Orgasms, your clitoris and the other things that you didn't hear about in sex ed class. Patti and Aleks have a no-holds barred conversation with Emma Koenig, author of Moan: Anonymous Essays on Female Orgasm and Jessie Barr, director of the upcoming movie Sophie Jones. They discuss the perils and pleasures of female sexuality, when sex-ed should begin and why the feeling of shame about sex is so hard to shake.
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Transcript: The Big "O"
Aleks Evanguelidi: My sex ed as a child was don't get pregnant or you're not my child anymore.
Patti Quintero: It just takes one thing say, no honey, don't touch yourself there to really create a foundation for shame.
Jessie Barr: Still I can't really wrap my mind around it, how we don't prioritize female pleasure.
Emma Koenig: I gave them this assignment, imagine if you could write an essay entitled How to make me come.
Patti Quintero: Welcome to the very first episode of Under The Hood! I’m Patti.
Aleks Evanguelidi: And I’m Alex, and we are so thrilled to go on this adventure of radical self-discovery with you.
Patti Quintero: In each episode, we’ll be talking to experts, other women, even a few me about all the issues that have fallen under the hood in women’s health.
Aleks Evanguelidi: And most of these issues are things we’ve been left to navigate on our own–no roadmap here. But no longer. The journey starts here, and it starts with empowering each other with the wisdom from those who are brave enough to demand that we take a closer look.
Patti Quintero: And today we’re talking with Emma Koenig and Jessie Barr about female sexuality and pleasure, and we can’t think of a better place to start.
Aleks Evanguelidi: Female pleasure has been left out of the discussion for far too long. Did you know that the clitoris was only researched 20 years ago?
Patti Quintero: It’s crazy. And if we’re not prioritizing our pleasure and our own needs, well that’s going to affect every area of our health, and even our happiness, not just our sex lives.
Aleks Evanguelidi: Emma is the author of an amazing new book called “Moan: Anonymous Essays on Female Orgasm.” And Jessie is directing and producing an upcoming film titled “Sophie Jones.” It’s a coming of age story about a young girl who loses her mother at sixteen, and navigates her grief through discovering her own sexuality and identity.
Patti Quintero: We’re starting things off with a passage from an essay in Emma’s book. We’ve asked Emma to read us one of her favorite essays. The essay is included anonymously as all the essays are, and was written by a woman who came of age in the 1970’s – let’s dive in.
Emma Koenig reading anonymous essay from 60 year old woman: “The first time I heard the word orgasm spoken out loud was at least as exciting as the first time I had one. It was 1971 or '72. The height of the second wave of American feminism. Twenty or so of us were gathered in a community room on the Yale campus, attending the first meeting of an educational series on women's health. The speaker, a nurse stood at a blackboard, diagramming the female reproductive tract in anatomic detail. I'm pretty sure that night was also the first time I heard the word clitoris spoken aloud with equally electrifying impact. Hearing these unspeakable words pronounced in public, at night, in a small gathering of women was thrilling, impossible, a radical entry into an unimaginable place where light might shine on and into our bodies hidden and shameful places and processes."
"After the meeting I sat with my friend in her car in front of my house. We talked till late at night trying to get our heads around the new information. The feeling of discovery and transgression. We couldn't calm down. I didn't want to leave the conversation to go into the house. I didn't want to get into the bed I shared with my long-term boyfriend, who had often agreed with me that something must be wrong with me down there because my orgasms were so infrequent and unpredictable.”
Aleks Evanguelidi: This essay that you're reading, Emma compiled a series of really insightful, thoughtful, powerful expressions of women's orgasm. Why don't you tell us a little about how this was inspired?
Emma Koenig: Totally! So a few years ago I had this uncomfortable sexual experience and it left me thinking a lot about the female orgasm, and communication, and misinformation, and how sometimes the hardest person to talk to about sex is the person you're having sex with. And so I felt like I wanted to get to the truth. I knew this couldn't be a unique experience that I was concerned about these things and so I basically wrote a feminist manifesto e-mail and sent it to two hundred women and a lot of people wrote back right away.
