Monthly Archives: September 2008

Behind the scenes

Maria Beatty

“Action!” Maria shouts and an eleven-strong team of crew and performers click into gear. I watch in awe how Maria Beatty keeps calm, patient and in control on the set of her latest film “Bandaged”. She is on a tight 12 day schedule, shooting her ambitious feature in Potsdam near Berlin. In the last decade Maria has directed and produced over 20 artistic lesbian fetish films. This is her second feature film – her attempt to bring an artistic presentation of lesbian sexuality onto the big screen. She plans to submit her feature to the “Berlinale” and I wish her luck. She is such an accomplished filmmaker and deserves to be seen by a big audience.

It is great to see the boundaries between porn and art to blur more and more. “Districted”, “Nine Songs” and “Shortbus” were all films that featured explicit sex but because the BBFC classified them as “art” rather than “pornography” they became accessible to the huge audience that an indie film labelled “hard-core porn” could never reach. When a film is awarded an 18 rather than R18, (restricted and therefore only available in licensed sex shops) classification, doors and minds open.

I was filming Maria on set for my documentary “Women on Top” and really appreciate to be allowed onto such an intimate set on day two of the production. Being a true independent, Maria is fiercely protective of her content and style. To me this is the guarantee that this film will be amazing – no compromises to fit the mainstream. Her vision of a Lesbian liaison developing inside a hospital is a unique take on the nurse-patient theme. I wish with all my heart that the film will also become a commercial success because as all independent filmmakers know: you can’t eat awards.

More info on Maria and her work:

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The Big “M”

Petra and Belle

The vibe was amazing. For two hours we waited and watched the lighting change around two giant ‘M’s that were erected around the stage. Every time the spotlight hit the giant clock, the crowd cheered. We were here to see Madonna rise and shine in the giant open air Olympic Stadium in Berlin.

My dear friend and cover girl of “Feeling it!”, Belle, is about half my age so she is a new Madonna fan, whereas I have been a fan for two decades now. I still have the original “Sex” book that Madonna brought out ahead of her time – a picture book of erotica for women. I like strong women who do their own thing and allow themselves to change and grow. My favourite part of the show was when Madonna sang “She is not me” a song about copycats and began dismantling representations of her former self on stage. No more “like a virgin” or “material girl” Madonna. Only the Madonna of now, highly energetic skipping in work-out gear or soft and feminine, a gipsy heroine, exists in the presence.

Big M

To me there is nothing worse than being labelled as one type of person and expected to be the same forever. No reinventions possible. It is stifling. The press always sees the fact that I was active in the anti-porn movement in the eighties as a contradiction to producing twenty years later porn form a female perspective. In reality what I do these day has organically from what I did in the eighties. Offering positive alternatives, rather than just being against something is what I want to do right now. Knowing what exactly you want comes with maturity. I know more what I want and feel more empowered to achieve it in my forties, than when I was in my twenties. But then we are expected to calm down with age and disappear into the background – but it’s not going to happen. More and more “middle-aged” women make sure that they are heard and seen.

This is what has annoyed me most about the press Madonna received in the last few months: 90% was negative, suggesting that having just turned 50, she should “retire gracefully”. She was called an “obscene cradle snatcher” just for dancing with Justin Timberlake. Sexual charisma and chemistry for women over 40 seems to be a big taboo and Madonna is trying to break it by dancing, singing and not giving a shit. Good for her.

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The Gate to Life

Whilst in Berlin I had the chance to finally meet face to face Grit Scholz, the photographer and publisher of the Book “Das Tor ins Leben” (The Gate to Life). Grit has photographed 65 Vaginas of all shapes and sizes for her ground-breaking book and I interviewed her for my Forum article on vaginas. She was motivated to publish her book because:

“There is a lack of knowledge what vaginas really look like. Women feel often uneasy about their vaginas because there are insecurities, shame and fear related to our sex.”

Grit believes that cultural conditioning from Christianity to porn has influenced our relationship to the vagina in a negative way:

“The vagina became taboo in Christianity when we were told that a virgin conceived and gave birth to Christ. This myth reflects the believe that sex is dirty. This is an ancient view about the female sex and sexuality but most of us are subconsciously still influenced by it. The topic “vagina” is still taboo these days – nobody wants to touch it. Pornography is in stark contrast to our religious conditioning a pressure valve that many people use to let off steam and satisfy their physical needs. To me most pornography is disconnected from our souls as it does not show true intimacy with other human beings. And this is why pornography is acceptable to most people – it is far removed from our souls and therefore also social conditioning. Pornography also tends to feature on kind of vagina: hairless and small almost girl-like, rather than the vagina of a grown woman. What I would like to achieve with my work is to reunite body, mind and soul when we approach our sexuality and genitals.”

Petra and Grit

I met Grit at a networking event where 45 women from all over Germany came together. We met in an upmarket sauna/wellness palace in Berlin. I was hoping we would all casually hang out in bathrobes or even share the odd relaxing sauna session as an ice breaker. But it did not happen. Most women were power-dressed and nervous jokes were cracked about enforced nudity etc. So when Grit explained what she was doing and passed her eye opening book around there were shocked gasps to be heard all around.

Even or especially in this day and age where sexual image are all around us and we are supposed to be so liberated key taboos remain. Grit wants to liberate and empower women:

“There have been attempts to bring light into taboo areas, especially during the 68 revolution when women gathered in group meetings to look at each other’s vaginas and explore their own with a mirror. Liberation takes time but now the time has come as more and more women are ready to have a good look at their sex and improve their view on their vagina. If the context of a topic is improved we are able to change our emotions and point of view rather than repeating outdated patterns for further generations.”

More info on Grit and the book here:

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