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Moira Sullivan The Lesbian Look in the Movies Presented at the 1st National Queer Theory Conference, Lund, Sweden, October 1998. ©Moira Sullivan, Ph.D This presentation entitled ” the lesbian look” in movies stems from the use of the term ” the look” which was presented by Laura Mulvey in the 1970’s in a celebrated article called ”Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”. This article was one of the first studies in which the image of woman was structurally discussed for its symbolic meaning and has been the definitive article on the subject since then. ’Woman’, said Mulvey was the receiver of the the look , that is to say the receiver of the’ male gaze’, who is the bearer of meaning. ‘Woman’ is seen but does not see,which was eerily represented in the character of Lucy commanded to suppress an apparition of Dracula as half man and beast in Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stocker’s Dracula (1992). Woman’s meaning is therefore a fixed and symbolic one, the reminder that lacking a phallus, she represents and evokes male castration anxiety. This fear is well illustrated in Spielberg’s Jaws (1975) where men are bitten from the waist down by a shark, in actuality a modern ’Vagina dentata’ and is recycled in other films such as 'Alien'. Spectators of film, according to Mulvey are unconsciously a part of this speculative economy in much the same way that women are positioned on screen. We also become ’voyeurs’ while watching film which Freud studied , called ’scopophilia’ and classified a sexual disorder. Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom (GB, 1960) is a good illustration of this where a deranged filmmaker ’shoots’ and watches his female victims die with a camera that has a protruding lethal spoke. (Truffaut loved it and felt sympathy for the filmmaker). It seems no coincidence that ways of seeing became codified in Hollywood film production at the same time that Freud’s theories describing how the unconscious was structured as language were being discussed around the world. Mulvey appropriated Freud’s theories of scopophilia and indeed other tenets of psychoanalysis to use as a ’political weapon’ in which to analyze film. By studying how women remain one-dimensional characters in film, seeminlgy 'flattened' by the male gaze, she was able to describe why women appear so powerless on screen in relation to men who are three-dimensional by comparison. I always wondered how this process worked for the lesbian spectator viewing 'the flattened female'. I grew up knowing nothing of Mulvey’s future theories but often wound up identifying with the male gaze. This was because it seemed to me that women were wimpy and comparatively uninteresting. How long did it take before Ingrid Bergman stood up to her husband in Gaslight! Later I discovered that actors such as Barbara Stanwyck, Katherine Hepburn and Kim Novak portrayed interesting women. Perhaps this was because because somehow these characters seemed to subvert the classical Hollywood narrative. With them there was some kind of curious ’looking’ which I came to see as a ’female gaze’. ( I later came to learn that all of these women in real life were either lesbian or bisexual). There is an ongoing dialogue in film concerning the lesbian character, who empowered, is the bearer of meaning and disempowered remains an object of the male gaze. Film theorist Claire Johnston, a guest professor at San Francisco State University where I was a graduate student in film studies, introduced to me the work of Mulvey and also a ’closeted’ director named Dorothy Arzner, the only female director working in Hollywood in the 1930s and 1940’s. Katherine Hepburn was one of her first stars, in Christopher Strong (US,1930) where Hepburn plays an Amelia Earhart type character that commits suicide after she breaks an aviation record. This in order to avoid the stigma of bearing the child of Sir Christopher Strong, a married man. Johnston argued that Arzner was excellent at subverting texts, that is, ’going against the grain’ of the conventions of commercial film language so that an alternative reading was possible. It seemed something of a misnomer to discover that films were considered ’texts’ and analyzing them was called ’reading’. But early film theory borrowing from literature studies employed such conventions. This all made sense in time. For example, Arzner’s film was after all named after ’Sir Christopher Strong’ but almost exclusively about Hepburn. What a better way to bring to attention to the absence yet presence of ’woman’ than to subvert the text! Hepburn emerges in