Synopsis: Female Misbehavior is a collection of five films which explore the outer limits of female sexuality and behavior. Each film features a woman who has challenged the status quo, provoking shock and outrage in some and gaining respect and admiration from others.
Annie is an inside look (in more ways than one) at Annie Sprinkle, porn-star, performance artist and sexual diva. Dr. Paglia is a confrontation with Camille Paglia, the infamous author. Bondage centers on an S& M practitioner and her use of pain as pleasure. MAX is the story of a transsexual’s journey from female to male.
Female Misbehavior 7.75
eyelights: Camille Paglia. Max Wolf Valerio.
eyesores: the low budget, mildly erratic quality of some of the shorts.
‘Female Misbehavior’ is a 1992 collection of short films shot by Monika Treut (of ‘Die Jungfrauen Maschine‘ fame) throughout her career. It spotlights a variety of women who, via their sexual identities and politics, have helped reshape the role that women have in North American society.
1. Annie (1989, 10m30s): In this very low budget, but moderately entertaining short, Annie Sprinkle talks about the insecurities she had when she was known as Anne Steinberg, how big of a difference it was to become Annie Sprinkle, and discusses the various sides of her personality.
She also tackles obsession with “tits” and explains the female reproductive system – after which she puts a speculum in her vagina and shows us what it looks like (in as much as the poor lighting allows it). This is something that she’s been known to do at her lectures and they show pictures of her doing this at her shows with fans. There is also audio and other shots from her one-woman show.
It’s very DIY, but it gives us an interesting glimpse at this iconic sexual revolutionary. Frankly, I think she deserves her own feature-length documentary. 10 minutes simply isn’t enough. 7.0
2. Bondage (1983/84, 20m50s): Carol is a proponent of BDSM who does lectures to groups to educate them about the practice. In this short, as she dresses up for a lesbian S&M march in New York City streets, to make a statement about female sexuality, she tells us about the art of bondage, the philosophy, and gets personal, talks about her set-up at home, suspension systems, her whip.
It could have been more interesting, especially in light of Treut’s decision of intercutting the interview with shots of bondage, traffic at an intersection and close-ups of a train passing by – all to the sound of water running and tribal singing. But somehow it just failed to capture my interest. 5.0
3. Dr. Paglia (1992, 23m02s): This is a series of interviews with notorious critic Camille Paglia cut together, in which she discusses her sexuality, how she feels that intimacy kills desire and that her shifting hormones are so strong that one day she feels more masculine and on other days more feminine. She reflects on the difficulty of being a strong sexual female in this culture, and on modern feminism in general; a vocal opponent of some of the leading figures of the movement, she insists that she will show them the way.
She has a very interesting perspective, and is extremely captivating, but she talks so fast; she’s rapid-fire, like an intellectual Quentin Tarantino (“M’kay?”). She has a very strong ego, and is convinced of her own intellectual force, talking down at people and constantly calling people absurd.
You’d think she’d be detestable, but in this short dose she was mesmerizing. Maybe it’s because it was my first exposure to her (although I’d heard her name get bandied about before), or maybe it was Treut’s treatment of her subject, inserting clips from b&w films to spruce things up, but I felt stimulated and invigorated by listening to her. 7.75
4. Max (1992, 26m58s): This documentary puts the spotlight on Max Wolf Valerio (née Anita Valerio), a native American who was born a girl, but always felt like a boy. Then in the process of transitioning, he talks about first becoming a lesbian, of her sexual development in her early years. He talks about the self-analysis she had to do and how she had to reconsider her view of men before becoming one.
Max also explains the realization of being a transsexual, not a lesbian, and then the process of transitioning, explaining the changes, physically and psychologically (ex: higher sex drive, or not being able to deal with feelings the same way). Apparently he felt a change within hours of taking his first meds. Max also discusses the various surgery options and warns that no one should do it to fit in, saying that you will never fit in – it’s the wrong reason for doing it.
Max talks in a very authoritative, credible, fashion and I found him utterly compelling. There are inserts of him walking around NYC streets and he looks like a man – a mildly effeminate man (it’s more in the gesticulation than anything else), but you wouldn’t think that he was once a woman. Fascinating. 8.5
While ‘Female Misbehavior’ isn’t a documentary proper, it’s a potent collection and it’s worth seeing by anyone who’s interested in seeing women walk boldly, defiantly, against the current. I’m a big fan of anyone who challenges societal norms, thereby forcing us to examine ourselves.
And, misbehaving or not, these women do exactly that.
Dates of viewings: May 26-29, 2016