Emma Koenig: And that was a sign that I was on to something because this email was so long and I feel like most of the time you can't even get people to respond to a regular e-mail. So many people responded right away saying yes yes I really want to talk about this. I've been thinking about this. Those women reached out to women who reached out to women, and I gave them this assignment.
Emma Koenig: Imagine if you could write an essay entitled, “How To Make Me Come,” and give it to a past, present, or future sexual partner. What would you want them to know free of judgment or repercussion? And if they didn't want to specifically answer that, they could just write about orgasm in whichever way they wanted to. But basically trying to create this almost encyclopedia of different experiences because I knew...or I had a hypothesis that sex is highly idiosyncratic and maybe more so for women...
Aleks Evanguelidi: Actually define what that is?
Emma Koenig: We don't all have the same definition of what feels good and feels bad and we don't all have the same language to talk about those things, even. So it comes down to we all have different experiences of sex and we all have different ways of communicating it, and wanting to communicate it, or not. And we all have different sexual histories and things that perhaps seem like they have nothing to do with sex that influence our feelings about sex. Your feelings about yourself and your body and your interpersonal relationships and where you are in your life and what happened to you as a kid and what you want to be later in life. All of those things contribute to a psyche which influences your feelings about sex. So I did this as a Web site first. A few years ago which was entitled, “How To Make Me Come” and now it has evolved into this book entitled “Moan.”
Aleks Evanguelidi: So I've been reading this book and then I felt inspired to share an essay or two with my boyfriend, who then, he has a 20 year old son and a 23 year old son. So now I'm reading essays to all these men in my life, and what's fascinating is my boyfriend now wants to buy copies for his sons, because–
Emma Koenig: That's great!
Aleks Evanguelidi: In his opinion to be able to reach into the psyche of a woman and really understand, oh shit, this isn't about me. I think as women we have really shelved our pleasure to be desired, which is a theme that I found throughout the book. But now to reach into this generation, to be given as a gift to young men to recognize the layers of pain and trauma and suppression that women have experienced at all stages of their life, to give them like...this is a crumb. This is a very big crumb, into how to connect with us and help us feel loved and seen.
Patti Quintero: I agree, Emma. And I actually feel really happy that I'm reading this book at the point of life that I'm in. As a mom of two children, one female and one male. My older daughter is a teenager already and my son is about to be a teenager. It's so important to include them in the conversation.
Emma Koenig: Yeah!
Patti Quintero: Because I had the vision of, you know, what happens when your 12 year old or 13 year old son walks in and says maybe to his father or even to his mother but mostly to his father, like hey, I made out with this girl, or hey I made out for the first time or whatever whoever I had that experience with. Most likely they going to get a high five. The girl may walk in and say Hey I just made out behind the house. Is she going to get a high five?
Aleks Evanguelidi: My sex-ed as a child was, don't have sex and get pregnant, or you're not my child anymore. Like it was this very Catholic suppressive like two sentences the end. And so I was panicked about being considered a whore my entire life. And therefore anytime a boy tried to touch me, ahh I'm gonna be a whore. And you know just petrified of that.
Jessie Barr: That's something I feel like Emma, we talked about a lot that I just find so... still I can't really wrap my mind around it, how we don't prioritize female pleasure, in the same way that even in the experience when I was learning about sex, it was always about getting the guy off. It was always about making him feel that he enjoyed the experience that it was pleasurable for him so that the moment of climax was his climax. That in terms of like the sexual narrative was what you were trying to get to. And I believed that, for the majority of my...Even into my 20s my adult sexual experiences it was not until I was with this older man that I dated when I was in my 20s that asked, do you like this? Is this what you like? And I remember I think I burst out crying because I was like no one has ever asked me that. Ever! Is this okay? Is this what you like?
Jessie Barr: And so that was like a revolutionary experience for me and then it made me angry, and I'm still clearly a little angry and emotional about it. To think that why didn't I think that that was important when I was younger or when I was 16, like why did it take me being twenty five to then realize that oh my pleasure is important in this exchange and this interaction and that it is not only important but like what a part of life that if I'm not in relationship to my own pleasure or exploring it or questioning it, like what I'm missing out on in terms of like having a rich varied experience. And yeah a lot of shame I think and confusion and also not knowing my own body because I didn't feel I had permission to explore it because it wasn't valued. So yeah there's a lot there.
