The Politics of Intimacy

In this seminal feminist video, ten women address the camera and seemingly each other in a wide-ranging exploration of such previously taboo subjects as women’s sexuality, power, and fears about intimacy. First-time videomaker, Julie Gustafson, forgoes shame and focuses on the women's questions about orgasm, masturbation and male "ownership" of sexuality, as well as their joy in exploring their bodies and desire for satisfying sexual lives. The only expert in the tape is Dr. Mary Jane Sherfey, author of "Nature and Evolution of Female Sexuality," who provides scientific descriptions of women's orgasms and context for the historical suppression of female sexuality. According to the curators of the 1992 Whitney Museum's series "From Object to Subject," "by selecting women who vary in age, color, sexual experience and orientation and by using extreme close ups and a pace resembling real time, Gustafson creates an ideal consciousness raising group (c-r)." Indeed, "Politics of Intimacy" is a valuable document of the synergy between the growing women's movement and the new video technology and aesthetics of its time. Originally shot in 1/2" B & W video.

00:24Copy video clip URL Title slide and music. A second title reads, “Ten Women Talk About Orgasm and Sexuality.”

00:51Copy video clip URL Names of the women interviewed about orgasm: Bonnie, Dr. Sherfey, Margit, Harriot, Vicki, Joanne, and Zabe’.

01:18Copy video clip URL Various women attempt to describe the feelings, sensations, and bodily reactions of reaching orgasm. One woman also describes the initial fear of orgasm when experiencing it for the first time.

03:00Copy video clip URL Dr. Mary Jane Sherfey describes the physiological effects of sexual stimulation and climax.

04:39Copy video clip URL Other women describe their own experiences of involuntary muscle movements and an intractable sense of desire upon reaching the peak of sexual stimulation.

06:04Copy video clip URL Dr. Sherfey describes the “pause” that occurs at the moment before climax. She illustrates this with an imaginary graph.

07:10Copy video clip URL A woman describes the ambiguity of reaching the plateau and sharp dip of stimulation before orgasm. Another woman describes the heightened sensations of a complex bodily and spatial awareness before orgasm. “It’s almost like dying,” she says, describing the intense release after orgasm.

08:44Copy video clip URL “Power,” with Dr. Sherfey, Joan, Joanne, Margit, Harriot, Kathy, Bonnie, and Vicki.

09:04Copy video clip URL Dr. Sherfey describes the evolution of women’s status in pre-agrarian societies as compared to women’s status after the introduction of animal husbandry and agriculture. Video is mostly corrupted but audio remains intact.

09:53Copy video clip URL A woman describes her first sexual relationship with a man and not knowing what “a woman could enjoy.”

10:29Copy video clip URL Dr. Sherfey talks about the oppression of women with the advent of patriarchal societies, speculating this was the repressed outburst of males who resented women in society.

10:56Copy video clip URL The same woman tells about how she got pregnant in her first sexually active relationship, which resulted in her sense of sexuality becoming overwhelmed with fear and anxiety. She then describes how she introduced one man to the existence of the clitoris and says that for a time she was afraid of reaching climax with a man because it might result with that man not liking her anymore.

12:46Copy video clip URL Another woman describes her fear of being manipulated through sex.

13:28Copy video clip URL Another woman describes her experience with the societal ideal that sex exist to pleasure only men. 

13:43Copy video clip URL Dr. Sherfey mentions historically women were treated as property not human beings with rights.

14:00Copy video clip URL Another woman describes about her experience as a wife and putting her husband’s sexual needs over hers. 

14:33Copy video clip URL Another woman describes about a self destructive period of her life when she had several sexual experiences with different men and the negatives effects it had on her mentally. She talks about being raped during this time and had little emotion after, stated it reinforced her negative thoughts about men. 

15:59Copy video clip URL Another woman describes the power she feels when she turns men on.

17:15Copy video clip URL Another woman introduces the concept that women can not have a non-sexual relationship with  men, states that there are typically external pressures to make this the case.

17:55Copy video clip URL Another woman describes the pressures and the fears of having a orgasm. 

18:52Copy video clip URL “Arousal” with Harriot, Mona, Margit, Dr. Sherfey, Bonnie, and Kathy 

18:58Copy video clip URL A woman describes what makes her aroused.