one noteworthy scene in a silver lamé body stocking dressed as a chrysalis, something Johnston pointed out was symbolic of the future of women where power relations would not be based on the suppression of female identity. The study of the ’subversion of texts’ is an area of film criticism. Another is called ’spectator studies’. Jackie Stacey, co-editor of Screen , a film journal from the UK,wrote a pioneering study in this area called "Star Gazing" in the early 1990’s. Here she examined the viewing habits of women in the UK during WWII. It was during this period many women had spouses or boyfriends who were away in the service, in addition to obviously lesbian or asexual women. These women confided of their strong identification with female characters such as Doris Day in Calamity Jane (1953) . One women according to Stacey had seen the film 88 times. Stacey was a guest at Stockholm University Department of Film Studies with gay film scholar Richard Dyer in 1992. Both made ’readings against the grain’-- the surface of the narrative. According to Richard Dyer, references to gays and lesbians are the rule not the exception in film. Such references involve usually a double ’entendre’ or twist such as the ending of Casablanca where Rick says to the Vichy police captain: ’This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship’. What is interesting today in the field of cinema studies is the application of specifically ’gendered’ and lesbian feminist perspectives of ’subverted texts’ as informed spectators. Attributing ’the look’ or bearer of meaning to women in film is in a hybrid and problematic state. I recall discussions with Johnston about the existence of ’the look’ in films with lesbian ’content’ or the applicability of a lesbian feminist perspective to film in general. Yes, subversions were possible, she said, but altering symbolic language was more difficult. The work of Hélène Cixous and Luce Irigaray became useful here who have worked with 'feminine writing'. As Mulvey claimed, ’you can not create language in a vacuum’. Women still made films which were carbon copies of conventional narratives. Together with a colleague, we presented Mulvey’s work with a lesbian feminist perspective, the first time in Sweden. I am interested in the explicit representation of lesbians in film as well as ’reading against the grain’. But, as in all exploration, it is important to get the story ‘straight’. Each decade produces a different aesthetic of the ’lesbian look’ forged by social conditions. In the 1990's lesbian representation has been included within the designation 'queer cinema', coined by Teresa de Lauretis, a cinema studies professor at UC Santa Cruz . She used the term to include the representation of both lesbians and gays but has since abandoned the term which she feels has become a 'vacuous' publicist' label. Progress in terms of empowered imagery is never constant but would appear to ebb and flow with negative recycled myths about lesbians. There is an interesting avantgarde film made by Maya Deren in 1945 called At Land . Maya Deren was the initiator of the second wave of avant-garde films in the 1940’s. She made her own films on a budget of what Hollywood spent on lipstick as she liked to say, and traveled across the USA showing them and lecturing on film language. ’Amateur’ film, she said, refers to ’lover of one’s craft’ and she consciously chose not to work in Hollywood. The short formal of the personal film is especially useful to lesbian filmmakers. It is both economical and does not fall into the narrative pitfalls of making lesbian feature film which often has some negative ( commercial) influence. Deren influenced a cadres of women (both heterosexual and lesbian filmmakers) such as Barbara Hammer, a prolific lesbian avant-garde filmmaker active for the past two decades. In fact, one film in particular inspired a wave of lesbian iconography where Deren is the bearer of meaning. Here Deren caresses the heads of two women playing chess in order to take back a chess piece she has stolen. The game is representative of patriarchal order and she runs away as victor down the beach with her prized possession. At Land was called a lesbian film by Peter Weiss, an avant-garde filmmaker who made films in Sweden. A journalist from The New Republic called it ’lesbianish’. Deren protested her film being called ’lesbianish’ because she felt it was an epithet tantamount to using derogatory designations for African-Americans. Many gay and lesbians were featured in her films although she was herself heterosexual. The following are examples of films where where lesbians are either the bearer of meaning