By Jossalyn Holbert
James Joyce’s final chapter of Ulysses — a wonderfully difficult piece of fiction from the early twentieth century — features the wave-like storytelling, the continual up and down, that Joyce thought mirrored the April Mullen female orgasm. It is told in the thoughts and feelings of Molly Bloom, finishing this eighteen-chapter saga as a woman’s story.
“Below Her Mouth” is also a woman’s story. For, by, and about women, this film also feels the ebb and flow of the woman’s orgasm, placed in specific moments throughout its contemplative chapters. This ebb and flow gives “Below Her Mouth” bounce, up and down movement. This is ultimately the story of raw, sensual sex between women who love women.
That is, raw, sensual sex in every means, location, and position possible. Strap-ons, fingering, masturbating, scissoring, nipple play, all make an appearance in April Mullen’s Canadian film. “Below Her Mouth” can get graphic to American eyes, but the dramatic tension between Dallas (Erika Linder) and Jasmine (Natalie Krill) also validates exactly what two women can accomplish together. This isn’t just a story of lust, but one of happy, accepting love.
The film begins with sex between Dallas and her soon-to-be-ex, Joslyn (Mayko Nguyen). They have been doing this a long time (having sex, cohabitating), but Dallas is still a serial player at heart. “I’ve got no stamina for sexual intimacy,” Dallas tells Jasmine later on.
Perhaps Dallas has yet to find the right person, because she has immediate chemistry with the engaged Jasmine at a girl party. The sexual tension they feel is palpable, and the kiss they share brings flooding back all of the repressed feelings Jasmine had growing up. Later, she tells Dallas about a summer fling with a girl named Denise, connecting Jasmine’s feelings of “weird” to what she has always known to be true about herself; she likes girls.
The next day, Jasmine sees Dallas working on a roof, prompting her to masturbate in the bathtub. Little portrayed in mainstream society, the rush of water on the vagina can be a quick and erotic way to achieve ultimate and delirious pleasure. And, that is exactly what Jasmine does. Her orgasm reaches to Dallas, not to her fiancé, Rile (Sebastian Pigott).
“Coming out is ongoing, and it is not always fun or exciting. Sometimes it is frightening, sometimes mundane, but it is almost always intimate.”
In fact, this scene parallels another where Dallas and Jasmine have sex in the same tub. The scene begins with them sitting in Dallas’ car, dreading the inevitability of Jasmine having to leave Dallas to return to Rile. Jasmine playfully slaps Dallas across the face, and they go back and forth, back and forth, hitting each other in a strikingly romantic and erotic way. They move to the stairs, then the tub.
Perhaps just as intimate, though, are the moments when Dallas and Jasmine talk, although their lips do not move in the slightest. Jasmine tells the story of Denise, and Dallas identifies her coming out as an ongoing process. “Last week I came out to the forklift operator at the hardware store.”
She is right.
Coming out is ongoing, and it is not always fun or exciting. Sometimes it is frightening, sometimes mundane, but it is almost always intimate. Just as intimate as sex, perhaps.
Unfortunately for Dallas and Jasmine, Rile discovers that Jasmine has been cheating on him. While Jasmine works to rectify her mistake, Dallas returns to her old player self. She visits the lovely and enticing M.J. (Andrea Stefancikova) at a strip club. Dallas has M.J.’s personal number, giving an important hint to her sexually-charged past. She ends up, drunk and defeated, at Joslyn’s house.
“Below Her Mouth” is also a woman’s story. For, by, and about women, this film also feels the ebb and flow of the woman’s orgasm, placed in specific moments throughout its contemplative chapters.”
I mention this series of events because Dallas had to end up back with Joslyn for a night. She had to realize that she cannot love Joslyn the way Joslyn loves her. “I’m toxic for you,” she tells Joslyn. The only woman Dallas can possibly love is Jasmine.
That point leads me to the happy ending that is somewhat unique to stories about women who love women. A more-common ending involves — of all things — death of one of the women, in accordance with the long-standing ‘kill your gays’ trope. Jasmine realizes that she cannot love Rile the way she loves Dallas, just the way that Dallas did with Joslyn. Jasmine finally accepts her sexuality, telling her coworkers about Dallas before meeting up with her for coffee. “What did you tell them?” Dallas asks. “Everything.”