Emma Koenig: Yeah! I mean I think that no matter who you are you probably, because there's such limited sex ed and I mean that literally, like sex ed in high school is usually pretty limited. Or maybe it's abstinence only.
Jessie Barr: Right, don't have sex.
Emma Koenig: Yeah. I mean even I feel like even the best case scenario you're only talking about it for three months and maybe you haven't even had sex yet at that point, maybe you already have. But either way there's never a follow up. The way you get sex ed is from the world. And so you get it from entertainment and pornography and religion and the law and what your parents tell you and what your friends tell you. And that often adds up to feeling bad about it in some way.
Emma Koenig: I was really lucky that I was never told sex was wrong. And yet I still just grew up in America. And I felt like it was almost impossible to avoid. My parents were basically like, we just want you to get into college before you have sex. But I didn't. I told my parents before I lost my virginity, I felt like there was a very open conversation. Not that I was givin' em play by plays or anything but just that I knew it was OK. And even recently now that I've been doing this project, a lot of people have asked me, well isn't it kind of weird for your dad. Which I think is so interesting to me.
Jessie Barr: What?!?!
Patti Quintero: Exactly.
Emma Koenig: Because I'm like I'm 30 years old. And so obviously he knows that I'm sexually active. But I was talking to my dad about that when I was home recently. And I think some people had gone up to him too, like do you feel OK, are you comfortable? And I totally understand the inclination to ask such things. But my dad said to me, sex is a fun thing. Why would I prevent my kid from wanting to experience that? And my mom has said similar things over the years of like, you want your kids to have good sex. You want them to have positive sexual experiences. And I think that is unfortunately not the norm. I feel like it's a gift that I had parental permission to be unashamed, but there's plenty of things to fill in the gaps and make you feel bad. The world is still going to like, hurt you a little.
Emma Koenig reads anonymous essay from 60 year old woman: “Soon after, I got actively involved in the Feminist Women’s Health Movement myself. I became a speaker at meetings like the one at Yale. The high point of those presentations was a live demo. I would take off my pants and undies, lie naked on the waist down on a table, insert a transparent plastic speculum into my vagina and show a room full of women I had never met, how to do pelvic self-examination using a mirror. The goal was to empower women to examine their own cervixes, and see what their vaginas looked like. The most startling thing to most women in the audience was that our vaginas and cervixes are bright pink and shiny not dark and dirty looking as they imagined they would be. Thinking about it now, I don't understand or remember why our feminist women's health conversations about health, didn't include much information about orgasms or how to have them access to safe birth control and legal abortion was our focus. And somehow the clitoris and orgasm dropped out of the conversation, at least in my experience. The bright light we shown on predicting and controlling fertility in pregnancy penetrated the vagina, but bypassed the clitoris.”
Patti Quintero: You know that imprint of healthy sexuality goes a long way clearly, but it seems to me Emma even just the fact that you did have that foundation is what allowed you to do this book, is what kind of gave you that deep intuition of like wait, this is important to do.
Emma Koenig: Totally. I mean I think if I had felt like my parents would not be OK, I mean you know, I still think about my parents think. Um, I think I knew that they wouldn't have a problem with me exploring something like this. And that does say a lot about them. But it gave me permission as an artist to explore this too, to just feel like it's safe. I mean it's so exciting to hear that story about these young guys, because I think that is what's so exciting to me about the future. When people ask me like so OK, you've identified there's a sort of problem with communication with sexuality and how we see this. And what do we do? And I think a huge part of it is starting really young and starting to talk–
Aleks Evanguelidi: What age? What age do we start?
