Is it possible to make pornography that is female-friendly or indeed ‘feminist’? In 2016, Milly Thomas addressed this conundrum in her play Clickbait and the dissonance between intentions and results. Screw Productions, meanwhile, have taken a different tact, but kept the focus firmly on relationships. Written by Grace Carroll and Bryony Cole, WET looks at two friends’ response to ‘standard’ porn and how they would rectify it.
Holly (Tamsin Newlands) hits upon the novel idea of making porn film to help raise some money – the idea being the revenue it theoretically would generate would finance the sorts of films she really wants to make. She does, however, hit a stumbling block. Even though she’s comfortable with the notion of pornography per se, as some within the feminist intelligentsia have put forward an argument for its use as an expression of female sexuality, how does one do this without repeating the objectifying tropes of the male gaze?
Another potential ‘snag’ for Holly is that Sophie (Claire Heverin) – her friend and scriptwriter – has broken up with her boyfriend and not 100% sure what she or other women would want with regards to porn. A potential one-night-stand for Sophie looks promising, but on the advice of Holly, decides not to see him again as he is ‘nice’ and ‘polite’ – not the sort of person one can supposedly extricate oneself from with no emotional complications.
A night with Holly leads to Sophie bumping into ‘Mr Nice’ again, leading her to re-examine the ‘advice’ she followed versus how she really feels. As for Holly, the night is just as auspicious as she meets Elsie (Bryony Cole) who in her own way makes her rethink what she really wants…
As a comedy, WET‘s unabashed scrutiny of porn’s tropes will have the audience laughing. It is, however, on the subject of what women really do want and do, versus what they ‘should’ where the pertinent issues surface. The ‘argument’ in the play about the rejection of ‘nice’ men for ‘bad boys’ exemplifies this. However, in Holly we have an ‘unreliable’ character who says and ‘thinks’ that her world-view is correct, (seeing as she’s so ‘experienced’) but in reality, not so self-aware. This affects her choice of porn, which is impersonal and ‘masculine’. Yet for Sophie, a happy monogomous relationship is complete itself, so her ‘ideal’ porn scenario is to have ‘love’ in the ‘lovemaking’.
While ‘female satisfaction’ (a.k.a. orgasms) are addressed, in Holly’s case, her search for them has led to many partners, but never loving relationships. By contrasting the idiosyncrasies of Sophie and Holly with the nature of pornography, we see that emotional maturity and true intimacy plays its part in expectations and hopes for the future.
© Michael Davis 2018
WET runs at Theatre N16 until 3rd May.