Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sport/Fucking: Stiff Competition (1984)

I came across Stiff Competition (Dir. Paul Vatelli) thanks to Mr. Feelbert's review over at Pornonomy - many thanks to ya! - but also read up on it in Robert H. Rimmer's The X-Rated Videotape Guide (1993) in which, amongst other things, he has this to say: "Most women will absolutely detest this degradation of the female." I was quite puzzled by this comment, and suddenly apprehensive about the film; after finishing the film, Rimmer's comment really irritated me.

Stiff Competition basically puts sucking cock up there with boxing, wrestling, and other tournament-style sports, with women at the center of the attention rather than men. Tammy the Tongue (Gina Carrera) is a talented new-comer to the sport, much to the disconcertion of the veterans - in particular, retired champion Cynthia Silkthroat (Cindee Summers), Patti Cakes (Patti Wright), and Linda Lonestar (Bridgette Monet). The film plays out a little like Bloodsport or Kickboxer, with the characters being established in the first half, leading up to a climactic series of battles, via a few double-crosses and twists & turns along the way. These films are, of course, similar in another way: utilization (and exploitation?) of gendered bodies for sport.

I sensed immediately that the film was not going to disgust me, simply through the great script, production values, and attention to character - particularly the female characters. While each competitor has a male trainer, it's clear from the scene between Cynthia Silkthroat and her manager, Jake the Snake (John Leslie), that Cynthia calls the shots. They're getting down and dirty when the phone rings - Cynthia breaks off their love making to answer an important call from fellow competitor The Mouth (Susan Hart) (above). Apparently there's a new kid on the block, Tammy, and she's pretty darn good. The network between these women is therefore privileged over male sexual pleasure, and the conversation that ensues between Jake and Cynthia confirms that Cynthia will decide whether to compete or not, regardless of Jake's desires. The sex scene that follows is egalitarian and communicative, not to mention passionate and sweet.

Tammy's sexual pleasure is also privileged by the film, with a scene between Tammy and Kitten (Kitten Natividad of Russ Meyer fame). Kitten is a reporter who comes to interview the, by now, very famous Tammy, and literally cannot contain herself. A prolonged bout of oral loving ensues, with Tammy's pleasure positioned front and center. Considering this doesn't happen very often in porn, it's pretty remarkable that it happens in a movie about a Superbowl Suck-Off, and further demonstrates the way this film navigates sexuality.

While female pleasure gets some acknowledgment, the Rimmer comment might lead you to believe that the rest of the film is occupied with male sexual pleasure via the theme of competitive blow-jobs, but in reality it doesn't feel this way. The dicks being sucked are those of nameless, practically faceless stunt-dicks, with the women doing the work taking up the majority of screen space. Any anticipated male sexual pleasure is subordinated in the competitive scenes to the athleticism and glory of the women, with the competitors often paying more attention to each other than the person they're pleasuring. This kind of woman-to-woman communication, as seen above, strikes me as a form of homosociality - a social trend typically associated with men who bond and communicate with other men via the bodies of women (e.g. fucking someone's girlfriend as a way of getting back at them, or more simply frat boys hanging out watching porn). It's interesting, then, that Rimmer fails to mention the stunt-dicks as being objectified or degraded, even though they are reduced to sexual body parts (to paraphrase anti-porn rhetoric) and are peripheral to the main event.

Ultimately, Rimmer's conviction that women will be disgusted with such "degradation," to my mind, would necessarily mean Rimmer also believes men will be disgusted by the degradation of male bodies in all manner of sports films in which lingering, slo-mo shots of brutal violence and flowing blood are de rigeur. I think the perceived "degradation of the female" is rooted in deep-held cultural attitudes toward women and sexuality and men and physicality/violence, one of which is a source of shame, and the other of which is a source of glory and pride. Likewise, men participating in sexual acts are not often seen as "degraded." To me, Stiff Competition elevates a female equivalent of such gendered physicality/sexuality to the same height as masculine pursuits, with captivating, funny and thought-provoking results. I was genuinely excited by the final showdown, rooting for Tammy and getting totally caught up in the event as though it were a "real" sporting match. This doesn't mean that we should conclude that creating a Superbowl Suck-Off is some kind of feminist act, but rather that we should ask questions about the different ways we treat men and women with regard to physicality, sexuality, and violence.


Roger Feelbert said...

I was really excited to see that you checked out Stiff Competition, but was even more pleased and impressed with your write up.