or flattened by the male gaze. All films have a specific aesthetic: The Fox , (US, 1968) Mark Rydell. A tree falls on the woman of a lesbian relationship. Based on D.H. Lawrence’s novel, a man enters the scene and convinces one of the women to leave with him. The punishment for the one who is left behind, the phallic tree. The Killing of Sister George , (GB,1968) Robert Aldrich Featuring a typical butch-femme relationship of the late sixties where one of the women in the relationship is forced to drink her lover’s bathwater. Includes a scene filmed in the famous London lesbian bar, ’The Getaway’. Born in Flames , (US, 1983) Lizzie Borden. Here, lesbianism is connected to class and sexual politics. Go Fish , (US ,1994), Rose Troche. A film about lesbian friendship and relationships. Gia , (US,1997 HBO television. Featuring lesbian supermodel Gia Carangi, (Cindy Crawford was initially called ’Baby Gia’) one of the first lesbians to die of AIDS. In real life Carangi complained about the homophobia in the fashion industry. In this TV movie, her lesbianism is toned way down as a ‘phase’ of the 1970’s. Ellen , (US, 1993-1998). TV serial by Ellen Degeneres. 'Ellen' is by far an example of one of the strongest bearers of meaning in this century and the ramifications of her coming out on public TV have far-reaching consequences which have yet to be fully studied. Now in repeat in Sweden on TV 4 where Ellen has still not come out. (postscript: now she has!). Ellen has broken the silence of lesbians within a heterosexual context, and reversed meaning from being an innocuous, asexualized woman to becoming a sexual and empowered woman. One interesting aspect of her outing is reflected in the film career of her former partner Anne Heche- whose ability to ’play’ a heterosexual character was questioned in a film when she was to play opposite Harrison Ford ( protest by Ford). Outing raises the threat of losing ’heterosexual privilege’--an epistemological switch with consequences. After Go Fish, by Rose Troche, financed by Samuel Goldwyn, a wave of lesbian films were produced either explicit or implicit. It was discovered that if a film could appeal to a lesbian public, the box office draw would increase 10%. ( Survey in "Details" magazine ) Yet asexualized lesbian films abound more than not like Fried Green Tomatoes, (1991, with strong female bonding Thelma and Louise (1991), GI Jane , (1997, Demi Moore is insulted to be labeled lesbian because she will have to quit boot camp with the boys) Boys on the Side (1995, Whoopie Goldberg plays your ordinary asexual lesbian in love with a woman who is dying of AIDS. The title? ). Sharon Stone’s career was lifted by playing (and laying) a homicidal bisexual woman in Basic Instinct (1991). All films except Go Fish demonstrate lesbian content but not a ’lesbian look’. All diminish ’the look’ with either closeted, vague, anti-lesbian, or homophobic voyeuristic material for male desire and fantasy. As more women become directors and work with the conscious insertion of content into lesbian characters and imagery, we will wrestle with the ’lesbian look’. Films must go beyond Thelma and Louise which are parodies or surrogates of power, outlaws punishable by a ride over the Grand Canyon which symbolically re-echoes the demise of Katherine Hepburn on her solo flight over the Atlantic in Christopher Strong or Sandy Fox, felled by a tree in The Fox . ’The look’ is out there! References: Luce Irigararay, This Sex Which is not One , tr. G. Gill, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985. Claire Johnston, The Work of Dorothy Arzner: Towards a Feminist Cinema , London: BFI, 1975. Laura Mulvey, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, Screen, Volume 16, No 3, 1975. Richard Dyer, Now You See It: Studies on Lesbian and Gay Film , London: Routledge, 1990. Jackie Stacey, Star Gazing: Hollywood Cinema and Female Spectatorship , London: Routledge, 1993. Moira Sullivan, An Anagram of the Ideas of Filmmaker Maya Deren , Stockholm University, 1997. Moira Sullivan received her doctorate from Stockholm University, Department of Film Studies in 1997. Her research has been done transculturally in Sweden, the USA and France. She wrote her doctorate on avant-garde filmmaker Maya Deren who made films during the 1940’s and 1950’s. At the Stockholm Kvinnohuset (Women’s House) she has worked to create an exhibition and distribution forum of international women’s films. She also teaches courses in lesbian film and small film production at Kvinnohöjden in Borlänge. Her work has been shown at the Denver Underground Film Festival, Paris TV (Canal Plus) and in Lesvos Greece. Guests she