Synopsis: The O Tapes is the controversial and highly acclaimed 90-minute documentary by an award-winning film maker. It features real women talking about their intimate personal experiences and their quest for sexual ecstasy. Along the way the women explore such “forbidden zones” as orgasm, masturbation, the G spot, “kinky” sex and female ejaculation.
The O Tapes 8.25
eyelights: the scope of the documentary. the production. Betty Dodson. the O art.
eyesores: the limited details on each subject.
“43% of American women are either non-orgasmic or will be non-orgasmic for a significant period in their lives.”*
‘The O Tapes’ is a North American documentary that covers the all-too-infrequently discussed real life sexual experiences of women. In a down-to-earth and very accessible format, the film interviews women of all ages, races and affinities to provide an overview of the large palette of preferences and experiences of modern women. Its targeted audience is men but, given how much it intends to demystify, it is obviously of benefit to women as well.
To support it arguments and shed further light, the film is bolstered by historical accounts of the perception and role of the female orgasm from Plato to the 19th century, hysteria (which reminded me of the movie), Kellogg’s views on the purported ills of masturbation, our androcentric approach to sex from Aristotle to the 18th century, the clitoral vs. vaginal debate, and brief biographies of Ida Craddock and Margaret Sanger, heroines of the sexual revolution.
There are also discussions with notable sex educators such as Betty Dodson, Carol Queen and Candida Royale (amongst others), and eye-opening footage from 20th century educational films, as well as pictures, graphics and animated bits (which were cheap-looking but amusing). With all of this jam-packed into the film, ‘The O Tapes’ has an appropriately large scope and it supports much of what is being talked about by the interviewees.
Over the course of 90 minutes, the women in ‘The O Tapes’ discuss how little information they had as children (even from their mothers), their first experiences with masturbation, the pressure to be a good girl and the stigma of being a bad girl, their first time with a man, what an orgasm feels like, the best way to achieve one, their preferences with respect to penis sizes and shapes, the importance of foreplay, their favourite positions, the G-spot, sex toys and pornography, kinky sex, faking orgasms, their disappointment with men and body image issues.
Some of my favourite bits were a skit where a woman goes to a drive-through to place her order for sexual gratification and the man at the other end keeps getting the order completely wrong (hilarious!), the participants’ “O art”, which is their chalkboard interpretation of their orgasms (there were lots of stars, electricity, waves, ..etc.), and Betty Dodson’s workshops to help women become comfortable/at one with their bodies, especially their vulvas. She’s bold and a frickin’ genius.
My only reservations about the documentary are that it’s way too heterocentric, with bisexuality being covered only briefly (but not homosexuality per se), it has a terrible segment when some of the women reenact their orgasm (it left me quizzical: were they performing, or is that really what their orgasms are like?), it skips any real heaviness (sexual abuse is common occurrence that is not covered at all), and it’s far too short to fully immerse one’s self in each topic.
However, as an overview, it’s relatively thorough and I think that it does a credible job of covering a large swatch of women’s sexual experiences. In so far as it intends to be a primer for men, it’s quite effective, and I really do believe that it would be worth showing in any educational setting, whether it be schools or workshops. A documentary like ‘The O Tapes’ is crucial for helping us understand about women’s sexual lives – and we can all benefit from that.
*Since watching this documentary, I’ve discovered that the tagline about 43% of women suffering from sexual dysfunction is actually a statistic that was engineered by pharmaceutical companies to sell their products. More on that very soon, in an upcoming documentary. Stay tuned.
Date of viewing: February 3, 2014