Thursday, February 18, 2010

The History of Sexuality: Star Virgin (1979)

I went into Star Virgin (Dir. Howard Ziehm) with fairly low expectations, other than that one of the scenes in this "vignette" film features Dracula, a topic I'm researching at the moment. My expectations were promptly shattered, however, as at around the halfway mark I realised that what I had so far attributed to possible ineptness or budget restrictions were most likely a much more conscious commentary on social constructions of sexuality. By the end of the movie, the film had basically blown my mind, and if I hadn't been so tired, I would have immediately watched it again. I'm sorry, Star Virgin, for ever doubting you.

The film opens with the birth of Star Virgin (Kari Klark) the only human being left in the universe, created in a test tube, and unaware of "a repulsive and now completely obsolete activity called sex," yet eager for knowledge. Mentor, her little robot friend who she perpetually gets in trouble by unintentionally arousing him, tries to pacify her (and himself) by showing her examples of human sexuality.

"Sex," Mentor explains, "began in 1950 at Monroe High," and so begins our first scene: a depiction of the Garden of Eden, 50s style, complete with obnoxious snake and tree of knowledge. The homoerotic components of this scene are tangible, and yet at this stage I attributed these elements to ineptness: throughout the sex, the snake (an old man in a tree) repeatedly butts into the action, giving the male performer instructions in an extremely homosocial way. Once the fruit 'n' sex gets underway (and they really give it their all - it's pretty messy), the male performer sucks on the banana he has inserted into his partner, lending the entire scene a curious homoeroticism that I couldn't deny, yet somehow dismissed as unintentional or misguided. The scene concludes without a money shot, but rather with the "manager" of the "theme park" chastising the couple and throwing them out.

The next scene is intended to show Star Virgin how the devil (the snake in the last scene) takes on many forms in order to arouse humans and have them do dirty things. One of those forms, according to the next scene, is Count Dracula (and his "Igor," Richard Nixon). Played out like a silent movie, a couple are invited into Dracula's castle, the boyfriend is drugged, and the girlfriend is raped by Dracula and Nixon. Once again, the scene has strong homoerotic undertones, especially due to the sexual positions, but also simply because of the homosocial combination of two men engaging in sexual activity through a woman's body (just as in the Garden of Eden).

The scene gets even more complex as the boyfriend wakes up, is outraged, and reaches for the nearest crucifix to fend off Dracula. Interestingly, it is at the moment of confronting Dracula with crucifix that the Count pulls out and jerks off to a money shot, with both men staring each other down. Such a homosocial/homoerotic moment is particularly in-keeping with the themes present in the very-Victorian Dracula by Bram Stoker. Furthermore, the girlfriend who has been "saved" from her "ruin" is in reality furious with her boyfriend: "You asshole, I was about to come!"

The following scene is where I really "got" the movie and the statement it was trying to make. Star Virgin wants to know what "coming" is, much to Mentor's distress. To pacify her, he explains that in the past, "humans attended huge, violent spectacles for the sole purpose of inflaming their sexual emotions." Cut to a good old-fashioned "Deighton Plowboys" football game, with men piling on top of the star quarterback. The commentator reports, "Everybody's going down on him! What a pile up! He must have a thousand pounds 'a beef on top of him!" Ahem.

Once again, women's bodies mediate such blatant displays of homoeroticism, as two of the cheerleaders decide to revive the injured quarterback using their sexual expertise. He is able to go back out and finish the game, thanks to these lovely ladies.

Meanwhile, Mentor is having a lot of trouble keeping himself together, as Star Virgin's horniness is arousing him to dangerous levels - he is at risk of being "disconnected" for violating the rules. Star Virgin is turning him into a "mechanical masturbator," and Mentor has had enough: "All right, you hot little slut, you want something really dirty? Something that will really make your pussy gushy? Check this out!" And check it out I did - probably the most awesome striptease/queef performance I've ever seen. What starts out as a simple demonstration of this wonderful woman's queefing abilities (met with rapturous applause), swiftly moves on to stunts, such as queefing out a lit pack of matches, as seen below.
What follows is a man-heavy scene, depicting a group of guys - about nine or more of them - getting serviced by two strippers. Needless to say, two strippers are not quite enough to go around, and the homoerotic potential of gang-bangs and orgies become anxiously present.