19:48Copy video clip URL Another woman describes what she says to her female partners to make them feel aroused. 

20:18 Another woman mentions she prefers having conversations or doing other activities with her partner together over kissing. Then later shares how she was aroused sexually for the first time by the same partner 

22:50Copy video clip URL Another woman describes the physical reactions she has when “turned on”. 

23:51Copy video clip URL Another woman describes what makes her aroused. 

24:16Copy video clip URL Another woman describes the level of intensity when aroused. 

24:29Copy video clip URL Dr. Sherfey uses an analogy, comparing the orgasm is a gun with many triggers. 

24:50Copy video clip URL Another woman describes what her husband does to arouse her.

25:15Copy video clip URL Dr. Sherfey discusses the societal preconceived notions of the female genital anatomy and the functions. 

25:54Copy video clip URL Another woman describes how she drinks wine and gives her husband oral sex.

26:45Copy video clip URL Dr. Sherfey describes how the female clitoris is stimulated during intercourse causing vaginal orgasm. 

27:28Copy video clip URL Another woman describes what she wears in preparation for sex. Talks about rape roleplaying. 

28:37Copy video clip URL Dr. Sherfey compares the average length of time a man can hold a erection to the average length of time it takes a woman to orgasm. 

28:39Copy video clip URL Another woman describes that foreplay makes her aroused. 

30:00Copy video clip URL “Masturbation” with Joan, Kathy, Theresa, Mona, Zabe, Harriot, and Bonnie. 

30:21Copy video clip URL A woman describes how hand masturbation doesn’t make her orgasm. 

30:47Copy video clip URL Another woman mentions that she doesn’t have the need to masturbate because she is married.

32:00Copy video clip URL Another woman describes not knowing the terminology for what she was doing, also describes what she does. 

33:00Copy video clip URL Another woman describes her experience masturbating as a eight year old, stopping for along time and recently starting again.  

35:00Copy video clip URL Another woman mentions a past story of how her mother scolded her younger brother for touching himself which made her realize masturbating was a bad thing to do. So she stopped touching herself. 

35:55Copy video clip URL Another woman describes masturbating often but stopping because its enjoyment and pleasure went away. 

36:29Copy video clip URL Another woman describes her experience as a mother telling her young daughter to stop using the arm of a rocking chair to “tickle her bum”. 

37:07Copy video clip URL “Fear” with Kathy, Margit, Joanne, Harriot, Vicki,  and Zabe. 

37:50Copy video clip URL A woman mentions the fear of husband cheating due to not performing oral sex.

38:21Copy video clip URL Another woman describes sexual intercourse has hard work.

38:59Copy video clip URL Another woman describes first sexual experience with a woman. 

41:00Copy video clip URL Another woman discusses men have little to no knowledge of the female anatomy 

41:32Copy video clip URL Another woman describes the difficulty of having orgasm and the shame she feels around it. 

42:56Copy video clip URL “Narcissism” with Vicki, Bonnie, Therese, Joan, Dr. Sherfey, Mona, Margit, and Joanne. 

43:13Copy video clip URL Women describe their attraction to other women.

44:06Copy video clip URL A woman compares male and female sexual partners. 

44:40Copy video clip URL Another woman describe her gender expression being more masculine and those challenges surrounding that.  

46:15Copy video clip URL Another woman describe sexuality has part of your whole being, being sexual without doing sexual acts. 

47:10Copy video clip URL Another woman describes how making love to a woman is a self loving experience. 

47:17Copy video clip URL Another woman describes being unaware of her sexual organs and what they did until high school. Compares to the male experience.

48:17Copy video clip URL Dr. Sherfey mentions the Masters and Johnson study. Finding that women can several orgasms during intercourse opposed to men only having one.

 48:50Copy video clip URL Another woman describes her experience of masturbating to fulfill sexual urge and not an action of self love. 

49:10Copy video clip URL Dr. Sherfey describes “the tragedy of the body” women having multiple orgasms but not feeling satisfied.   

50:01Copy video clip URL Another woman describes how she believes female orgasms are superior to the male orgasm. 

51:00Copy video clip URL Credits.

 

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