Produced, Directed and Written by Zahra Stardust
Camera by Mister T
Edited by Zahra Stardust and Mister T
Starring Zahra Stardust, Berenice Humphrey, Sophia St Clair, Mister T, Adonis & Anonymous.
Beautiful Monotony reflects the intimate encounters shared between workers and customers within the privacy of a lap dance room. The film positions sex work as work, depicting the repetitive and monotonous aspects of erotic labour. The performer executes the same tricks, variations and combinations over and over in a way that becomes routine, formulaic and familiar to the viewer, whilst doing everyday activities – stretching muscles, taping up boots, changing tampons, eating dinner, texting.
However the footage also reflects diverse customers, who are shy, awkward, poised, raucous and (welcomingly) sleazy. The dancer signs magazines, swaps shoes, compares muscles, shares skills and has arm wrestles – whilst accepting phone numbers, giggling and descending into hot pash-fests. In this sense, the lap dance room is situated as a unique space that fosters intimacies between strangers, and the sex industry positioned as a place in which feminist practices and queer desires manifest.
The film is a piece of endurance art – it was filmed in one cut over a period of three hours, and portrays erotic labour as specifically skilled work. The stamina, flexibility and strength involved are obvious, as well as moments of negotiation, discussion and emotional labour.
The film aims to problematise divides between what is considered performative and authentic, real and fake, pleasure and work – currently the subject of discussions around what constitutes feminist pornography. The dancer’s work is clearly work, but she also derives ‘real’ sexual pleasure from the experience, as evidenced by the final masturbation scene. She exists within a certain time/place/persona, but she is also ‘real’ – up close and personal, customers can her scars, smell her sweat and hear her voice.
In a context in which the sex industry continues to be stigmatised and scapegoated, Beautiful Monotony aims to reflect that the sex industry, for many queers and feminists, workers and clients alike, has been a place of learning, solidarity, belonging, identity – and also a place of refuge.
Film, Live Performance