Emma Koenig: I think you should...I mean I'm not a parent I'll say that and I have like no, I have no formal training in childhood education or anything. But I think what I've found from looking at the way some other countries do it, is that even at 5 year olds, there's still a path you can start laying down. I believe it's like in the Netherlands that they start this kind of sexual education training at five where it's about love and it's about OK, if you want to hug somebody you ask him if it's okay to hug them. That's how you show them that you love them. And it happens in this very gradual way, so you're not immediately inundating kids with more information than they can handle. But if you never tell a little boy not to touch a little girl when she doesn't want to be touched. It's like by the time they're 15 it's almost a little late I think.
Patti Quintero: A hundred percent agree with that. And it makes me think of the work that you do, Alex, and the work that I do, because we're birth workers and so, I mean birth is the template and the philosophy for life in my opinion because that's your entry into this world, a series of contractions and expansions, right?
Emma Koenig: Yeah!
Patti Quintero: So then, what's been really revealing to me and it was just recently, was at a birth that I was at. And it was long and treacherous, meaning difficult, like birth is, beautiful at the same time.
But there was a very specific point in that birth just before she was ready to start pushing, where I kind of let her be, and no more touching and no more guidance and just be there as a presence and what I was able to witness was this innate connection to the power of being in our sensuality and her ability to intuitively start to touch herself and stimulate her breasts and her nipples and touch her clitoris.
And it was so magnificent to see this completely uninhibited expression of what she knew in her brain and her like flesh and blood what was going to help make her baby come down and how she could do this with without the help of anybody which is I think such a passion for us because we're trying to say hey, it's all inside of us. So when we talk about the imprints of this and where does it start, I really do believe that is where it starts.
Because if we're given that ability to feel that, then you can say to your children from day one when you're nursing them or when you're feeding them or when you see your son, like at his tiny age playing with his penis, and even young girls and when you see a little girl sometimes sitting on the ground and she's moving her hips back and forth and there's you know it feels good. And often times it just takes one thing a say, no honey don't touch yourself fair or don't do that in public to really create foundation for shame. So what can you share about that?
Emma Koenig: Yeah I mean I think it was fascinating to see that so many of the essays I received referenced really early memories of orgasm – five, six years old, maybe even younger and not even necessarily viewing it as sexual. Just oh wow my body can do this thing that feels good. And I think that's a great lens through which to view orgasm. It's not like oh, it's this crazy mysterious out there thing which is so detached from everything else about me it's like, oh right my body can feel good in this way. And when we make sex something that is so forbidden or private, I mean obviously it's private to an extent. You know you can't have sex in public every day (laughs)
Patti Quintero: Not everyday.
Emma Koenig: I think that... even saying that makes me realize like I think that is where it gets confusing for people because we can acknowledge, OK, ninety-nine percent of the time this is an event that happens behind closed doors, or happens just with certain people or just by yourself. And so then that becomes synonymous with a certain kind of privacy, like we don't talk about that. But just because something is private, just because an activity is private doesn't mean like the things it makes you feel should be private.
Emma Koenig: I guess to get back to like the little girl's experience. I think it's just really amazing that we can tap into these things about ourselves when we're so young and that it's so normal, just that I saw so many people saying that even you know their essays I receive that aren't in the book, but is that there is a large group of people which talked about being kids and we don't think of kids as sexual for good reason. But I think you bring up a good point, that it's so easy to just say one thing to a kid. I mean we've all had things said to us and we're a little that we've never forgotten that have informed us or made us afraid of certain things and can be traced down to that time that adult yelled at me about that thing.
Emma Koenig: And so when it comes to sex, it is important to be very gentle in the way that you talk about it at any age. We're still kids on the inside! (laughs) So like we still need gentleness in how we talk about now, even if a partner were to say to an adult woman, oh don't do that, it would still be traumatizing in some way. So I think it's at every age of our life no matter how much experience we have or or where we are in our growing process, we have to just approach sex with a lot of tenderness.
Aleks Evanguelidi: One of the things that I recognized in reading these essays was the archetypes, just the different archetypes from the one who's been abused, you hear a lot of sexual trauma in this book. You hear a lot about church shaming, again when we talk about the suppression, these are people who were grown inside of a philosophy, who grew up in that kind of you do and you don't, this forbidden fruit and if you do enjoy it, then to hell you will go. Right, or you will suffer as a result of experiencing pleasure.
