“I’m not sure I know how to please a woman.”
“If you can say that, you’re a better man than most.”
How to Please a Woman, written and directed by Renée Webster, is a risqué comedy about women being given a voice in their own lives. In the process it exposes some of the unspoken societal differences between expectations of men and women. It also opens possibilities for better understanding of the meaning of intimacy.
Gina (Sally Phillips) is turning fifty. Her job is being given to a younger, more buxom woman. Her husband is dispassionate and distant. For her birthday, one of her friends hires Tom (Alexander England), a male sex worker who offers two hours of whatever Gina wants. She asks him to clear her house, which he does with his shirt off.
When she finds out Tom’s day job is a moving company she knows is being liquidated, she buys the company thinking she can revitalize it by offering beefcake housecleaning as a side hustle. Women love the idea, but soon they want more than just beefcake. The business evolves into one in which “the cleaning must be effective and there must be a minimum of one orgasm.” Obviously, some training will be needed—in both aspects of the job. Also, it requires Gina to interview the women booking the service in order to understand what each wants and needs. It also makes Gina look at her own unhappiness and come to terms with her own needs and desires.
There is a certainly a reversal of roles in this story. It’s not just that the sex workers (and housecleaners) are men. It is also a recognition that women are sexual beings. Housework in the film represents the oppression that ties women to the home—even if they have another job. To have men do their expected work frees the women to enjoy other parts of their life (here, a sex life).
There is also some insight into the sexual nature of male privilege. When Gina mentions to her workers that at lease one orgasm is required, one of the men asks if his orgasm doesn’t mean at least two. But he’s told his orgasm doesn’t matter. Women have often been given that idea about their own satisfaction.
One scene that struck me as exemplifying the gender differences is when Gina is being questioned in a police station (she doesn’t have a license to operate a sex business), the male police officers have a hard time understanding the concept. But the women officers are filling the room to watch the interview—all with smiles.
It should be pointed out that prostitution is by its nature prone to abuses. This film does not address those dangers. But it does at times allow us to see the objectification that often takes place between people, especially in sexual situations. However, the story tries to move past that objectification to make a point that intimacy requires knowing what another person wants.
It is here that Gina’s discovery of her own needs comes into play. Steve (Eric Thomson), the former owner of the company, isn’t comfortable doing the sex work. He stays around to keep things orderly. Being the same age as Gina, the two seem a natural match, except for their marriages. But they are also both essentially alone. They too will learn that listening and openness is what makes for intimacy and joy.
How to Please a Woman is in select theaters and coming soon to VOD.
Photos courtesy of Brainstorm Media,