This scene is basically the tipping point for Star Virgin, who is reduced to writhing around in oil, masturbating with a dildo (helpfully provided by Mentor), and subsequently "cumming" an enormous amount of thick, white goo.
The meaning of this is worth considering. At first, I thought this was a commentary on the demand for visual representations of orgasm, combined with the age-old male fantasy that women are sexually the same as men (the idea that women ejaculate just like men do dates back centuries - check out My Secret Life and John Cleland's Fanny Hill). However, the concluding narrative renders things a bit more complex than this. The narrator muses over this final scene, "Is this the end of the human race? ... Or is this big bang the rebirth of mankind? Returning him to his rightful place as Lord of the Universe? Are we all, then, children of the girl known as Star Virgin?" These concluding questions imply a few things: that Star Virgin has inseminated herself autonomously, thereby restarting the human race (satirically represented as men exclusively), which in turn suggests that Adam and Eve are now reduced to just Eve (returning the movie to its starting point) - Eve is mother of all, with no need of Adam if there is the possibility of parthenogenesis.

Ultimately, Star Virgin seems intent on rupturing the pornographic fantasy: it represents human sexuality as a construction based around the anxious displacement and mediation of homosexuality between men, via women's bodies. Seeing as pornography can be seen as a particularly literal fulfillment of such displacement, Star Virgin operates as a curiously self-reflexive pornographic text. Certainly thought-provoking, and a bundle of fun at the same time.


Sarah from Scare Sarah said...

Wow, this sounds really interesting. Like a safe way for men to experience homosexuality? Graffic too. Awesome.

Gore-Gore Girl said...

Yeah, it's pretty awesome, and yeah, it seems like a commentary on the way culture creates safe ways for men to experience homosexuality/homoeroticism - something that is obviously still very taboo unless you are willing to re-label yourself according to societal categories. Things like sports are a way for men to engage in organized man-to-man (not necessarily "sexual" although the film says this outright) communication/intimacy. The violence provides a buffer against "gayness," just like women operate as this buffer in many other cultural porn.

Great little film. I would never have heard of it if it weren't for Dracula.

The Vicar of VHS said...

Wow--I've seen Star Virgin, but never put it under a scholarly microscope. Your examination of it is excellent, and it's exciting to me to find such interesting subversions going on in what most would consider a throwaway, "meaningless" art form. I find the same thing in bad, low-budget horror movies from time to time, and it's always a thrill; I feel kind of silly now that I never thought to look for the same things in porn. Probably I was guilty of the dismissiveness of this genre that bothers me in others about horror from the same era. I won't make the mistake again! Great post.

Gore-Gore Girl said...

Awesome - glad you've seen the movie and enjoyed the interpretation. I might normally have considered some of these details unintentional, but this film has a lot more going on than you might initially expect (in fact, most porn does, just like your splatter flicks - which I also love).

Thanks for stopping by!

Jayson said...

You know, I never figured I'd ever read the phrase "queefing out" in my life. Hahaha...

Great review, I have this on VHS somewhere.

Gore-Gore Girl said...

I didn't think I'd write it either - it's a very American term. Back in the day I would have said "fanny farted out."

Go find that VHS and learn about our culture!

Anonymous said...

Ms. Girl,

No review of the classic Debbie Does Dallas on your porn blog? This is heresy! :^D

Gore-Gore Girl said...

I'm not that big of a fan of Debbie - maybe one day!

I tend to stick to more obscure/weird stuff anyway, but perhaps I should do a "classics" segment and do all the most famous pornos...

Anonymous said...

No, I was just wondering about Debbie Does Dallas.

Weird isn't bad cause it gives you personality :^D

Take care.


JNgaio said...

Wow this sounds like an absolute gem! I really need to get hold of some of the stuff you're reviewing here - it's like a whole wonderful world of porn I'm missing out on!

Gore-Gore Girl said...

Glad you enjoy it - I certainly don't mind sifting through everything to pick out the most interesting stuff (unless it's a real stinker...there are a few of them).

Thanks for stopping by!


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