has presented to local public forums have been Barbara Hammer and Yvonne Rainer. Sullivan is a staff writer for Movie Magazine, San Francisco and Filmfestivals.com, Paris. She regularly covers Créteil International Films de Femmes, the largest returning women’s film festival in the world and Cineffable, the largest lesbian film festival in Europe. She is a guest speaker at the gay and lesbian film festival in Stockholm and at various universities and art colleges in Europe and the USA. She has authored two web pages: Maya Deren Forum CineFemme Taken from Angelfire.Com Koivunen A. & Paasonen S. (eds),Conference proceedings for affective encounters: rethinking embodiment in feminist media studies , University of Turku, School of Art, Literature and Music, Media Studies, Series A, N:o 49 An important domain of affective encounter is pornography. The non-verbal elements of images and sounds which convey meaning, mood, and emotion in this discourse often seem to have an embodied dimension of perception. It is clear that female emotional response to pornography is divided in terms of spectator interest. The fact that pornography is a source of pleasure for some and dis-ease for others makes it a volatile and controversial subject. This article is meant as a ‘door opener’ into a polemic area which divides feminism. Its concern is the reproduction of the moving body imagery of pornography foremost by lesbians, and secondly, by heterosexual women. In classic pornography woman is a commodited entity where the exchange of females among males is the main currency. Female desire in moving picture imagery is often equated with prostitution, rape or bondage where the female body is displayed fragmented and dismembered. Pornography which literally means ‘writing about prostitutes’ is a tool for the reproduction of imagery and text to facilitate this equation. The de nition of pornography will be used operationally in this text, de ned by law professor Catherine MacKinnon:”graphic sexually explicit materials that subordinate women through pictures or words”. (MacKinnon:1993, p. 22) According to radical feminist Andrea Dworkin,”Pornography is central in creating and maintaining the civil inequality of the sexes”. Anti-pornography ordinances authored by Dworkin and MacKinnon successfully passed in Minneapolis but ruled unconstitutional in Indianapolis, USA are considered problematic by both feminists and gay and lesbian activists in terms of 1)what should legally count as pornography and 2) the limitation of freedom of expression. In order words, the debate is a battle between anti-pornography feminists and freedom of expression feminists. The defeat of the Indianapolis ordinance in part came from the fact that conservative politicians backed the ordinance causing feminists/activists to withdraw support. Furthermore the application of the ordinance was believed to be primarily targeted at gay and lesbian pornography. Judith Butler, to name one example, is an advocate of pornography because censorship is often particularly leveled against homosexuals. The mark of Dworkin and MacKinnon nevertheless can be noted in cinema studies programs where pornography is studied such as by Linda Williams at University of California, Berkeley. In fact, for the purposes of research at academic institutions it is common to designate sexually explicit videos as either Dworkin/MacKinnonpornographic or non-Dworkin/MacKinnon-pornographic. In order to come to terms with what is meant by pornography in this paper, it is crucial to identify the criteria used by Dworkin and Mackinnon: “ (i) women are presented dehumanized as sexual objects, things, or commodities; or (ii) women are presented as sexual objects who enjoy pain or humiliation; or (iii) women are presented as sexual objects who experience sexual pleasure in being raped; or (iv) women are presented as sexual objects tied up or cut up or mutilated or bruised or physically hurt; or (v)women are presented in postures or positions of sexual submission, servility, or display; or (vi) women’s body parts--including but not limited to , vaginas, breasts, or buttocks-- are exhibited such that women are reduced to those parts; or (vii) women are presented as whores by nature; or (viii) women are presented as being penetrated by objects or animals; (ix) women are presented in [email protected] Moira Sullivan, Living Communication International, Sweden Lesbographic Pornography _affective encounters_ 247 scenarios of degradation, injury, torture, shown as lthy or inferior, bleeding, bruised, or hurt in a context that makes these conditions sexual”. (Dworkin and MacKinnon: 1988) It is the thesis of