love some erotic material -- "Sex and Lucia," for example -- the real answer has got to be a little more complicated.

Why would there be this difference in the way men and women respond to the arty/sexy material that doesn't get to them? If this question isn't a good candidate for some evo-bio thinking, I don't know what is.

Anyway, a very good (ahem) couple's movie, much superior to "Eyes Wide Shut." (Which, judging from viewers' comments on Amazon, is finding a much happier audience among video renters than it did among theatergoers. Another good posting topic: movies that flopped at theaters yet work for home-video viewers. How? Why?) Eager to hear how you react to "Sex and Lucia" -- as well as how your wife reacts to it, of course -- if you do get around to renting it. Eager to hear any and all visitors' reactions to it too.



posted by Michael at July 14, 2003


It's not exactly that I despise, with italics, erotica I don't enjoy. The issue, at least for me and some of my girlfriends, is that we always see this erotica that we dislike with menfolk who have this hateful attitude: Aha! That's what you're really like! Now that we've seen it onscreen/read it, you must admit it!"

I'm not so much morally condemning the erotica as trying to make the man in room understand that when it comes to me and my sexuality, I, myself, am a much better reference than some smack art movie or translated short story.

Unless you're talking about the boring and stupid erotica. That stuff, I shrug and move on.

Interesting that you mention "Eyes Wide Shut." I loved it. So did all the women I trust. As far as we could make out, it was about a guy being driven half mad, and plunged into complete doubt about his own sexuality, by one little event: being forced to face the fact this his wife was, independent of him, a sexual person.

"Most men don't know anything about sex and along comes the pool boy or some sailor in a hotel lobby..." This seems to be a popular theme with women. I offer no comments on why this might be so.

Posted by: j.c. on July 14, 2003 4:41 PM

Surely the problem that women have, a lot of the time, is that bad erotica can be incredibly misogynistic. In Sex and Lucia, the women are strong; in much of the erotica women despise, they're (to use the cliche) objects. This isn't being moral about sex, it's being moral about the degrading effects of pornography on the female sex, which is slightly different.

Posted by: Felix on July 14, 2003 4:49 PM

I found "Eyes Wide Shut" to be dopey. I thought it was just a big boring excuse for Kubrick to film orgies. I didn't despise it---I remember liking the final scene a lot. As far as stuff I actively don't like, I must say I think Felix is right, it tends to disempower and objectify women---or men, actually, but that's rare. Never a good idea to do that.

Posted by: cindyincidentally on July 14, 2003 8:21 PM

I have to say, j.c., I like your particular interpretation of Eyes Wide Shut -- I haven't seen it since it was in the theatres, and it wasn't my favourite Kubrick film, but I may have to watch it again with your comments in mind.

Posted by: zod on July 14, 2003 10:46 PM

It is an axiom of evo-bio that women invest more time, calories and effort in offspring than do men, resulting in women being more selective and men more opportunistic regarding sex. The carry-over of this pattern to eroticism is no great leap.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on July 15, 2003 1:24 AM

JC -- Excellent, thanks. I've witnessed that scene you're writing about -- guys, sheesh. But dare I venture that you may be a bit more direct about these things than many women? Ie., that while you may not feel the need to frame your case in moral terms, perhaps that's partly a fuction of your more-gutsy-than-average personality? First-rate interpretation of "Eyes Wide Shut" too. I found the movie a bore, though not for its theme, strictly for its pacing, which to my mind was lugubrious and monotonous. One aspect of the plot and theme bugged me strictly from a practical standpoint, though. And that was the the husband was driven nuts not by any actual infidelity or flirtation on the part of his wife, but by learning that she'd thought about it (or dreamt about it, I forget which). That seemed preposterous to me -- these days, what guy (especially a doctor, with a ritzy practice and chic clientele) would be shocked to learn that his wife had the occasional stray naughty thought? Most guys I know are dying to hear more, not less, about their gals' naughty thoughts. Annoying though this may be... Did this bug you about the film?

Felix -- Your argument accounts for a lot -- 70%? More> I'm just not sure I find the way women express their displeasure to be, often, an on-principle stand despite the moral way they frame it. And, after all, most of us have at least a few erotica/porn favorites that are pretty degrading, so "degrading" isn't automatically bad. There are degrading things that please. And since when do one's moral feelings have anything whatsoever to do with what turns one on anyway? Morality and arousal have always seemed to me to exist on two completely different planes. Or largely different ones. But I'm raving and you are accounting for a lot of it, thanks.

Cindy -- Is objectification per se really an obstacle? My impression has always been that objectifying is one of the things the sex-fantasy mechanism simply does. (Ie., it takes human material and turns it into pawns in a pleasing scenario.) Maybe it's a question of the wrong kind of objectification? Or miscalculated objectification? I mean, in fashion mags and romance novels -- common sex-fantasy fodder for women -- the women and the guys both are hugely objectified.

