Anna Ginsburg’s snappy animated documentary, Private Parts, sidesteps social taboo by presenting frank and funny discussions about sex, with particular focus placed on the female anatomy.
Commissioned by Channel 4’s Random Acts, in partnership with It’s Nice That, Anna Ginsburg felt compelled to address the lack of attention given to carnal gratification when female sexuality is depicted in our society: “Conversations I’ve had with close female and male friends over the last decade have shed light on the continuing struggle that women have to engage with and love their own bodies, and to access the sexual pleasure they are capable of… I’ve been exposed to ‘dick drawings’ since primary school but have rarely, if ever, seen a vagina visualised other than in a clinical medical context. So I thought that talking to men and women about vaginas, masturbation and pubic hair – and then animating them as talking genitals – would be a good place to start in my crusade to open up these issues of sexual inequality and get the conversation started.”
The ‘nuts and bolts’ of sex is a difficult matter to discuss both directly with an intimate partner but also between friends. In many respects the leap between the noticeably non-verbal language of sex and frank discussion is vast. This void is often first bridged by state sanctioned sexual education, however the increasing reach of internet pornography means that children as young as 8 are first learning about sex through media largely tailored to the male gaze.
While it is not Anna’s explicit intention to make a sexual education film, she is clear about her interest in promoting open discussion: “Communication is the key to improving sexual confidence and sexual relationships… This documentary does not give any answers it just presents the sexual struggles, insecurities and successes of a range of people.”
Ginsburg is working in the tradition of Creature Comforts, Aardman’s first Oscar winning short featuring non actors in vox-pop style interviews. Each subject was represented as a personified animal. Crucial to the success of this claymation documentary was the enormous attention paid to the characters facial expressions and gesticulation.
Directing 14 animators, Ginsburg places special focus on the design of each personified genitalia,: “Details like the foreskin, pubic hair and labia are used to give each penis and vagina a specific character, reflecting the specific human voice it embodies.”
Anna interviewed 22 participants for the film: “Usually it was just a case of talking to the person and giving them enough time to relax and adjust to the fact they were being recorded…I found interviewing people in small groups worked well as people would be encouraged by each others’ honesty and often get over-excited and hysterical which led to entertaining interactions.”
Anna was compelled to address these issues as an interview based animated documentary. Such a methodology allowed for authentic voices to be brought into the limelight without pushing the participants into a public forum. This anonymity minimised their feelings of embarrassment and inhibition.
Ginsburg added that this process also puts the audience at ease: “Drawings are abstract enough to bring the feeling of universality to an individual voice… The use of animated characters in place of photographic footage works as a protective barrier which can quash ingrained prejudice and allow empathy to flow unobstructed. It is way easier to pass judgement on a person based on a photograph than based on a drawing – even if it is a drawing of a giggling vagina.”