this paper that safeguarding freedom of expression ultimately means that the ‘coding’ of pornography will remain uncontested. Therefore, in order to insure this freedom a high price must be paid. The mass-production of women as prostitutes by the adult entertainment industry is part of the imaginary realm of pornography. Equally, the sexually liberated woman, heterosexual or lesbian is obliged to be an advocate of pornography, for it is perceived that harmless indeed is the scope of the imaginary, with no causality in societal effects, as witnessed by the backlash against Dworkin and MacKinnon. The issue of pornography has taken many twists and turns during the second wave of feminism. One major observation that can be made is ‘anything that can be said against pornography can be used as an argument for it’. In a perplexing matrix of reversals where philosophy over feminism has won many inroads, the roots of pornography and its effect on the image of women has been sidestepped. In the ‘backlash’ against feminism, pornographic lms by heterosexual women and lesbians are on the upswing. During the last years, two popular women’s lm festivals in Paris have showcased pornography made by women: Cineffable ,a lesbian lm festival in its 11th year (November 1-5 2000) and the 23rd Créteil Film de Femmes International Women’s Film Festival (March 23-April 2, 2001). Both venues have standards for lm selection which scrutinize how the image of women is used so the question is why these lms which 10 years ago would have been rejected made it to the front line. In fact would they have been made 10 years ago? Festival organizers claim that the lms were selected because more and more pornographic lms made by women are being sent in for consideration and therefore need to be addressed-- to be more precise--because they ‘awaken debate’. The lms were ‘packaged’ at Créteil for raising ‘taboos’. At Cineffable , the lms were shown late Saturday night, seemingly for their ‘entertainment value ’ as they are for cable television. There has been a trend in lm distribution lately to regard pornographic lms made by women as examples of ‘feminist lms’. Liberal feminists, like their male counterparts, argue that the prohibition of pornography is a symptom of an archaic morality. The preciousness of freedom of expression, the denial that there is any causality to pornographic imagery and the subordination of woman in society, and an indifference to the conditions under which sex workers work in the adult entertainment industry safeguard the territory of pornography. Despite attempts at ‘reinventing ’ pornography, there is nothing revolutionary in the iconography that would suggest that lms made by women are, as their distributors advertise, ‘feminist’. The current application of a feminist label to lms made by women or involving female characters occurs with the use of violence or sex traditionally in control of male lmmakers and male characters in mainstream lm. A panel discussion held at Créteil with lmmakers Catherine Breillat (France)and Shu Lea Cheang (USA) failed to qualify if pornographic lms made by women were however a ‘new genre’. French feminists, the bulk of the Créteil audience, boycotted the event and those women venturing arguments against the use of pornography in the lms were booed and whistled at. There was an invisible kinship between the two lmmakers in the promotion of pornography as lm currency without any explanation of how it was any different than that made by men. Here are examples of lms chosen at women’s festivals this year: I.K.U I.K.U starts where Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner ends. In the year 20XX the Genom Corporation manufacturers robots called ‘IKU Coders ’ which collect orgasm data. I.K.U.databases are on the net and I.K.U.chips sold in vending machines. A cyber tool that looks like a gun is used to plug in the client to a number of fantasy hosts _affective encounters_ 248 and hostesses.There are heterosexual and homosexual possibilities where sex is simulated.The title of the lm is derived from a Japanese expression used in reaching orgasm. [http:// www.i-k-u.jp] Cheang originally from Taiwan, had been New York based for the last 20 years.She previously made Fresh Kill, a popular lm shown at Créteil about pollution in New York featuring a lesbian couple.She wondered why all the women were mad at her this time at Créteil and didn’t show up for I.K.U. which she considered a ‘meta level ‘ of classic pornography. Seemingly knowledgeable of pornographic lm techniques as the result of making this lm,her rst ‘porno’venture, Cheang explained how the Japanese actors enjoyed