FvB -- Well, yes. But does "selective" automatically translate into what I think I've noticed? Which is that women's approval of the erotica they like is really rabid (check out reader responses to, say, S/M romances on Amazon), and that women's disapproval of erotica they don't like often gets framed in moral terms? I think "selective" gets you close to that, but doesn't it take another element or two to get you all the way there? Ie., with women there's often a real personal sense of delight when the porn pleases. and a real tendency not just to shrug or ignore but to actually feel moral outrage when it simply fails to please. Why that degree of (in guy terms, anyway) extra passion on both ends? And why that particular kind of passion? My guess it that it has to do with the way women seem more prone to take things personally and emotionally than guys do. For a guy, the only thing at stake as he browses and grazes his way around the erotica and porn world is his ego. For a woman, what's at stake is her very being. (And maybe disapproval-via-morality is one way she attempts to control her own sexuality as well as the male's.) But maybe we're saying the same thing finally...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 15, 2003 3:21 AM

Michael---well, I guess "miscalculated" objectification would be an accurate nuance. But I must say I disagree somewhat with your comment that for men, the only thing at stake is their ego, whereas for women it is their whole being. Men's egos are their whole being often, and watch men freak out when their ego is threatened. (See JC's comments about "Eyes Wide Shut.") I think most porn doesn't threaten men's egos, which is the point. You might think the girl isn't pretty, or the act isn't sexy, but you are not being humiliated. When women react strongly I think it is because something about the piece is treating women in a humiliating fashion, or making the viewer feel humiliated.

Posted by: cindyincidentally on July 15, 2003 10:21 AM

Aren't a lot of men morally or at least viscerally revolted by the mere idea of gay sex? Perhaps men have a wider range of "that's merely not to my taste" than women, but they do have their limits. For that matter, I've seen on-line material by men who go into ecstacies of revulsion and moralism at the idea of fat women having sex.

Posted by: Nancy Lebovitz on July 15, 2003 11:11 AM

Nancy---even fat men?? That's the part that always leaves me stupefied. Men who are fortunate that anyone of the female sex ever spoke to them complaining that "Michelle Pfeiffer looks old" Or "Linda Ronstadt has gained weight" or whatever. Walking examples of the "unexamined life."

Posted by: annette on July 15, 2003 2:21 PM

It's pretty hard to be an explorer of eroticism and avoid male homosexuality; I think you'd have to swear off eroticism entirely if you were desperate to not acknowledge that men have sex with one another. (Every sex emporium has a significant section devoted to gay sex.) And I can't think back far enough into my youth to remember a time when I would have been outraged by fat women having sex. I mean, I've known some pretty sexy women who were carrying extra pounds in my time. Of course, the first time I had sex I remember being astonished that it wasn't at all the way it had been presented to me during my adolescence. To wit, it wasn't primarily a visual experience at all, but more two personalities rubbing together. Of course, I'm fairly weird so maybe my experience isn't typical.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on July 15, 2003 2:28 PM

Fredrich, I wasn't saying that the attitudes I mentioned were at all sensible, just that they're examples of men going ballistic about erotica they don't like.

Posted by: Nancy Lebovitz on July 15, 2003 6:56 PM

Cindy makes a good point, and I donít know why men seem to miss this. Think of all those cartoons where men turn into actual wolves.

Michael, the movie was a bore because Tom Cruise has magical powers that enable him to both suck the air out of any scene that heís in and demand that you watch him do that. He bugged me. A lot. And I canít help thinking that Kubrick kept shooting Tom because the great director couldnít believe he wasnít able to get any kind of performance out of that horrible beastly one-toothed scientologist. Like I said, bugged me.

The event on which the plot hinges did not. Plenty of men, and certainly doctors (at least surgeons, ER guys, and research MDs) would be shocked to learn that their women not only had secret reservoirs of lust but also had, at least once, seen a man whose physical beauty was so alluring that the women considered, for a couple of days, whether or not it would be worth it to abandon everything in her current life on the chance that sex with that man, even once would be worth the loss. And then for icing on that cake, the missus pointed out the she still wondered if she had been wrong to fight that urge. Thereís also plenty in the film to point out how much life, as in the household and day to day, depends on women and how women are still, usually, defined by the world as men see it. All fun stuff.

What comes across as a more-gutsy-than-average personality is merely brusqueness born of writing in a hurry.

Nancy, I've always felt that the adult male attitude toward gay sex is in line with the recently potty-trained child's attitude towards poo poo humor. And then there's "The Man Show" -by for and about adult and nearly adult males who find "don't drop the soap" and poopy jokes equally funny.

Posted by: j.c. on July 16, 2003 3:55 PM

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