For a woman to explore and express the fullness of her sexuality, her emotional and intellectual capacities, would entail who knows what risks and who knows what truly revolutionary alteration of the social conditions that demean and constrain her.
Or she may go on trying to fit herself into the order of the world and thereby consign herself forever to the bondage of some stereotype of normal femininity - a perversion, if you will.
—Louise J. Kaplan, this film's opening text.
Contrary to what one might expect from the title of this 1996 movie, Female Perversions is a slow-paced psychological drama about emotional insecurity and similar issues. The movie is prologued by the words of the page quote above, but very little of the story is about sexuality in a narrow sense of the word.
The main characters are two sisters at the edge of professional success. The attorney Eve has a shot at becoming a Judge, and her sister is about to get her PhD.
All that stands in their way is patriarchal oppression, but not in the form of misogynist enemies trying to bring them down. No, the oppression comes from within, in the form of self-hatred and all the ways in which one can ruin one's own life. Or at least that's one way of looking at it: The story is complex and subtle, there are many ways in which it can be interpreted.
- Bi the Way: Or maybe that doctor she met was simply so cute that Even the Girls Want Her.
- Bondage Is Bad: Used as a symbol, not of Eve being a bad person but of her having a lot of baggage.
- Brains and Bondage: We already know that she's a very smart person, and it's implied that this is why she use kinky fantasies to handle her insecurities.
- Completely Missing the Point: This movie was marketed as an "erotic thriller". Meh. Being about sexuality doesn't make a movie erotic. And Thriller? Sure! The movie does indeed feature a crime... Shoplifting!
- Contemptible Cover: The cover of the video cassette was designed to make people believe it was was an "erotic thriller" so full of Fetish Fuel it bordered on pure porno. Surely many who rented it under that premise got very disappointed.
- Fan Disservice: An acquaintance of Eve's trying a bit too hard to be Stripperiffic while holding a very creepy lecture about what it means to be a woman.
- Girls Need Role Models: There is one teenage girl in the story, and her place in the plot seem to be to show how the adult women pass their insecurities and their self-hatred along to the next generation.
- Heteronormative Crusader: Played for symbolism - Eve, a bisexual sadomasochist, gets attacked (twice!) by a very judgemental man. However, this man comes out of nowhere - in all likelyhood he is not to be taken as a literal person, but rather as a manifestation of her anxiety.
- Internalized Categorism: Eve struggle with this trough the entire movie. As the page quote indicates, the whole thing is about the devastating effects of having grown up as a girl/woman, having been pushed into an destructive gender role. Not restricted to gender alone, it's also about trying to come to terms with one's power and sexuality.
- Jaywalking Will Ruin Your Life: The main character's sister gets arrested for shoplifting. She can't pay the fine/bail, so she is kept in jail. Because of this, she risks missing getting her doctorate, tarnishing her academic career.
- Paralyzing Fear of Sexuality: The teenage girl is portrayed as a quite natural counter-reaction to her desperately oversexualized aunt's creepiness.
- Rule of Symbolism: The previously mentioned attacks, among other things.
- Tomato in the Mirror: Played with, deconstructed, played for symbolism, and such. Not the kind of story where this kind of trope is played straight.