working on her lm and that the exploitative working conditions of porno industry production were non-existent. When challenged about her use of conventional pornographic iconography during the Créteil panel, Cheang said she had not heard the word ‘patriarchal’ in a long time, and argued that her lm did not t within this paradigm. The human body in I.K.U., she argued, is a gigabyte hard drive--and body parts, compressed bytes. She denied that her lm used phallic symbols but were just ‘images’. Cheang furthermore claimed the vagina is the matrix of desire and no human sexual organs touch in I.K.U. Cheang identi es herself a ‘trans’sexual which for her means that she has transcended hetero and homo-sexuality. She advocates returning to the underground porno lms of the 1970’s in which viewers participated in group masturbation and also advocates pornography for all sexual lifestyles. How to Fuck in High Heels Shar Rednour and her partner Jackie Strano of S.I.R.productions (Sex Indulgence and Rock’n Roll) are the producers,directors and stars of this new dyke porno, a ‘mockumentary’ about making lesbian pornography--made like a documentary to poke fun at the genre.[http:// www.sirvideo.com] Actress Shar is lmed by partner/ director Jackie who compares their work to John Cassavettes and Gena Rowlands.The lm is about a dominatrix with high heels who has sex with several women.There are classic sex industry closeups of sex organs and the staging of sexual acts is consistent with industry iconography. The main dialogue of the lm consists of,’yeah,yeah ’, right, yeah, oh baby,shit’, consistent with the dialogue of classic pornography.The concern that lesbians own their imagery may be valid but a huge portion of lesbians walked out of the lm at Cineffable this year. The common complaint was that there was nothing new with this kind of pornography, made by lesbians or not. In the postmodern era of recycling,the case can be actually made.What can be noted about this lm and many of its kind by lesbians is that the sexual acts appear to be a parody of heterosexual pornography, in many ways a theatrical mockery mirroring back the power relations of industry porn.It is also true that lesbians making pornography use the imagery in the same way as heterosexual pornography although it seems clear that women relate to each other in non-hierarchical ways in this particular lm even while parodying butch/ femme roles. Jackie Strano is also the lead singer,(third from left in photo) one of the main songwriters and founder of the all woman hard rock band,’The Hail Marys’ featured on the soundtrack of the Hollywood lm, Bound (1997) by the Wachowski Brothers. Strano is a former worker-owner of Good Vibrations and worked for ve How to Fuck in High Heels, 2000 USA Shar Rednour, Jackie Strano I.K.U. by Shu Lea Cheang Japan 2000. _affective encounters_ 249 years as a sex educator in GV’s retail and mail order businesses.(Susie ‘Sexpert Bright was the advisor for the sex scenes between Meg Tilly and Gina Gershon in Bound ,shot in one take to avoid censorship).Shar Rednour (top left) is an editor, author, performance artist, zine publisher and author of “The Femme’s Guide to the Universe”. Romance In Romance, a young woman named Marie tires of her boyfriend’s lack of sexual intimacy. Instead she begins a journey into sadomasochistic sexual adventure where she is bound and blindfolded by a teacher and subjected to bondage. She enjoys this, likening it to death, almost. She has anonymous sex with one man, who then rapes her but she tells him afterwards that she is not ashamed. Marie also fantasizes about being gangraped, her lower and upper body partitioned by a wall where the lower half is penetrated by anonymous men. The journey is necessary, argues Breillat, in order to break the bonds of male domination that occur in the female imaginary. According to Andrea Dworkin, these ‘dreams’ are not erotic but ‘dreams of torture and of hate, in this case hate being used against female bodies, the instruments of hate (mental or esh) being used to maim”. (Dworkin, 1983, p. 303.) At the end of the lm as Marie gives birth to a baby her boyfriend is blown up in the apartment where she intentionally left the gas stove on. The teacher assumes the role of father, and birth, bondage and death are united. Heterosexual lmmaker Catherine Breillat had a small part in Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris (1972) a lm about sex and the death urge, banned at rst in Italy and in several cities of the USA. She admits to being inspired by Georges Bataille,who believes that women have two choices: to be chaste or prostitutes, and the Marquis de