I'm familiar with Rimmer and his books in name only, but seeing the quote you pulled from his synopsis leaves me thinking he's effed in the head.

Gore-Gore Girl said...


Yeah, he does say a lot of dumb shit regarding what women will and won't like, but then a lot of people say stupid shit about that (women like "blank" and men like "blank"). The book is an admirable project, and it's invaluable especially when obscure porno flicks (and even not-so-obscure) don't get even one review or plot description on imdb. As with everything, even the annoying parts of the book are providing me with a way of arguing with and against stuff, so I'm happy about that.

obibong said...

Stiff Competition was one of the first movies I saw, back in an honest-to-god big-screen porn theater, bigger than anything at a multiplex today. Quite an experience for a young lad. Bridget Monet was something.

Rimmer's problem with the movie reminds me of something that always bugs me in a certain one-sided strain of anti-porn argument. I remember coming across it in college when we had a showing of "The Opening of Misty Beethoven" followed by a debate between Gloria Leonard and a Phyllis Schlafly-type (I can't remember her name). It was pretty entertaining, and it brought out that odd alliance between the religious and the less open-minded side of campus feminism.

Part of the anti-porn speaker's presentation was about the metaphorical "decapitation" of women in pornography, depictions of bodies without faces, and how that was a deliberate dehumanization of women. In the Q&A, a student announced that of course she had no objection to the sex, she was only condemning the movie because it depicted a flight attendant servicing a passenger as if it were part of her job, and this was also dehumanizing.

Possibly a reasonable point as far as it goes, but both of them chose not to notice a large plot element of the movie, which was Misty practicing her oral skills on butlers -- faceless butlers who were depicted from the chest down, serving as anonymous learning devices as if it were part of their job.

The point being that for so many people, the conclusion predates the evidence. If you're the kind of person who comes in believing that porn degrades women, you'll see it in the movie regardless of what it actually depicts. They don't take their own positions seriously enough to examine them thoroughly.

Gore-Gore Girl said...

Thanks for your feedback and anecdote - it's great to hear about a different era's attitudes. Not much has changed I think, at least not on a broad scale. I agree - people see what they want to see, and it's often gendered. Men, by virtue of being male, cannot be sexually objectified, it seems. I understand why this belief is held, and the underlying issues regarding women as objects of sexual violence etc are vitally important to remember, but at times seem to obscure a) female agency, and b) male victimization/exploitation.

Thanks for stopping by!

JoseViruete said...

A great review for a movie I GOT to see! I love this kind of movies. But it need a Survivor song!

As for obibong's message... It's more usual for the man to be the faceless, one, yep, specially in gonzo.

Great blog, btw.

Monster Scholar said...

I was blown away (no pun intended) by your analysis. I appreciate your willingness to challenge the status qou with Rimmer and it paid of big time.

Anonymous said...

I have known the star of "Stiff Competition" Gina Carrera (billed as Jenna Carrera) for a while. Odd thing, in a twist of life imitating porn, the movie is about a girl who rises to fame and fortune as a last minute substitute in a suck-off contest; in reality, Gina Carrera herself was a last minute substitute in this film. The main character was supposed to be played by Little Oral Annie, who cancelled at the last minute. It was Gina's first 'starring" role but you will notice she is not even on the box cover. These scripted porns of the 80s shot on films had actual opening nights at a theater, where she walked a red carpet, evening gown, the whole nine yards. She's still fairly active and has a yahoo group where she posts occasionally -
Still a very attractive MILF type.

Nii said...

Well now I'm happy because I was born in 1984 which makes me feel blessed!

Even more happy to discover your blog, however. Awesome.

Gore-Gore Girl said...

Thanks for stopping by, y'all!

Anon: that's really interesting. Cool that you know Gina too!

Nii: glad to have you aboard!

Scholar: always a pleasure.

Jose: you're right. I was hoping for some Rocky music. No such luck. Awesome film though, all the same.


MeganH said...

Hi GGG! I remember coming across this in a video store once and immediately picking up the box because of the picture of the hot-bodied dude on the cover; it was VERY rare for straight movies of that time to have a guy on the cover, let alone a hot one. I ended up not renting the movie because the b.j. competition angle just didn't do it for me, but I did love the cover!:)

Gore-Gore Girl said...

Aw, Megan, it's great! You shoulda watched it! Funny thing is, the packaging is actually for the sequel. No matter though -- the guys in the original (especially John Leslie) are great. Well worth checking out for a fun evening in. Thanks for stopping by!


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