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Becoming Orgasmic is a fictional story made as a way to help women to have orgasms, based on the book Becoming Orgasmic by Julia R. Heiman, Leslie Lo Piccolo, and Joseph Lopiccolo. Elaine and Mike are a married couple in their twenties. Elaine has never had an orgasm, so she orders the book and talks with Mike about doing the program. This means that they don't have intercourse until she is ready for it again. He is unsure at first, but agrees because it will help their sex life. Elaine goes through the program, examining her feelings about her own body, thinking about her religious upbringing influenced her feelings about sexual pleasure, and then moving on to looking at her own genitals, feeling her own body, using a vibrator, and then exploring masturbation with Mike. Eventually she and Mike have a much more satisfying sex life.
The production here is definitely low budget and the acting is rather stilted. The movie was made in 1993, and some of the clothing and decoration looks dated. When going through the program, Elaine often reads out loud from the book, and sometimes she thinks to herself by talking out loud. Sometimes another woman's voice is used in voice over to give instructions from the book. The writing is often awkward, clearly aiming to set out ideas from the book rather than portray real life. Yet it is not that bad, and it could be quite useful. The film does show how the couple overcomes Mike and Elaine's discomfort with some aspects of going through the program, and their ability to overcome their reservations. We also see Elaine practicing the exercises in the book and gradually achieving the ability to climax, and then learning to have orgasms with Mike. As Elaine, actor Kathy Cobb has a difficult task, combining the acting with sexually explicit self-pleasuring in a self-help format. Colin Mathews as Mike, although his role is more minor, also faces a difficult challenge trying to keep it natural. Both of them do pretty well. There is often soft romantic music in the background, and the whole tone of the DVD is reassuring.
It is tempting to think that the problem of women who can't or don’t have orgasms is something that might have existed in previous centuries but now after the sexual revolution and the ubiquity of sexual information available on the Internet, it can't be a problem now. However, while women and men may feel more comfortable about exploring sexuality than they have in the past, it's likely that there are still plenty of women who are in Elaine's situation. Just as there is still a need for The Vagina Monologues, there's still a role for books and DVDs like Becoming Orgasmic.
The fictionalized drama is directed by Lucy Winer, who has also directed Golden Threads (1999) and Rate It X (1986). Recent newspaper reports say she is in the process of finishing a new documentary about herself and her childhood psychiatric hospitalization, called Kings Park.
© 2007 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.
Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Reviews. His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.
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