We live in an age of relative female emancipation—the days of the 1950s housewife, or the 1910s non-voter, are long gone. However, our culture still wears a tight leash. Sex, America’s favorite three-letter word, takes its toll regardless of how far we’ve come. “Sexy Baby” is Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus’s attempt to take stock of how hyper-sexualization affects females all across the age spectrum, a patchwork of honest documentary footage that sheds light on how deeply the issue runs.
Take 12-year old Winnie, for example. She’s your average, tech-savvy NYC teenage girl. She acts and sings, loves Lady Gaga, and, of course, spends a good majority of her time on Facebook. It is also her obsession with the website that fuels her conflicts with her parents, who at a few points in the documentary go so egregiously far as to, dare I say it, force her to deactivate her account. One such instance followed shortly after she posted a video of her little sister Myrtle singing and dancing along to the profanity-filled hip-hop hit “Teach Me How To Dougie”; another deactivation occurred after she posted suggestive photos of herself from a late-night “photo shoot” with her friend. Suffering from withdrawal, Winnie’s dramatic one-liners come into play, with grim realizations such as, “Facebook is literally 30 percent of my life and it shouldn’t be.” At times, she can be even more melodramatic: “Facebook is a beautiful place and I can’t have it.”
Through Bauer and Gradus’s candid lens, we see Winnie’s attempt to find the middle ground between utilizing the website for whatever a 12-year-old can use a social networking site for, and actually being sucked into the second reality of an online life. Though she is young, she is also precocious. In moments during which she speaks directly to the camera, we see a level of self-reflection beyond her years. Facebook Winnie is not necessarily all that is Winnie, she realizes, but her outward presentation of herself inevitably shapes the person she is offline.
Juxtaposed with the scandalous antics of Winnie are the stories of 22-year-old Laura and 32-year old Nichole. Laura’s story is somewhat of a somber one—she is fully convinced that a labiaplasty, a plastic surgery that will trim her lady-parts into a “designer vagina,” will undoubtedly better her life. We see her at every stage along the way, from the first medical appointment to her post-op recovery. Unfortunately, it is difficult not to find fault with her plight and wonder how altering her “roast beef curtains,” a term used to describe the appearance of the vagina, will ever really change the quality of her existence. Regardless, there are sections of the documentary that are incredibly poignant, especially those shedding light on the tender moments between her and her mother, who accompanies her through all parts of the procedure.
The story of Nichole, however, is a different kind of rebirth story. Attempting to escape her past as renowned porn star Nakita Kash, she removed herself from the industry and began teaching pole-dancing to women instead. The movie shows her in her most average moments—doing housework or roller-blading with her dog—and some of her most beautiful ones as well. We get an inside glimpse at the love she has for her husband, likening their moments of intimacy to pure lovemaking as opposed to the “sport [expletive deleted]ing” of the adult film industry. Finally, we follow her attempts to conceive a child with her husband. In this, the documentary finds its happiest ending. Nichole sheds her old pornographic skin; escaping the sex that society has pushed on her, and reveals herself as an overjoyed new mother.