“Sex tape” ~ A Squandered Opportunity To Improve Our Shame Based Culture

Louisa Leontiades Beastly & Beautiful, Film & TV, Film/TV-General

Cameron Diaz is afraid to call herself a feminist because she’s ‘not good with labels’. Thankfully for us feminists. Because Cameron has a very confused idea of what feminism represents and how the concept might apply to her. She’s oscillated very publicly over the past two years on the issue of bodily hair. No one’s saying you have to be pro-bush to be feminist, but you do have to support choice of the individual. And whilst she’s firm on her belief that all human beings deserve equality, she also believes that how women are represented in film is not so important (because it isn’t ‘life or death‘) and that secretly, every woman wants to be objectified. Cameron needs to learn really what these terms mean before using them in the mainstream media, because being sexually desired – which she’s referring to – isn’t the same thing.

But even though she may dismiss the influence of her position as one of Hollywood’s leading ladies, Cameron nevertheless wields massive power over how women are viewed and sexualized in western society. Something she is pleased to use when the shoe (or g-string) fits. So when the film entitled Sex Tape starring Cameron made its debut last month from the grinding mills of Hollywood, I was curious… not least because I knew that half of the viewers would be buying tickets in the hope of seeing Cameron naked. Me included. Would she really stick to her guns and have a full groin of hair?

Sex Tape stars Cameron Diaz as Annie and Jason Segel as Jay, a couple who tries to rekindle the dying embers of the post children sex life by making a sex tape… which then gets into ‘the cloud’ and threatens to go viral. Duh duh DUH. With the threat of Annie’s new job as a family values Mommy blogger on the line, the film follows the couple’s attempts to retrieve the tape, and preserve their reputations. The trailer promised comedy, sex and some heavy shit to deal with.

But the film has been slated by critics and viewers alike, because the flimsy plot fails to deliver on its initial high concept premise. In the final analysis the film does not get out, and there would have been few repercussions it seems, even if it had. The CEO of the wholesome toy firm (Rob Lowe) who promised to buy Annie’s mommy blog turns out to be a coked up weirdo with a penchant for commissioning works of art with his head superimposed on Disney characters. He’s unlikely to have a problem with it especially as he has an 11 inch dildo among the many sex toys in his bedside drawer. Jay works in the music industry – not really known for its conservatism around nudity.  I, who was looking forward to some challenging commentary on the online culture confronted with middle America’s sex negativity (and maybe a grand statement of an unshaven pussy) was disappointed. The film smashed few taboos and played it safe…. unless you call Rob Lowe doing cocaine a taboo (but surely that taboo was smashed a long time ago).

Cameron, just by virtue of her model looks, is miscast as a stay-at-home mom with two kids. She’s still able to get into her daisy dukes and has a pair of unused roller boots from those “Boogie Night” days at the back of her closet.  No saggy post pregnancy belly. No bags under her eyes. And the only impact of parenthood on her sex drive has been from a lack of time rather than a lack of desire. Curiously, this is also one of the most positive aspects of the film. She makes no apologies for being sexual, talking openly about insatiable lust in the beginning of a relationship or still desiring sex as you get older. She’s the initiator of the sex tape idea and in a rather subversive yet exuberant role reversal she gets to say ~

“I love fucking you”… whilst her husband is left to respond “I fucking love you.”

It’s a pity then that their sex tape (which in the final version of the movie is no longer a tape but an mp4, presumably changed to be able to heavily advertise Apple products) is not a tribute to desire or even anything close to a representation of intimacy. It is instead a 3 hour marathon of every sex position in The Joy of Sex. Many of which involve painful and awkward couplings. It’s a notch in the bedpost of sexual prowess and achievement.  The type of competitive goal oriented sex which often serves to undermine connection rather than enhancing it. It’s what Cosmo would have you believe… that a relationship now magically works again because the two individuals in question have managed to bonk fairly vigorously during a one off session in over 100 different positions.

And yet as stunningly disappointed as this movie left me, I appreciated the occasional hat tips to sex positivity “maybe everyone has an 11 inch dildo in their bedside drawer” and “you should be proud of this video” as well as the sympathetic portrayal of homemade porn. I was also really pleased to see Jason Segel’s hairy-cracked ass on the big screen and to hear his best friend complimenting him on his dick. It’s a refreshing change for Hollywood to mention the words penis and vagina in one movie, and to show both the leading lady and leading man with their trousers down.

How amazing the film would have been if the sex tape had got out though. What if Annie had been fired from her mommy blog job and picked up to be a writer to celebrate older women’s sexuality on a feminist blog? What if she had been transformed into an empowered woman and wrote about what we really wanted to explore in this movie… the acts you aren’t supposed to enjoy or even indulge in as a pure and chaste mother? If only Hollywood had had the guts to tackle the exposé they promised from the trailer…instead of giving us their mealy mouthed cop out. They set out to challenge society and backed down at the last moment. Because the trailer was not only like so many others, cut to create a wholly different impression of what the movie was about, it even uses scenes from a (presumably) alternate ending. The trailer shows the sex tape exposed at their children’s graduation in front of family and friends.

sex tape

Welcome to Jay and Annie’s sex-a-thon kids

When we’ve recently been exposed to so many leaked celebrity photo scandals, here was the opportunity for us to water down the fuel that feeds the paparazzi hunger. Instead of feeding into the paradigm of shame that Jennifer Lawrence feared might destroy her career, we could reiterated Rhiannon’s Lucy Cosslett’s more positive feminist response to those who threatened to leak nude pictures of Emma Watson. Fuck them. Because people have bodies. People even have sex. Sometimes on tape. And it’s nothing to be ashamed about.