She Used Her Vibrator Until It Broke, Then Made a Cartoon About It

For filmmaker Olivia Griselda, an orgasm is like sitting on a rocket blasting off from a rollercoaster.

24 November 2021, 4:22am

When Olivia Griselda received a vibrator as a gift from a friend years ago, she didn’t expect that she would use it until it broke. Or that the intense period of self-discovery would inspire an animated film years later.

“She didn’t call it a vibrator, it was a ‘hand massager’ that she bought in Thailand,” the Indonesian-born, Singapore-based filmmaker told VICE. “And then I guess I got hooked onto it, experienced a bit of an existential crisis.”

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Just one week in, Griselda had the sense that she was playing with the vibrator a lot (maybe, she suspected, too much).

“It’s a bit like watching a train wreck, but then you can’t get out of it,” she said, recalling private worries about her seemingly excessive usage, as well as a bizarre dream where her fallopian tube fell out—all while she was using the vibrator on the daily.

The vibrator broke down just after one month of heavy usage. But it would take Griselda a few years before she was ready to joke about what went down during that month-long period of self-pleasure.

Concept art for “She and Her Good Vibrations.” Image: Courtesy of Olivia Griselda

In Asia, where the idea of women masturbating remains taboo, sex toys like vibrators are often seen as instruments reserved for deviants, rather than tools of self-discovery. 

“It took me a while to share this story with my close friends because I didn’t want to be judged as sexually promiscuous,” she said. 

A few years later, Griselda found herself reading a story she wrote based on her experience to about 30 people during a story showcase at a local acting school. The theme that day was “cravings,” Griselda recalled, and she knew her story was a perfect fit.

In “She and Her Good Vibrations,” a middle-aged woman receives a vibrator in a mysterious box. Image: Courtesy of Olivia Griselda

As she read her story aloud, Griselda felt like she had just exposed a secret that many women harbored in private. 

“The ladies in the audience were laughing like crazy, so I know that it’s a very relatable story,” she said. She couldn’t tell if it was laughter out of amusement or discomfort, but she knew that either way, she had struck a chord.

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Some people even came up to her after the show to express their solidarity with a fellow vibrator user. Many of them, like Griselda, never really told their friends about it because they were embarrassed.

“That’s when I knew that, OK, I want to take this story further,” she said.

Griselda eventually took her story to Animated Visions: Story Development Lab, a workshop organized by Cartoons Underground—an annual animated film festival that celebrates animation from Southeast Asia—and non-profit organization *SCAPE. She ended up winning the Best Pitch Award and met her co-director Sarah Cheok and producer Jerrold Chong. Together, they’re working on Griselda’s first animated short film, She and Her Good Vibrations.

Their goal, according to their ongoing Kickstarter campaign to raise production funds, is to “spark conversations around sex positivity and break down prejudices around female self-pleasure.” 

From left: Olivia Griselda, Sarah Cheok, and Jerrold Chong. Photo: Courtesy of Olivia Griselda

Inspired by Griselda’s real life experience, She and Her Good Vibrations tells the story of a middle-aged woman who receives a mysterious box containing—surprise—a vibrator. With increasingly frequent usage, she eventually loses touch with reality, vividly told in surreal illustrations. 

For Griselda, who is familiar with live action filmmaking, the bold choice to venture into animation was an obvious one given the subject and plot. 

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“Animation is able to create a certain kind of a safe distance between the audience and the film,” she said. While people could get uncomfortable watching intimate scenes played by actors, they might feel more at ease laughing along with animated characters.

Animation also allows storytellers to push the boundaries of reality, a fit for the magical aspects of She and Her Good Vibrations. One scene, which shows the main character riding a rocket on a rollercoaster, is Griselda’s visual representation of an orgasm.

“For me, I would describe it as being on a rollercoaster and going up and then just like, plunging down,” she said.

Griselda’s depiction of an orgasm. Image: Courtesy of Olivia Griselda

Using vibrant visuals, Griselda hopes that their animation can “play around with the main character and her different states.”

“It’s animation, so we are able to play with surrealist elements, exaggerations, metaphors,” she said. “It’s like an absurdist comedy.”

She and Her Good Vibrations is set to be released in 2022.

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Tagged:

Sex, MASTURBATION, Animation, Asia, Singapore

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