‘Magic Mike XXL’ Is the Most Sex Positive Film of the Year
Too often in film, sex is portrayed through the eyes of a man. It’s their pleasure the film is concerned with, aided by leering shots of naked women. This encourages murky social ideas about who sex is really for, and instead of considering both parties equally, movies tend to reinforce the retrograde thinking that women don’t actually enjoy sex and that we merely exist for the pleasure of men. Enter Magic Mike XXL — a film that is ultimately preoccupied with the sexual satisfaction of women, even though no one actually has sex in it (onscreen, anyway).
A sequel needs to raise the stakes, and Magic Mike XXL is certainly bigger, bolder, and more joyful than its predecessor, which examined the American dream through the lens of a hard-working, ambitious stripper named Mike. Magic Mike XXL isn’t just Mike’s story, nor is it actually the story of his male cohorts. This is a movie about servicing women in an industry that only succeeds by catering to them. Like any industry, the customer is king — or in this case, queen.
In last year’s La Bare documentary, directed by Magic Mike star Joe Manganiello, one of the key elements explored was the satisfaction of women, the idea that these male entertainers are more than just eye candy — their job is to make these women feel good about themselves, to show them that they are special and deserve to feel pleasure. There is a distinct difference between female entertainers and male entertainers, and that difference is showmanship. Male entertainers create elaborate dance routines with props and “stories” to cater to the fantasy. The thinking is that men can experience pleasure on a very visual level, but women need something more; they need the fantasy and the emotions that come with it. They want to be adored.
Magic Mike XXL is a film that adores women through and through, and that idea is cemented by the group’s visit to an exclusive private club run by Jada Pinkett Smith’s Rome, a woman who takes the concept of “for her pleasure” and amps it up to 11. She addresses her patrons as queens and makes their satisfaction her primary goal. There is an intimacy to her club, which features male dancers entertaining guests in various rooms. There are no stages where women are forced to look up to the men as if worshiping an unattainable ideal. At Rome’s club, men and women are on the same level.
It’s that gender equality that makes Magic Mike XXL not just a feminist film, but a truly joyful feminist experience. Director Gregory Jacobs and his cast have pulled off something exceptional, crafting a film that services both women and men alike and engenders positive attitudes about sex and sexuality — without ever showing anyone engaged in the act itself.
Aside from the more comedic tone and the lack of any actual conflict (the latter a miracle in itself), what distinguishes Magic Mike XXL from its predecessor is the lack of legitimate sex. The sequel sees the appeal in focusing on why these men do what they do — it’s not just to make money or support themselves on the way to some better, brighter future. Their job isn’t to take their clothes off and dance. Their job is to make sure their patrons are happy, that they feel positive about themselves, and that they walk away from that one special evening with their friends feeling as special as they should.
Magic Mike XXL is the opposite of almost every mainstream movie in which sex occurs onscreen, in which we view the bodies of women as if we are entitled to their naked form, and in which men are rarely — if ever — nude. To be frank, we’re lucky to see a man’s butt on screen, which is why Ben Affleck’s brief flash of penis in Gone Girl was such a big deal, even if many critics pooh-poohed our appreciation as juvenile and reductive.
By stripping the men down and having them lavish their mental and physical attention on women of all shapes and colors and ages, we are shown — not told — that every woman deserves pleasure. The most joyful scenes in Magic Mike XXL involve the male entertainers giving attention to individual women, incorporating them in their seductive skits and dedicating their entire performance to making sure the woman feels special, happy, and adored. The scenes in which men creatively faux-hump women show us how fun and exciting sex can be, that it doesn’t need to be used a plot device to further the development of a relationship or to service a man’s journey, and that it’s just as much for women as it is for men.
There really is no other way to describe Magic Mike XXL than joyful. It is an inclusive celebration of women, sex, and pleasure, an endless delight rained down upon its audience like the veritable flood of dollar bills showered on its male stars. Magic Mike XXL is not just a film about men creating a space for women to have the most enjoyable and positive experience possible — it’s a film concerned with ensuring its audience feels the same way.