Synopsis: Jimmy Ravinsky, one of three male roommates, participates in a feminist psychology experiment, being interviewed about male attitudes and behaviors regarding sex and romance by an anonymous woman, ‘Jane Doe.’ His experiences reflect upon and change his relationships with Mimi, a woman with whom he has a platonic friendship but desires romance, and Paula, a sexy ex-partner who loves to flaunt her new loves. As these change, so does his relationship with ‘Jane Doe.’
eyelights: its dialogues on heterosexual dynamics. its relatively groundbreaking perspective.
eyesores: its average performances. its dated setting.
“So, Jimmy, let’s talk about women.”
As a male feminist, I’ve always struggled with the contradictions between my upbringing, my own thoughts, desires and values and the demands of modern feminism. There are serious conflicts there, like the idea that a man should be chivalresque but not macho, or sensitive yet rugged, for instance.
Just the other day, a colleague and I were discussing dating. He was telling me that the moment a woman expects him to pay on a date, that she won’t even make a token offer to help, he writes her off – not because he can’t and won’t afford it, but on principle. Why partner up with someone like that?
I totally understood.
Navigating the waters of heterosexual relationships in modern society is a complicated matter. We haven’t yet progressed enough to all be on the same page, putting many of us at odds, but there are also the discordances in everyone’s own sets of beliefs. It creates a minefield of utmost complexity.
‘The Myth of the Male Orgasm’ broaches some of these contradictions: the 1994 Canadian motion picture by John Hamilton takes a look at men’s views on relationships from the perspectives of three roommates and best friends, Jimmy, Tim and Sean – the average one, the sensitive one, and the macho one.
Its key gimmick is that, as a college Psych teacher, Jimmy was invited to participate in a project by the Women’s Studies Department, consisting of being interrogated about their views of women – all while under a lamp and while wearing a blindfold. Naturally, he brought Tim and Sean along with him.
Except that Tim wasn’t asked to return because he’s considered well-adjusted. And Sean was written off as a totally lost cause. Only Jimmy gets a second invitation. And, despite the antagonism he felt from his interviewer during the lengthy session, he decides to go back again. Over and over again.
The picture mixes up these interrogations with scenes of our trio discussing their love lives amongst themselves as they hang out, playing pool, hosting parties, or even camping out on the roof. And it peppers things with regular glimpses at Jimmy’s relationships with Mimi and Paula, his female friends.
‘The Myth of the Male Orgasm’ is probably the first film of its kind that I ever saw. I can’t think of too many films that offer a male perspective on relationships (‘Whipped‘ is another, I guess), so when I first saw this in the mid-’90s, I was quite taken with it; it made me reflect on and reconsider my views.
The character I related to the most, aside for his smoking addiction, was Tim, who was a good listener and understood why women thought and felt the way they did about men. And, when he didn’t, he would ask. Naturally, he’s the schleppy one and he doesn’t get laid often – though he gets a happy ending.
But Jimmy was also interesting. He made some acute observations about the state of heterosexual relationships that gave me pause – if I didn’t agree with them already. This naturally leads to his interviewer, whom he calls Jane Doe, as she doesn’t identify herself, becoming fascinated with her subject.
It was written by men, after all: of course the male lead would charm his female antagonist.
Though the film serves up a little drama at the tail end to give its third act some punch, it doesn’t take away from the film’s meaty dialogues, which are both thought-provoking and rib-tickling. In fact, the melodramatics are quite subdued, all things considered, and handled adroitly by Hamilton.
So, why is the film called ‘The Myth of the Male Orgasm’, you wonder? I have no idea. I’ve seen it 3-4 times and I still can’t figure it out. Though there’s a G-rated sex scene in it, the movie is not at all about sex, let alone male orgasms; I can only suspect that the title was chosen for its impact.
But this doesn’t spoil the film in any way: though it feels dated at this point, ‘The Myth of the Male Orgasm’ tackles issues that we’re still struggling with, over two decades later. That says quite a lot about our society – and about the sharpness of John Hamilton and David Reckziegel’s script.
Watch it with friends and lovers.
Post scriptum: B-t-w, the answer to the dating conundrum (from above) is simple: Whoever asks out should expect to pay. The other person should offer to help, but the person who does the asking should plan to foot the bill.
This not only fixes the gender question but also the sexual orientation one as well. After all, in the current model, when the man is supposed to pay, what’s the rule for gays and lesbians? Well, this rule fixes it. And it’s only fair.
Date of viewing: March 11, 2017