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Film / Female Perversions

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For a woman to explore and express the fullness of her sexuality, her emotional and intellectual capacities, would entail who knows what risks and who knows what truly revolutionary alteration of the social conditions that demean and constrain her.
Or she may go on trying to fit herself into the order of the world and thereby consign herself forever to the bondage of some stereotype of normal femininity — a perversion, if you will.
Louise J. Kaplan, film's opening text.

Contrary to what one might expect from the title of this 1996 movie, Female Perversions is a slow-paced psychological drama about emotional insecurity and similar issues. The movie is prologued by the words of the page quote above, but very little of the story is about sexuality in a narrow sense of the word.

The main characters are two sisters at the edge of professional success. The attorney Eve has a shot at becoming a Judge, and her sister is about to get her PhD.

All that stands in their way is patriarchal oppression, but not in the form of misogynist enemies trying to bring them down. No, the oppression comes from within, in the form of self-hatred and all the ways in which one can ruin one's own life. Or at least that's one way of looking at it: The story is complex and subtle, there are many ways in which it can be interpreted.


This movie provides examples of:

  • Bondage Is Bad: Used as a symbol, not of Eve being a bad person but of her having a lot of baggage.
  • Brains and Bondage: Eve is a very smart person and it's implied that this is why she uses kinky fantasies to handle her insecurities.
  • Entitled to Have You: Debated in the film, a debate played for horror: A particularly creepy woman is holding a little lecture about how a woman "must" be an empty canvas for men to project their desire on. Her niece's (slightly delayed) response is to start cutting herself — carving the word "love" into her own flesh and explaining that she meant to write "hate". Maybe she didn't know the difference anymore?
  • Fan Disservice: An acquaintance of Eve is trying a bit too hard to be Stripperiffic while holding a very creepy lecture about what it means to be a woman.
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  • Heteronormative Crusader: Played for symbolism. Eve, a bisexual sadomasochist, gets attacked (twice!) by a very judgemental man. However, this man comes out of nowhere — in all likelihood, he is not to be taken as a literal person, but rather as a manifestation of her anxiety.
  • Internalized Categorism: Eve struggles with this throughout the entire movie. As the page quote indicates, the whole thing is about the devastating effects of having grown up as a girl/woman, therefore having been pushed into a destructive gender role. Not restricted to gender alone, it's also about trying to come to terms with one's power and sexuality.
  • Jaywalking Will Ruin Your Life: The main character's sister gets arrested for shoplifting. She can't pay the fine/bail, so she is kept in jail. Because of this, she risks missing getting her doctorate, thus tarnishing her academic career.
  • Paralyzing Fear of Sexuality: The teenage girl is portrayed as a quite natural counter-reaction to her desperately oversexualized aunt's creepiness.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The previously mentioned attacks, among other things.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Played with, deconstructed, played for symbolism, and such. Not the kind of story where this kind of trope is played straight.