The doccie, which was recently screened at Encounters, starts with Dutch filmmaker Sunny Bergman at a Ugandan women's tea party where ladies meet up to talk about sex. This isn't the average chat that you have with your girls over cocktails: "Well, the sex was, you know, fine… I guess. I mean, he was well-sized, but he just used too much tongue when he was kissing me."
No. These women take it to a whole other level.
A 44-year-old woman will stand up (or kneel, as the case may be) in a room full of 28-year-olds and demonstrate exactly how she moves her hips to drive him crazy. It's so frank that even I, someone who's pretty liberal and verbal about sex, blushed – and I was watching it alone in my flat.
Alongside the casual, light-hearted banter, there's a startling level of profundity that the documentary reaches. One moment in particular stood out for me: when Sunny mentions to a Ugandan woman that in Amsterdam the labia minora are called "shame lips".
Sunny's guide, obviously startled, turns to her and asks: "But… Why? Why would you be ashamed of your body as a woman? I mean, it’s your body. It's the only one that you have until you die. You should be enjoying it!"
The idea of "shame lips" is one which simmers under the surface in the Western world, where porn stars are viewed to have perfect pussies – shaved, pink and petite. Why else would products like vagina dye exist? Why else are women flocking to salons to go through the painful process of waxing their pubic hair off? And why else are surgical procedures to beautify the vagina becoming more common? There is, without a doubt, a sense that an unaltered vag is not attractive within our society.
That said, each culture has its own ideals when it comes to female sexuality.
In Uganda, for instance, women elongate their labia majora. The practice begins when girls hit puberty and is usually carried out by their close friends and the elders ("aunts") in their community. It makes sex more pleasurable for both men and women, or so the locals claim.
Admittedly, when I first heard of labia elongation, I thought it was a crude and disturbing tradition. Now, I am kind of in two minds about the whole thing.
Why is it okay for women of the Western world – who do pretty much the same thing, except that they are prepared to fork out extravagant amounts of money to let a perfect stranger, albeit one with medical qualifications, snip away at their labia – but it's frowned upon for those who do it for customary reasons?
Tell me, what makes vaginal alteration less acceptable than labiaplasty?
For more information about the Encounters Film Festival, please click here. The synopsis of The Sunny Side of Sex is available here.
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