I found this documentary on Netflix and watched it the other day.
It details a story about three American women in three different cities: Winifred, age 12 (NYC), Laura, age 22 (North Carolina) and Nichole, 32 (Florida).
Their lives have nothing in common and the documentary aims to a look into the ideas of “sexiness” and our cyber-age and how its effects have influenced each one of the characters it follows.
As the documentary starts an anonymous female voice states:
“Its confusing, no one knows what empowered female sexuality looks like!”
Each of the women has views on her body and sexuality based on media related experiences. Winifred is coming-of-age and is struggling to find her identity amidst the chaos of puberty mixed with media pressures.
Winifred is at the same time aware of what she’s transitioning, she talks (with some wisdom for her age,) about how girls/women are trying to come to terms with their bodies, their identities and their place in society when she makes these comments about the effects of internet/social media etc on her life:
“We’re the first generation to have what we have and so there’s no one that can guide us, I mean, we are the pioneers.”
“Your Facebook profile is not necessarily who you are its more like who you want to be. We make ourselves seem, like, down to fuck.
We make ourselves seem like we’re up for anything. And, like, in a way, all of this internet stuff kind of traps you.
You’ve started an alter ego that has to be maintained and has to be real in a way, so, yeah, I mean it does kind of shape how you end up and how you actually are in real life.”
“You’re going through so many changes that its confusing and you’re trying to figure out how you want to portray yourself…”
The documentary switches between the three women and also occasionally shows interview footage of other individuals and scenes, one of which was the below (screen shot) of three teenage boys:
Laura from North Carolina has become so pre-occupied with her self-identity that the only way she thinks she can feel comfortable and sexy would be to have cosmetic surgery on her vagina. She comments:
“When I first discovered labiaplasty and I told my Mom and my boyfriend of the time, they were both kind of like, “You don’t need to do that, you’re perfect the way you are.” But I feel like I already have this image in my head of what a labia should look like, and there’s not really anything that can be done about it now. Its like a permanent scar in my mind.”
She saves up for labiaplasty and the documentary follows her story through the surgery and how the results effect her life and feelings of self-esteem.
The third character in the documentary is Nicole (32) who started stripping when she was still in high school. She went from house-dancer to competitive-dancer to model and finally became an adult actress. She nostalgically relates how she wishes her life could have taken a different route and how difficult of a journey its has been to disassociate herself from her stage persona Nakita Kash and re-identify with who she is as a woman and an individual, stating,
“I find myself, everyday, learning who Nichole is again.”
Nicole discusses her past and future plans and is the only character in the documentary who [sadly] has a reference point as to why the effects of our current social ideas on gender are so perverse.
She talks about how she plans to raise her own children differently after having experienced the whole shebang and now has a changed perspective…
“My children are not going to be allowed a computer in their own room. It’s going to be in the living room where everyone can see what they’re watching. I can’t, as a former adult film star, tell my children that seeing extreme porn on the internet is not acceptable. Just, those can’t be your first experiences. You have to take it a little bit slower than that.”
The documentary as a whole is chilling. Although not everyone is exposed to the extremes of such a culture, media, advertising etc, there are still strong elements of these motifs, maybe just more diluted, that filter through in different ways to most societies.
After watching the documentary and pondering some of its messages and relativity I read some of the reviews, two of which (shown below) I thought were particularly poignant in their own ways.