Appropriate Behavior

Appropriate Behavior is a film written by, directed by, and starring Desiree Akhavan. The film tells the tale of Shirin, a bisexual Iranian American women in her twenties, finding her way after breaking up with her first girlfriend, Maxine. Trying to bounce back from the broken relationship, Shirin attempts to move on with her life by finding a new job, exploring new sexual experiences, and finally buying a bra. Deciding whether or not to come out to a strict and traditional family contributes to Shirin’s daily struggle of moving on and finding happiness. The film jumps from present moment to flashback every few minutes it seems, but the catch up you play as scenes change put you in the same jumbled mindset Shirin is in. The flashbacks also make you feel as if you are going through the break up with Shirin. The opening scene show the lover’s separation, then as the movie goes along, Shirin remembers the good times she and Maxine had together: the first time they met, Maxine meeting Shirin’s parents, attending a Persian New Years party. And then the bad memories come flooding back: Maxine pressuring Shirin to come out to her parents, Shirin catching Maxine making out with a man at a bar, and actually breaking up. We see that Shirin has finally moved on when she tosses the strap-on dildo (the only item remaining from the relationship) away and can now handle seeing Maxine.

Desiree has been continuously compared to Shirin. They are both bisexual Iranian American women in their twenties/thirties raised by Iranian immigrant parents.  When Desiree wrote this screenplay she had just gone through a horrible break up and had just come out to her parents, two events that Shirin goes through in the film. It is easy to claim that Appropriate Behavior is autobiographical, but as Desiree points out in this interview, there is a difference between Shirin and herself.

“I think Shirin is all of my most absurd impulses explored, a bit like a choose-your-own-adventure. It felt like a heightened, absurd version of everything you would hope to do, but definitely know better than.”

Shirin represents Desiree’s id. Shirin is everything that Desiree would choose to do if it wasn’t for her superego telling her not to. Throughout the movie you can see that Shirin is the girl that does whatever she wants without worrying about the consequences. She asks a woman out right in front of her ex-girlfriend, randomly meets up with men from okcupid, and makes a movie about farts starring kindergarteners. While Desiree claims to be very shy and reserved. Desiree’s film id is Shirin, so Desiree’s film superego is Shirin’s brother, Ali. According to their parents, Ali has done everything right. He became a doctor, found a beautiful Persian doctor girlfriend, and is planning his wedding. In the article mentioned above, Desiree explained that she feels as if she does not belong in the groups she is a part of, yet she is still a part of them. The depiction of Shirin and Ali as the id and superego place Desiree as the place in the middle, the ego.

The sex scenes in Appropriate behavior help tell the story. You see Shirin in a variety of sexual encounters and Desiree’s goal was to show realistic and honest sex in her film. The match cut between Shirin and the okcupid man and Shirin and Maxine directly compares Shirin’s emotions and feelings in each different sexual experience. Shirin is obviously more into sex with Maxine and feels a stronger connection with her. Shirin’s emotional involvement is also visible in the threesome scene. When Shirin is with Marie they feel connected and enjoy each other, but with Ted, Shirin loses her interest and backs off. The sex scenes show Shirin’s desires (id) and her interest in embracing her sexuality. Through these scenes, we also see how Shirin connects with people and the relationships she has with them.

This film is thought-provoking and full of life. The deadpan humor is continuous throughout the entire film. The hilarious one-liners will stick with you. The storyline is relatable and keeps you hanging on to see the outcome of Shirin’s adventures. Desiree Akhavan tells this story beautifully and she is surely an artist to watch out for.

Orgasm Inc.

The female orgasm is a hot topic which spikes many debates until this day. “How does one achieve orgasm?” “Can all women have orgasms?” “Wait, there are different types of orgasm?!” “How can I make my girlfriend/partner/wife orgasm?” There are even all sorts of experts (guides, magazines, sexologists, studies, etc.) dedicated to answering women’s orgasm questions. Figuring how the female orgasm works is a task for all who would like to experience and share that pleasure…..and those who would like to make an economic profit off of it. Face it, SEX SELLS.