Aleks Evanguelidi: And then as you kind of read through some of the women who've had bad marriages or failed relationships, they're really processing so much of what held them back and then you hear this voice of really almost like the phoenix rising and this reclaiming that happens. So I recognize that of course many of these voices lived in me and still do. And that's another reason why I think this book is so powerful as you get your own freedom if you try on these characters. But I loved listening to the older women like the women in their 60s, you know like Patti and I are our in our forties right. Like we're kind of tipping our toe in the menopausal pools maybe?
Patti Quintero: Tipping. (laughter) Tipping.
Aleks Evanguelidi: But there’s a voice of longing and really like self compassion that I hear, but gosh I'm going to find one of these quotes in here.
Patti Quintero: One of the quotes that I love and I think it's almost applicable to every single essay, is when it says “all physical parts of sex can be switched up and adjusted for success. But if I'm not mentally in it I'm not going to orgasm.” Maybe this speaks to me because I teach yoga and meditation which is all about mindful living and because I think as I learned to feel more comfortable in my body and actually breathe during these experiences not be like I'm replicating something I saw on TV, because this is how it's supposed to look, or I'm making the sounds that I heard someone told me I should make, you know, instead when I was actually breathing into myself and letting that open up centers of arousal, that's the place of empowerment is if you're present with where you are and what you want and and you can actually ask for that, or yes I do want to be with this man. Yes I do actually want to be with this woman, then arousal takes a whole different shape and form.
Emma Koenig: Yes. Yeah I think.
Patti Quintero: Emma's nodding her head, if you could see her.
Emma Koenig: I mean that's amazing. I think that you're right, so many of the essays have this thing in common which is the wise soul within us that has been through all these experiences and analyzed it and has come to a conclusion for right now which may or may not change in the future. But just this feeling of now I know there's more to it than some of the negative experiences I had.
And I know that part of it is feeling like I can trust the other person and be mentally present and that the mental emotional part is such a big part of it. I imagine if I did the same project with men which I thought a lot about, I mean kind of the joke has been it would be like a sentence.
Aleks Evanguelidi: Oh, no… (laughter)
Emma Koenig: But it makes me think that the male orgasmic experience is just so much more clear cut – when it starts, when it ends, and what will probably lead to it. And we don't have that luxury as women to just have a really clear visual understanding of what's happening.
So we have to do a lot of work by ourselves over the years, to really be able to fill in the blanks that I think for men, for most men I would imagine it's easier in that department. But I want to go to your quote...
Aleks Evanguelidi: Okay. So this is not from an older woman. This was from a younger woman: "I'm a survivor of many forms of sexual assault. That's a truth that I've been working with more and more and I'm proud as shit to say I'm healing all the parts of me that were hurt, shamed and hiding and I am now loving all the parts of me. And I've been doing whatever else I felt I needed to do to move forward and not have those wounds define me."
Aleks Evanguelidi: And you know, we can go back to the birth portal that we spend so much time in because as a advocate for women's empowerment and certainly someone who walks women across this threshold of becoming mothers, and there there's an agenda that I have, that they feel empowered and with the lingering traumas that are not resolved, it becomes very difficult. And what we often see in the labor process is these wounds will reveal themselves in labor itself, if they have not been cared for, if they've not been worked through. So I don't think that we are going to see the end of sexual trauma in our generation, as long as it exists, we know that it's going to come up in birth. And I think maybe it even is one of the things that has women afraid of even getting pregnant is the fact that we have these unresolved traumas.
Aleks Evanguelidi: However when I've worked with women who have done some of the therapies, whatever they are, really like talked about it and worked through it to the best of their capacity, we can invite the trauma into the experience of labor and delivery and it not be the elephant in the room. It's now a part of you and it's becomes the thing that it's like the overcoming. It's it's that's the survivor mentality is so powerful. It's a reclaiming and sometimes it's even more powerful than if the trauma was never there. You know it's certainly not something I would wish upon anybody male or female to experience that kind of power being taken away. However it's when you claim it again for yourself which I can I really feel like when women are putting the pen to the paper and sharing their experiences, there is a healing that's taking place. And it gives them a sense of - I am no longer haunted by this. I can say it and in the process of doing that, and then you publishing these other women are reading this going OK. I can overcome this too. Maybe those aren't my words on the paper, but it happened to me.
