Suffragette Cinema

a feminist look at films and the media surrounding them

MPAA Chooses Women’s Pain over Pleasure


Charlie Countryman is a film about a young man, Charlie (Shia LeBeouf), who has recently lost his mother and decides to travel to Bucharest, Romania. Almost immediately, Charlie meets a woman, Gabi (Evan Rachel Wood), and quickly finds himself falling in love with her, despite her troubled past. Quickly, Charlie finds himself wrapped up into Gabi’s world and eventually finds himself the target of Nigel (Mads Mikkelson), Gabi’s vicious gangster ex-husband.

There are plenty of reasons to give this complicated film a higher rating advising against children to see it, between the relationship manipulation and violence between Gabi and Nigel, graphic death and fight scenes, and drug use, it is not a child friendly film. However, the films original rating of NC- 17 given by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) was due to a scene where the female lead, Gabi, receives oral sex from Charlie. Director, Fredrik Bond, was able to secure an R rating once taking out this scene.

Image of Charlie and Gabi from AIDY Reviews

Image of Charlie and Gabi from AIDY Reviews

 It is a sign of a broken system when it is deemed more acceptable for scenes to include a character being brutally beaten, suffocated with a plastic bag, and having a gun forced into his mouth, than the act of pleasuring a woman through oral sex; when violence and death is on a lower rank than cunnilingus between two consensual adults. There is something about female pleasure that unnerves society. Majority of films today are directed and made predominantly by males and thus represents experiences through that of a male gaze. This then creates a culture that is used to seeing sex through the perspective of a man and, we are thus not used to seeing a woman being pleasured without a man experiencing the same and when we do, it creates a great deal of discomfort for many.

Actress, Evan Rachel Wood, upon seeing the cut scenes posted on Twitter:



Unfortunately, this is not the first, nor the last incident of blatant sexism within the movie rating system. As Wood stated in her tweets, it is far more likely for a scene to pass through the rating system than for a woman who is experiencing pleasure. For instance, in April 2013, the new Evil Dead adaptation included a graphic tree- rape scene in which Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss) runs from the cabin she is staying in, is held down and choked by possessed tree branches, has her clothing ripped, and a slimy, black, branch is seen slithering up her leg and inside of her as she screams for help. When asked by Bitch Magazine why he decided to keep that scene in for the remake, film director, Fede Alvaraz stated he “needed to keep the well- known tree-rape scene in the film for the fans.” Despite this explicit violence and assault, the film secured a stable R rated movie for language, sexual content, and violence.

*Trigger Warning*

However, when in 2010, film Blue Valentine came out it was originally given a rating of NC-17 for what was deemed a too graphic depiction of an oral sex scene between Cindy (Michelle Williams) and Dean (Ryan Gosling). In response, Ryan Gosling, in an interview with Danielle Henderson, stated:

“You have to question a cinematic culture which preaches artistic expression, and yet would support a decision that is clearly a product of a patriarchy-dominant society, which tries to control how women are depicted on screen. The MPAA is okay supporting scenes that portray women in scenarios of sexual torture and violence for entertainment purposes, but they are trying to force us to look away from a scene that shows a woman in a sexual scenario, which is both complicit and complex. It’s misogynistic in nature to try and control a woman’s sexual presentation of self. I consider this an issue that is bigger than this film.”

The fact that in the movie world it is more acceptable for acts of violence to occur than it is for a female to experience oral sex is deploring and infuriating.The MPAA is furthering rape culture and allowing for violence against women to become normalized through their biased and sexist rating system. And ultimately, this system is furthering a culture that says it is acceptable for women to be beaten, raped, and sexually assaulted.


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