Sade--a batterer, rapist and child abuser. (Dworkin: 1983, p. 70, 151). Out of this pool of mentors, Breillat claims she wants to highlight female desire in her lms. She admitted at the Créteil panel however that her biggest victory to date was in portraying the male sex organ. This breakthrough is praised because it has not been done, she says,--only the female is naked and exposed in lm. [http://www.lionsgate lms.com/dnm/pro le.html?pid=IN-T-00082] Baise-Moi Baise-Moi is a lm making its way around the art house cinema circuit based on a novel by heterosexual Virginie Despentes. It concerns two women who go on a killing spree: one is a prostitute who strangles her roommate for wanting to drink her alcohol and the other is an underage porn star who gets raped and subsequently shoots her brother for getting upset about it. They both team up, pick up men at bars and have sex with them. There is one homoerotic scene in which the women dance together a common device in pornographic lms which serve as foreplay for male viewers before the ‘real’ heterosexual sex. Romance, Catherine Breillat, France, 1999 Baise- Moi, France, 2000 (“Rape Me”) France, Virginie Despentes The Hail Marys _affective encounters_ 250 The two women shoot a lot of cocaine and eventually one of them is gunned down at a gas station.The other is caught by the police while ashbacking about the dance scene with her slain killer friend/lover(?) In addition to the lm being pornographic, it was banned in 23 countries quite probably because the women killed men (and one woman) and used them as objects. Hence the label, ‘feminist’, the backlash de nition. The lm has been shown since April 2001 at Kvartersbion, a small off beat neighborhood theater in Stockholm to ‘awaken debate’(as at Créteil and Cineffable) and was not allowed to be advertised nor critiqued in Sweden in advance of the lm’s theatrical release. [http://www.baisemoithemovie.com/] Disarming Pornographic Moving Imagery Laura Mulvey wrote the seminal article ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’ in the 1970’s, since rewritten. What still remains valid is the role of sadomasochistic voyeuristic imagery in the construction of ‘pleasure ’. Mulvey argued that there is no clear female gaze in lm put perhaps it can be argued that pornography made by women is a speculation in which to measure the presence of a female gaze. Breillat claims she provides a female gaze in her lms as a heterosexual woman.With a voice over, the character Marie in Romance fantasizes about bondage and rape which become for her the only way to awaken desire. This is a consistent convention with Breillat where she tries to construct Eros in the eternal male and female. However she merely succeeds in role reversals where men do not want to have sex and women must nd other partners, or where young men’s hearts are broken with lecherous ‘older’ women such as in her most recent lm Brève Traversée (2000).It is the Thelma and Louise (1991) syndrome where woman put on the guns and become outlaws but wind up having to die as punishment (one of the rst lms during the backlash against feminism labeled ‘feminist’).Despentes ’ bonding of the female protagonists and exchange of men becomes a similar suicidal mission. These women do not sweep aside the existing order and break it up,nor rewrite it, but re-echo industrial codes of pornography.In one scene in Baise Moi, the two female protagonists visit a sex club and shoot all the patrons including an exploitative sexually violent murder of a male patron. The rape scene of Baise-Moi which has been censored in Britain includes raw close- ups which are eroticized. Most of the sex scenes in the lm were not simulated, all shot in close range. Shar Rednour and Jackie Strano borrow some of the conventions of classic pornography from a woman’s point of view, where bondage becomes a metaphor.Since it’s a ‘mockumentary’ it becomes a theatricalization of classic pornography, but still with no obvious female gaze. Shu Lea Cheang attempts to transcend sexuality to provide a host and donor without a body.But it is expected of the spectator to ignore the visualization of sexual organs and instead imagine them as a hardrive with gigabytes, proving that the speculation of the virtual is still in an embryonic stage. When lesbians are behind the camera making hard core pornography are the lm conditions different? Most pornographic shots are close-ups of sexual organs or substitutes for sexual organs minus the ‘money shots ’, i.e.shots of male ejaculation-athough there is a revolutionary upswing in depicting female ejaculation, the subject of many new lesbian documentaries. An