Emma Koenig: Yeah.
Aleks Evanguelidi: The other side of the victim is so powerful. It's just like we cry together you know, only this is all of our this is all of our pain and this is all of our victory on the other end of it.
Emma Koenig reads anonymous essay from 60 year old woman: “It's interesting that we in the second wave thought that if we learned about our bodies that would be enough to change our experience of sex. Maybe that's why so many of us gave up on the frustrating experiences we had with men and tried sex with women instead. Where it was so much easier for many of us to explore clitorises and orgasms. Or maybe it was because teaching men about our bodies was so challenging and frustrating both mentally and physically. Even a decade later in the wild world of sexually liberated 80's Manhattan, I still hadn't figured out how to teach the man I dated about orgasm, mine or any other woman's. The relief the women's health movement had brought me from my shame and shyness didn't transfer to being with men. There was the man I had sex with on his lunch hour who got up and went right back to work the minute he had an orgasm, oblivious to my frustrated and turned on state. On our next date I made sure to be the first to orgasm and then immediately jumped out of bed, much to his shock and fury. I took pleasure in explaining that he had done the same thing to me, but it was so routine for him that he didn't even remember doing it. Raw disturbing ways to teach men that my orgasms mattered just as much as theirs. Maybe that should be a slogan. Women's orgasms matter.”
Patti Quintero: It makes me think a lot of a very important movement which is the Me Too movement, that's now a part of our lives. And how that's propelling us to actually stand up and speak our truth and be able to kind of inspire one another with our stories in a more powerful way. So Jessie, I'd love for you to tell us about the project that you're working on and what inspired you to do this project and who's involved in it with you?
Jessie Barr: The project is a feature film, a scripted narrative, it's a coming of age story about a 16 year old girl and she is grappling with life after her mother's death. And it's a really strange synchronistic events that sort of brought this into my life. But my cousin who has the same name as me. Her name is Jessica Barr. She's 20 years younger. Ten years younger. She's 20. She lost her mother to cancer when she was 16, which is strangely the exact same age I was when I lost my dad to the disease. And she wrote a feature film about that experience and her life.
Jessie Barr: And she sent it to me and I read it and was blown away that she could write with such honesty and such truth. And it's such a powerful thing, and yet it was so unsentimental the way it was written. It was really quite remarkable. So she asked me to direct it and I, at first had to sort of put a pause on it, and I helped her with the writing and the story and the arcs. But I think why I was afraid to maybe really dive in is because it would require that I would start to touch that trauma again, about my father, sorry it's so on the surface. But actually I'm done apologizing about it.
It's like that's really been the beauty of this film is that she's so has inspired me to talk about him and all the people that the past six months you know and we’re shooting at this summer in Portland Oregon. We have a soft lock on our dates. So I'm like in the midst of it directing and producing with my two producing partners Lindsay Friedman and Joe Dinnen, they're phenomenal.
But yeah, it's been an incredible invitation to speak with people about their loss and what I think was particularly interesting to me about the story is not just the shared loss but how the character in it deals with her grief. Which was very different than how I dealt with it. She dealt with it through intimacy. The only way she could feel anything, she was so numb from the experience, was to be sexually intimate, was breath and warmth and touch. And it's so fascinating to me, I think partly because I was so, I felt maybe not so sexually empowered at that age, and this character is so bold and telling the boy like you can kiss me now, and you know, why's your dick so cold, and like these things that I was like oh my God, oh wow like like oh my gosh this is so bold.
