November 21, 2011

Pregnant with Desire: A Review of Madison Young’s Documentary {featured film}

(This post was originally published at Good Vibrations Magazine.)

Madison: Taking Back MILF
Feminist pornographer and queer-kink activist Madison Young has received a lot of media attention lately for her breast feeding advocacy and for incorporating motherhood into her sex-positive performance art. There has been less attention given to Madison's pregnancy activism. A few months before she herself got pregnant, Madison directed the documentary Pregnant with Desire. Featuring many of her friends, it shows, as explains Madison, "how couples can stay connected while they're pregnant and how sexualities change and how bodies and people's feelings about their own bodies change, how they feel like beautiful sexual beings during their pregnancy -- but without exploiting or fetishizing them."

Pregnant with Desire includes four episodes. Each begins with an interview before we see the women have their choice of sex. Featuring queer, kinky sex-positive sex workers and performers, I didn't immediately connect with the characters, and the sex scenes don't reflect the kind of attention to production quality and re-visioned content that to me sets feminist and progressive sex films apart from mainstream porn. Nevertheless, the film is a valuable contribution to the much-silenced topic of pregnant women's sex lives and the erotic sensations experienced by the changing bodies of pregnant women. Offering advice and inspiration, the film encourages women and their partners to enjoy and take pride in women's pregnant bodies. And as one pregnant woman points out, her level of sexual confidence inspires her body confidence too, an asset as birth approaches and she can better articulate to her midwife what she wants, and asking questions without embarrassment. And as another woman points out, what's good for mom, is good for baby.

The interviews are particularly helpful. Addressing common issues such as morning sickness, tender breasts, and sexual dreams as blood levels and hormones surge, the women share their experiences with changing sensitivities and what feels and has felt good to them as their bodies grow and transform.

Tricksie and Sadie
Tricksie, for instance, talks about how even during the first four months of pregnancy when she was feeling really sick, sex would actually make her feel better and give her relief because of all the hormones happening and the chemicals released during orgasm and arousal. Miss Muffy, on the other hand, notes that even if in general she's had more sexual dreams and felt more sexual during her pregnancy, there have been times when the level of "uncomfortableness will override the sexiness." How she can feel horny, "but don't touch me!"

Heavily pregnant Ambrosia talks about how belly dancing helps her feel sensual and erotic, in tune with her body and in love with herself; an earth goddess. And both Tricksie and Miss Muffy share advice on what positions feel best as their bodies grow, which is also helpful.

Though the couple featured in the final episode does talk about their feelings about pregnancy (as the epitome of womanhood: feminine, vibrant and alive), it doesn't quite fit the theme of the film. Instead the episode focuses on how a lactating woman (Penny) and her husband (Eric) incorporates lactation in their sex. In Mongolia, a country which takes its endorsement of breastfeeding seriously, a woman will often express a bowlful for her husband as a treat, or leave some in the fridge for anyone to help themselves.

Eric and Penny
At first grossed out when her husband sucked a little milk out of her breast before letting it spill from his mouth into hers, the couple now shares and enjoys this act as a very intimate way of being close while it also feel kind of "dirty," but in a good way, adds Penny. Penny also talks about how it excites her to see her breasts begin to lactate when she's turned on since it is a very visual sign that she is in fact aroused, something getting wet doesn't quite do for her unlike what an erection will do for a man.

Syd and Miss Muffy
The sex featured on Pregnant with Desire includes a lot of vulva stimulation using fingers, mouths, dildos and vibrators. And at least to a certain extent, the sex reflects what the women have said about how they as pregnant like their sex to be. But as another reviewer commented, "while this film has hot parts, and I enjoyed it overall, it's more 'porn featuring pregnant women' than 'pregnant women in pregnancy-focused porn.'" The sound quality is not great and even if they feature queer sex, the sex numbers at times just feel too stereotypically porny with the come-hither-looks, high heels in bed, cum shots, and exaggerated moans. Even the nature and sequencing of the sex acts and positions feel typical to me, no matter how queer (a cum shot is still a cum shot, even if it's a female ejaculating, standing over a woman lying flat on her back).


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