inaccurate assumption is that the construction of these lms does not constitute pornography because of lesbian agency. Even if the lms are constructed as a lesbian narrative with camera angles,lighting,and mis-en- scéne,and even if the codes,argot and lifestyles are represented by lesbians for lesbian consumption, the codi ed images of pornography prevail where desire is often equated with bondage and rape, like a bandaid on a broken leg. In fact, pornographic lms appear to be inherently incapable of revealing a Filmmaker Virginie Despentes (on right) _affective encounters_ 251 female ordering of space. According to Luce Irigaray,male desire is based on the exchange of females among males. Female desire among women on the other hand, argues Irigaray, circumvents the economy of heterosexuality,and goes beyond the seller-buyer commodity structure. This is a dated assumption in light of the content of a number of recent pornographic lms made by lesbians. Marketing mainstream or lesbian pornography as soft pore or erotic often involves bonding and rape fantasy, where the erotic and pornographic is inherently complicit. While pornography may be just a ‘speculation’ it nevertheless is a voyeurist narrative with affective domains. Not only is there an ‘erotic gaze’ for women but also for the spectators in the audience. Different degrees of pleasure and distress are noted by lm theoretician Linda Williams in the same way that images in horror lms cause pleasure or dis-ease. She argues that pornographic lms are moreover ‘choreographies ’ designed to affect emotions, understandably in multiple ways. Citing Linda Lovelace’s lm Deep Throat , she claims that by studying the choreography of images we will understand more about power relations. That is however an analysis con ned to the screen only. When confronted with the fact that Lovelace was beaten,harassed and nancially exploited by her husband,Williams answered,’well she still earned a lot of money as a porn star’. Indeed, the corruption and graft of the porno lm industry is well documented where 60% of the actors in porno lms are incest survivors.One Internet website includes the story of a woman whose rst lover was her father,adorned by pornographic pictures and an animated insert of the woman giving a blowjob. Jackie Strano also tells of how her rst sexual encounter was with a trusted male relative on the S.I.R website. Do these revelations affect the speculation of pornography? Is it still possible to regard this imagery as just choreography and a document on power relations? Disassembling images such as the ones used in pornography can be employed as a tool for understanding the expression of the roots of pornography. By seeing beyond the choreography of images and how they affect us on a knee jerk level we will come closer to an understanding of why pornography ‘distresses’ us. Dworkin and MacKinnon’s argument against the dehumanization of women when presented as sexual objects or commodities is central to this understanding. Literature Cornell, Drucilla, 2000. Feminism & Pornography, Great Britain Oxford University Press. Darren, Alison, 2000. Lesbian Film Guide, London: Cassel. Dworkin,andrea,1983.Pornography:Men Possessing Women, Great Britain: The Women’s Press. Dworkin, Andrea And Mackinnon, Catherine, 1988. Pornography and Civil Rights: A New Day, Minneapolis: Organizing Against Pornography. Irigaray, Luce, 1985.The Sex Which is Not One, New York: Cornell University Press. Mackinnon, Catherine, 1993. Only Words ,Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press. Williams, Linda, 1990, Hardcore, London: Pandora Press. _affective encounters_ 252 Moira Sullivan, a.k.a. Juanita Palomablanca, is the founder of Living Communication International, a lm art enterprise, and received her doctorate in cinema studies from Stockholm University in 1997. She is a world expert on the avant-garde lmmaker Maya Deren and has been invited to Spain, France and Italy for special lm programs. A lm journalist and lecturer, she regularly attends the Paris based Cineffable and Créteil women’s lm festivals regularly to keep abreast of new developments in women’s lmmaking. Cineffable Film Festival,Paris: http://www.dpi-europe.fr/~ebrun/cineffable/index.htm Créteil Films de Femmes Festival, Paris : http://www. lmsdefemmes.com/ Moira Sullivan’s websites: The Maya Deren Forum: http://www.algonet.se/~mjsull Living Femme Communication: http://www.angel re.com/ms/livingcommunication Living Communication International: http://www.livingcommunication.nu Email: [email protected] E-book at [http://www.utu. /hum/mediatutkimus/affective/procee dings.pdf], Media Studies, Turku 2001.