Orgasm Inc.is a documentary that delves into the extent big pharmaceutical companies prey on women’s lack of knowledge and curiosity surrounding orgasms. In order for the United States Food and Drug Administration to approve a drug to be sold to citizens, one of the criteria that must be fulfilled by pharmaceutical companies is to ensure the drug is treating an actual disease. The issue with this is that pharmaceutical companies and “experts” get together to define the “diseases”. Since male sexual enhancement drugs were such great sellers, big corporations wanted to target women next.  Although male sexual enhancement drugs deal with different physiological issues than drugs for female sexual issues, these corporations expect to make just as much (or even more) profit from its production. This is how female sexual dysfunction (FSD) came into existence. FSD is defined as “lacking desire for sex, arousal difficulties, inability achieving climax or ejaculation, anxiety about sexual performance, climaxing or ejaculating too rapidly, physical pain during intercourse, and not finding sex pleasurable.” These experts used a study conducted by Edward Laumann and loosely concluded that FSD is a disease and about 43% of women suffer from it.

 Despite pharmaceutical companies basing the definition of FSD on a study, the way in which these corporations twist the findings of the Laumann study make the aforementioned statement false. FSD is an issue but it is far from a disease. There’s nothing organically wrong with women to say they have FSD. The symptoms of FSD consist of common sexual DIFFICULTIES many women face. In the study, Laumann clearly states, “In brief, experience of sexual dysfunction is generally associated with poor quality of life…” If poor quality of life (feelings of physical and emotional satisfaction and low feelings of happiness) is the issue with women and female sexual dysfunction, why are all of these companies creating pills and machines to exploit women? Turning DIFFICULTIES into a DYSFUNCTION creates a medical market worth billions of dollars.

Instead, we need to turn DIFFICULTIES into DISCUSSIONS to create conscious raising for those women curious about their sexuality.

Let us being by defining an orgasm analyzed through Freud’s id, ego, and superego. The id is best known as desire, pleasure or inhibition. The ego is one’s self, their subjectivity. It is also the negotiation between the id and superego. The superego is one’s morals that develop from the norms of society.

One woman says:

[An orgasm is] like a blooming flower. It comes from the roots and grows until it spreads beautiful aroma around the room.

As described by this woman, she seems to have found a comfortable balance between her id and superego to the point where her ego is able to fully enjoy and experience orgasm. She was able to let her id and ego take control and ignore all feeling from her superego resulting in ultimate bliss.

Another woman describes it as,

War. That’s what I think about…is the war in my head.
I’d like to…I hope I do… What’s wrong with me….I can’t….

Based on how this woman describes her orgasms, she is having issues with her id and superego agreeing. It is apparent that she isn’t completely comfortable with the loss of control that is associated with having an orgasm. Her id is the first to surface saying, “I’d like to…”, and then her ego surfaces and says, “I hope I do…”. You see the ego agreeing with the id until the superego stops it all and concludes, “What’s wrong with me…I can’t”. This “war” in her head takes away from the mental bliss that comes along with orgasm, this woman isn’t able to let go of her inhibitions and enjoy all the benefits of orgasm.

Discussions around women’s sexuality difficulties need to focus more on women’s experiences and not on a drug that does treat the real issues. According to Laumann, “Sexual dysfunction is highly associated with negative experiences in sexual relationships and overall well-being.” One out of six women will be a victim of sexual violence in their lifetime (sexual assault), working women do on average three times more housework than men (stress and fatigue), and eighty percent of women have body image issues (self-esteem issues). Most of these women will be diagnosed with female sexual dysfunction because of their issues with sexual arousal even though they have the difficulties because of life stressors. From this analysis, one can simply conclude that female orgasms are closely related to common issues faced by women and the psychological thought processes of women. Plus, who needs pills or a machine when you can think yourself to an orgasm?