Jessie Barr: And yet at the same time she's trying on as we all do at that age, these masks and these like personas about saying what you want and being bold she doesn't really know what she wants yet, because she's only a child. It's so rich I feel like for storytelling because it's everything's a first: first kiss, first blowjob, first time having sex, your first love. So that is just so exciting compelling to me and I feel like this narrative really does contribute to the coming of age narrative also because the story is coming from– she wrote it, started writing it when she was 16. It comes from that authentic voice.
Jessie Barr: And in this time of the Me Too movement I know Jess was inspired to really share her story. It may not be about a sexually traumatic experience although there is that in the film, that's not what it's entirely about but that is a moment of the experience. But she felt empowered to share it I think because women were speaking their truth. Were writing and sharing these intimate parts of themselves in a very public way. And I think that's so liberating. And I feel like I want to see more female characters too, like this lead character Sophie Jones. There is a lot of drawing from my life, Jess's life and you know the people we've spoken with and it's becoming real as we're making it.
Jessie Barr: But yeah it's very important for me to support a character like this girl, who is very bold and unapologetic but also still very much seeking what her own pleasure is to her. And how do you feel something when you're also trying to feel nothing. Because the context of your sexual exploration is within this grieving process. So there's just so much to explore.
Aleks Evanguelidi: That's beautiful.
Jessie Barr: So yeah I guess that's a little or a lot, that's a lot.
Patti Quintero: I love that you said the difference in age. It's about a decade. And even just with that decade in between the two of you, this feeling of you being a little more like ooh and her being able to kind of express it and I wonder...less than wonder I do believe that there is such a generational shift taking place and that the younger generations are seeing, like we did start with the Me Too movement, and books like your book and characters like the one in the film that you're creating, and even just in more popular films like Lady Bird or call me by my name (Call Me By Your Name) which my daughter who's a teenager loved those movies. Like for us it was John Hughes, my generation, Gen-X and now it's these characters that are really multidimensional and discovering and exploring and accepting their feelings and the beauty of expressing grief through intimacy and I love that you brought the word intimacy up. Because we have been deprived of intimacy or we have been told no, don't be intimate and really because that's where the power lies, is in intimacy. So, what a beautiful contrast of grief and intimacy kind of like playing, it's almost like one in the same.
Jessie Barr: Just thinking about the idea of the archetypes you were touching on, that are so reflected in the essays that are in Emma's book. And thinking about the archetypes of women that I saw in film growing up, and I still I'm just always trying to wrap my mind around how your sexuality is a currency. And your youth is a currency and you're only of value–at least that's a lot of the languaging that I just remember it from culture and from especially the overall business of show business.
If you're a woman that is what you have to offer, you have to play this game in order to be seen and have permission to speak. You have to have sexual currency and you have to be youthful, because then then you'll be noticed. Of course this film, she is young, there's sex in it or sexual experiences. But what I think is so important is that it doesn't play by any of those stereotypical rules about attractiveness or your worthiness based on your sexual or physical appearance or currency that you have or may not have. For young girls and people also creating their own work, I really am excited about - because so much of that storytelling comes from a male perspective and the people in power. And even just the process of making this film like fundraising, like finding financing for a movie has been really eye opening. Like where are the people who can greenlight, who has the money? And there are a lot of wealthy women, yes but a lot of production companies and a lot of organizations, a lot of these structures that sort of have that greenlighting ability are run by a lot of white old cis men. And so yeah, it's sort of like diversifying the people who have that gatekeeper power and the greenlighting power but also ignoring those people.
Jessie Barr: And like I've found you know of course the grants and people in my community that I've tried to speak with about you know supporting the film and the message of the film but that's been interesting just because that's something I didn't know about was this whole idea of like when you have to raise money, this idea of worthiness and asking for your worth and the idea of like money and value and being a young woman. Yeah it's just it's been really interesting that this has brought up all those sort of questions.
Aleks Evanguelidi: Well listen, we live in Los Angeles and so there is certainly something to be said about the amount of plastic surgery that's happening in this town, and the shaming that happens to women in Hollywood especially as they're starting to age, that somehow their value, their talents are no longer represented, or are no longer of use. You know it's difficult. It's difficult that we see - I love the word sexual currency or like it's like oh you know it's deserves an episode all on its own.
