La Fantasia di Beba

A Sexual Fantasy

— By Lidia Ravviso

As a filmmaker and cinema geek, I am a huge fan of Italian erotic movies from the 70s and 80s, and I am especially passionate about Tinto Brass’ cinematographic work. I love the voluptuous atmosphere of the stories set in an Italian landscape that is extremely difficult to find nowadays.

Even though his work is controversial from a feminist perspective, I have always been fascinated by Brass' female characters, such as the protagonist of 'Paprika' which is the story of a sex worker in postbellum Italy. But there is something about movies like this that disturbs me. I don't like the way they portray sex work. In 'Paprika', the protagonist chooses to become a sex worker to help her fiancé with his business, even though she eventually finds 'redemption' in true love. I find that empowering aspect of sex work very erotic, and I think many other people do, too,

But I think it is problematic that these directors depicted sex workers as damaged goods, or bored rich girls who enter this work out of boredom, trying to escape their life or because of some untreated childhood trauma. The women I see behind all the stereotypes and stigmas in movies like this are not bored. Their life is not trivial, and their desire to transgress has the taste of cool ice cream on a summers day.

This is why when I read 'La fantasia di Beba' written by Agnese Trocchi, I found the perfect story and character to challenge the way these old, white, male directors of the 70s and 80s portrayed sex workers. Beba is not a broken little thing just waiting to be saved. She consciously taps into all of their stupid stereotypes. She wears the red shoes, the short skirt and the lipstick but she swaps the roles and subverts the expected narrative of a sex worker who is always either stigmatised or victimised for her choices. She is aware of dealing with a potentially dangerous experience, but she turns it around in her favour.