When I walked out of the theatre after seeing Magic Mike XXL, I felt like the sexiest woman in the world. It was a strange experience, because I couldn’t remember the last time I left a movie feeling better about myself. Typically, I’ve had to enjoy a movie in spite of it being problematic. As a woman and a feminist, going to the movies can sometimes feel like walking into a battlefield not knowing if I’m about to step on a sexist landmine. Even the seemingly innocuous movies can unsuspectingly explode a problematic bomb right onto me. (Ahem, why’s Sadness gotta be fat, Inside Out?)
It’s sadly too rare that a movie actually understands the complexity of female desire—and shows so much diversity in that desire, as well. Sexuality—and the need for pleasure—did not come in one body, one skin color, or one specific look. What Magic Mike XXL did was mirror back to me the real world, where women of any size, color, or shape have sexual needs and sexual appetites. It was a long, hot exhale when I finally saw a group of men on a screen understand that, respond to it and have great respect for pleasing all women, not just that one specific kind of woman who receives pleasure on the big screen.
It’s difficult to admit that, in many ways, Magic Mike XXL gave me permission to own my desire. To feel entitled to explore and fulfill it.
I had no idea I was looking for that permission or that there was still a sense of shame around my own hunger. But, to see men who truly understood the complexity of female longing and to not pander or condescend it, but to cherish it— I felt changed, understood, heard. This is not a feeling I usually have when I watch a movie.
Women were revered — from Jada Pinkett Smith demanding women call themselves “Queens” to Matt Bomer serenading and seeing a woman that has felt invisible for most of her marriage.
Because, that’s the thing, isn’t it? To be seen.
Not seen in the objectifying way. That’s being gazed upon, projected out. But, to be seen. To be respected and heard and validated. It seems a small enough ask. Yet, I knew how profound it was that Magic Mike XXL actually got it right. Because I was so surprised, so incredibly affected to see men understand the difference between objectifying women and cherishing women.
The difference between being truly seen and simply being a fantasy projection.
Magic Mike XXL got women right. I felt seen. And, it often seems like the world is run on the fumes of male desire, that everything orbits the world of male pleasure. Yet, in the world of Magic Mike, female pleasure is the sun, bright and vivid and hot as hell. Finally.