Emma Koenig: I think it was interesting what you were saying about how all the gatekeepers are one type of person who is probably not a woman. I think there's something sort of chilling when you look back at your life and you think about all of the media you've taken in over the years and how it's largely been controlled by straight white men. And then it's just like ahh, just because if you're like oh most of my favorite movies and TV shows were all controlled from that perspective. Not to say that's a singular perspective that has no variation, but I think all of that informs how we feel about ourselves and other people.
So if all the things you see when you're growing up are women, and you're either like the really hot sexy woman who's like barely has a personality or just kind of like the nerdy woman or the hard worker and those are all different people. There's very little fully embodied someone who's like sexy and smart and flawed and funny all these things.
Jessie Barr: And may not have a perfectly symmetrical face right. Or body.
Emma Koenig: I feel like when you see that stuff it feels radical, because it's just you’re so whenever you see someone, I mean no offense to models you’re great. But it's like whenever you see a woman's body that isn't a model, which is probably like if we broke it down probably 90 percent of the imagery we see is this ectomorph body then when you see someone who doesn't look like that you're like oh my God. Like I feel like it wasn't until this age of my life where I kind of started to see people who didn't have totally flat stomachs. And it's like even that's still a small thing in some ways but I'm like oh all my life I've always kind of felt insecure about that, because I never would see someone who didn't have a flat stomach on television and that's crazy. And that's just like a slice of like the many ripples that come from representation.
Jessie Barr: And I think the power of representation, I mean to me, it's also so exciting because then you're all able to contribute to the tapestry of like life and storytelling and how limiting and boring is it to just sort of keep recycling the same things from the same types of people and I do hope we get to that point where we can of course be like, It doesn't matter that it's like a woman director telling, but that it's just like it's just that you're a good storyteller you're great at that job. But we can't deny that at this point in time like we have to shine a light on this, because of the lack of equality and the lack of opportunity and just respect.
Emma Koenig: And it's like some of my favorite artists are straight white cis men. But I think, no disrespect, but I think it's just we have had such limited exposure.
Patti Quintero: Exactly.
Emma Koenig: To anyone else. Of course there's the right.
Patti Quintero: It's the inventory. I think that if we were looking at the inventory of art is you know clearly going to be the majority is going to be you know this particular demographic and I think like when you're talking about it it's almost like I have this visual. I see everything the visuals but probably because I've watched so many movies in my life. But the idea of pulling the curtain on the wizard, you know you're watching this whole move in who is creating all of this. I mean they take that big curtain and pull it away, who's there?
Emma Koenig: Right.
Patti Quintero: So we get to pull that curtain now and we get to not only you know can we sit here and complain, but we also get to check our own programming because I really do feel like you have to be constructive.
Yes we have a right to be furious and be empowered you know full of passion but how can we check our own programming, how can we do our own cleansing to see like you just said, wow, I drank the kool aid at a young age and even like when you were talking about you can have this in your parental guidance, but then you go out and you're subjected to Vogue and to you know everything else that you're going to be consuming. So it is kind of giving you the baton and saying guess what you get to actually really think about this in a different way.
Jessie Barr: I think that's what's so beautiful about the book Emma, is that you reading all these varied experiences and then that feeling of not being alone. And I hope that also applies to storytelling too, that the more varied stories we see from various perspectives we just feel less alone.
Aleks Evanguelidi: For more information on Emma, you can follow her on Instagram and Twitter @emjuko and you can find her book Moan: Anonymous Essays on Female Orgasm at Hachette Book Group, or by following the link in our show notes.
Patti Quintero: Jessie is in the midst of filming Sophie Jones just as we speak, you can find more information about her at jessiebarr.com and sophie jones movie You can also follow @sophiejonesmovie on Facebook and Instagram and @sophiejmovie on Twitter.
Aleks Evanguelidi: And, if you’re interesting in submitting your own anonymous essay to Emma you can email your own to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many thanks to our wonderful executive producer Chelsea Levy for making this episode come together, to Paulina Velasco for helping us record, and to our fabulous producer Jennie Josephson for her editing magic.