TV documentary / Austria 2019
HD 16:9 Stereo, 52 min.

Written & directed by Gabi Schweiger
Photography: Eva Testor
Editors: Max Kliewer, Niki Mossböck, Samira Ghahremani
Sound: Eva Hausberger
Assistant editor: Georg Vogler
Colour Grading: Lukas Lerperger
Production manager: Catrin Freundlinger
Assistant camera: Judith Benedikt, Christian Flatzek
Soundtrack: Marcus Nigsch

Produced by
NGF – Nikolaus Geyrhalter Filmproduktion GmbH
together with ORF, arte

Supported by:
Fernsehfonds Austria
Filmfonds Wien


FRANZ GRABNER AWARD 2020 as "Best TV Documentary" at the Diagonale 2021

On air

Last broadcast on Aug 18, 2019 by arte


There was really the idea of ​​the woman as a machine cracking up very easily, and that's why we have to protect her … of course only certain women, not the working-class women, they do not need to be protected, they like to do the hard work. If I had lived as a woman in this society, I would have been so annoyed and exhausted and so frustrated and under-challenged, I would have fainted too.

Around 1800, Saartje Baartman was brought to Europe. She was a Khoisan woman from South Africa, and she was actually exhibited in this kind of "ethnic expositions", and people looked primarily at her vulva and her butt. The special feature of her vulva actually were the long inner labia. And no kidding, I did find in current brochures of clinics that offer labioplasty, plastic surgery, drawings of Saartje Baartmans vulva, labelled with the beautiful medical term "Hottentot apron", and then somehow it is said that it is not beautiful, it is the wrong vulva and it has to be operated. It's fascinating that we have now a "standard" of what a real vulva should look like.
Mithu M. Sanyal (cultural scientist)

In all Islamic societies, from Morocco to Indonesia, we find that sexuality is extremely taboo and controlled. And what does that do to people? The impact on people is that the whole of everyday life is sexualized. It is made sure that men and women do not come together, because it is believed that whenever they come together, the devil is in on it and it immediately comes to sexual acts. And that leads to a constant control in order to separate the sexes. Thus we have an extreme gender apartheid and also a permanent policing of sexuality. And of course this makes people unfree.
Seyran Ateş (lawyer, author, Imam)

Sexuality, the supposedly most natural thing in the world, has developed historically. Therefore, it is always an expression of what society currently allows or does not allow us to do. Obviously, there is a deep-rooted fear of female sexuality. Female lust and sexuality were totally restricted. The woman who was too lascivious – of course from the male point of view – was nymphomaniac. The woman who was too listless was considered frigid. Female lust is autonomy, therefore power. … Women today have much more freedom than ever before. But there are still many norms and constraints that women are subject to.
Sandra Konrad (writer)

Most women have their daughters circumcised so they are accepted as part of the community. If you are not circumcised, you are treated worse than a piece of livestock. For example, you cannot marry. The husband's family would never accept a woman who is uncircumcised, because one thinks that an uncircumcised woman brings bad luck to the family. And one is not invited to parties and should not shake hands with old people. It's very hard to live that way.
…… When we arrived, there were 50 little girls in the yard. In the afternoon we played, sang and danced. But the next day we just screamed and cried. I remember that so well because how can you forget a knife or a blade cutting into the most sensitive part of your body, without anaesthesia.
Fatou M. Diatta „Sister Fa“ (musician, activist against genital mutilation)

I think we live in a seemingly sexually liberated society. We have the impression of living in a sexually liberated society, simply because sex is omnipresent. In advertising, on TV, in the subway, on the Internet, just everywhere. But that also means that we are surrounded by stereotypes and limited by new sexual norms and constraints. We are not encouraged to take pleasure in our female body as it is, but to get in line with the norm.
Sexuality is no longer taboo today. Things that used to be forbidden, such as fellatio, are now a must. Fellatio was a taboo and now it is compulsory, that is, we have gone from moral prohibition directly to a commitment. We have to try everything and be sexually liberal. We have failed to seize the moment of true freedom that lies between the prohibition and the obligation. This moment of self-determination has slipped away.
Ovidie (director, actress, writer)

opinions on the film

Still everything seems to revolve around the iconization of the male penis. The vulva, in its entirety and not just reduced to a hole, does not exist in our culture, neither linguistically nor as a metaphor such as the omnipresent "phallic". This even goes so far that even today hardly anyone knows what a clitoris actually looks like.

But dealing with femininity was not always like that. We learn about the role of the vulva in ancient mythologies, from the Greek in Homer to the Japanese. It was the vulva that could save the world. Because life comes from it. Also in Hinduism it was the goddess Durga who became the victorious goddess Kali by sucking all other goddesses into her vulva. A very powerful image. Too powerful for a patriarchal society?
On the other hand, there is still the fight against a society's most cruel tool to oppress women: the ritual circumcision of the vulva. The Senegalese Fatou Mandiang Diatta raps under her stage name "Sister Fa" against genital mutilation in the name of family honour. It still affects 94% of the girls in her country. As always, when it comes to rights, it's about knowledge. And slowly, slowly a change in thinking is beginning. The activist Seyran Ate pleads for a sexual revolution of Islam and equality between men and women as the cornerstone of democratic development. How can femininity present itself for what it is without being punished for it? And what role do patriarchal structures and male-dominated world religions play?

The first step would probably be the recognition of diversity of opinions, needs and appearances. Even that of the vulva.
Heidi List


This is probably the most puzzling thing about this film: it deals with the sexual problem no. 1, the woman, the unknown being, not to say the female Bermuda Triangle, which was terra incognita for generations of women as well. And still is. That includes, as anyone knows who opens a newspaper every now and then, mangling, oppression, alienation, mutilation, rape, murder and manslaughter, endlessly unpleasant things. Which Gabi Schweiger and her experts discuss in detail. Seyran Ateş and Fatou M. Diatta ("Sister Fa") take on the worst part, Sandra Konrad "only" talks about the sexual behaviour of young Central European women today, but even then we could lose all desire: compulsive re-enactment of stereotypical sex films is the order of the day, you wouldn't believe it.

And yet and despite all this, that is the mystery, the wonder of this film, "Viva la Vulva" breathes a weightless lightness, Gabi Schweiger's masterpiece comes booming and vibrating with eroticism. In not a single second of these 52 minutes does this film forget that it is about sex, about lust, about devotion, about losing oneself without limits.
Paul Casimir Marcinkus


Get more information on the GEYRHALTER Website

ORF 2 (24/02, 11.05 pm, TV premiere)

Interview in Wiener Zeitung (German only)