“As a young nymph, it was imperative for me to get rid of my virginity,” These are the words of Joe, the protagonist in Lars Von Trier’s oddly controversial Nymphomaniac.
Nymphomaniac: Vol I and II tell the story of Joe, a self proclaimed nympho/sex addict. Far from being the seedy low budget smut, one would expect it to be based on the title, it is in fact a rather honest, eye opening depiction of Life through the eyes of an insatiable woman, and the experiences one goes through.
Nymphomaniac I:Joe’s story begins.
She’s found beaten half to death close to an alley by an elderly man, Seligman.
“Already?” I think. “Shit’s gone bad for her already? Jesus, is this one of those movies that depict the downfall of promiscuous women? Cos I’m not here for that.”
She refuses medical attention and instead goes to his apartment to lay down and have a cup of tea with milk. [No, really.]
Here, her story unfolds.
She is not “just another girl with daddy issues”. On the contrary, Joe has a rather close and warm relationship with her father, they bond as he tells her stories about trees. Her mother, however, is described as “cold” and often, a “cunt” [You’ll come to find, it’s not a dirty word in the movie] . She “discovers” her vagina when she’s 2, and as she grows with a female companion known only as B, they discover the different ways in which the female genitalia can provide and feel pleasure.
“Perhaps the only difference between me and other people is that I’ve always wanted more from the sunset. More spectacular colors when the sun hits the horizon. That’s perhaps my only sin,” she muses. Giving the impression that there is no real shame to the life that she has lived. She is not burdened by society and religion’s view of the “Unholy” woman.
“Are you insisting that children are sinful?” asks Seligman. To which she responds in a childlike voice “Not children, me.” So maybe things aren’t exactly what they seem, for her. It is not shame that cripples her internally, not at all, but she is fully aware of her own misgivings.
She grows and is drawn to her vagina.
Understand that when you really start taking note of your vagina and it’s workings, appearance, feelings, it’s amazing. As a child I personally was intrigued by it. How simply complex it was. Why it was a secret. So Joe’s desire to know more, and experience more regarding it resonated with me.
She loses her virginity in a rather inelegant manner, as most of us have, methinks, but will never admit. A young Joe considers her target sophisticated because he as a Moped and quite bluntly asks him “If I asked you to take my virginity would that be a problem?”
He doesn’t turn her down, and proceeds to penetrate both her vagina and anus [NO LUBE! Christ, the savagery]. Now, I wouldn’t go so far as agreeing with Asa Akira’s sentiments that it’s really practical to just lose them both at the same time since the first time for both is always rather uncomfortable. But It would make sense to lose them.. close together. Not on the same day though, unless if you can take both your holes being sore.
He’s clumsy, swift and really, a terrible lover.
He is Shia LaBeouf, playing Jerome.
“It hurt like hell. I swore I’d never sleep with anyone again. But of course that only lasted a short while.” Oh honey, don’t we know it?
Years later, with her friend B, again, she really cums into her own regarding her sexuality, so to speak. Young, dizzy and eager, they go out dressed provocatively on a quest. To fuck as many men on a train as possible, winner gets a packet of sweets. No, really.
It’s not shocking, really. Not in the least. When you’re young and sexually active, stuck in that weird place where you think you’re an adult yet still have the urge to act young and stupid, things happen.
Everything up to this point had passed without so much as an eyebrow raise from me. But when you watch the movie, you note that Joe looks rather young. Skinny, lanky, simply childlike. She could be a model if she were taller. But it’s still evident that she’s a girl. This however, doesn’t hinder the men she manages to “seduce”. Men twice her age still fuck her, and this is not an issue for them, in the least.
The fact is a girl who thinks she can act like a woman will be treated as such by those who know better.
“I discovered my power as a woman and used it to my advantage without any concern for anyone else.” It’s funny that she would have guilt over this, yet understandable. Society doesn’t condition us to do so and therefore doesn’t condone it. With that in mind, whether we know it or not, many of us internalize society’s perceptions and opinions and use them to gauge whether or not we are “good” people.
This is a recurring theme throughout her telling of her story and the subsequent conversations with Seligman.
Is she a good person?
What IS a good person?
She’s adamant that she’s a horrible being, but he constantly has a counter argument that suggests that possibly, she is too harsh on herself. They represent both sides of the conversation when it usually comes to issues dealing with promiscuity, and life really.
Are you bad? Or simply a person who’s reacted to circumstances as your Spirit saw fit?
B and Joe start a club: “The Little Flock”. A group of sexually emancipated/promiscuous girls who’re seemingly, anti love.
“It was rebellious,” she says. “We were committed to combating the love fixated society”.
But B lets the girls down when she falls in love. It’s a betrayal to the Flock. A betrayal to the inner vixen who vows never to experience true intimacy.
This is the first time that affection, love, attachment taints sex for her.
“You think you know everything about sex.
The secret ingredient to sex, is love.” says B.
“For me love was just lust, with jealousy added,” muses an older Joe.
And this is all before Varsity.
It’s amazing the lessons one learns when they jump headfirst into “maturity” and “adulthood”, blindly. Having personally lost my virginity at 12, I completely related to Joe’s experiences. By the time you get to Varsity, you’re weirdly both naive and relatively mature. I loved how the story was told in a purely matter of fact manner.
She was not a “victim”.
She had no “daddy issues”.
She chose to do as she pleased with her body and faced the consequences and lessons as they played out.
There was no shame to being promiscuous, she simply was.
*This is the first in a series of posts to follow.
**Also, something I noted. B and Joe’s initials together is : BJ. Ha.