VESTIBULE chronicles filmmaker Riley Hooper’s decade-long journey to diagnose, treat, and heal from Vestibulodynia, a vulvar disorder that made intercourse painful. In the film, what begins as a singular mission to have pain-free sex becomes a multi-generational story about sexual health, pleasure, and agency.
It took eight years, six doctors, three physical therapists, three therapists, countless treatments, and two surgeries for Riley to be able to have pain-free sex. But what felt like a failure of her body became an invitation to advocate for herself in a society and medical system that so often fails all of our bodies — and especially the bodies of people with vaginas. Through stylized dance sequences and essayistic voice-over narration, she tells her story and the stories of the women in her life, in order to invite viewers to examine their own relationship with their body, and what may not be serving them on their own path toward agency.
Ultimately, VESTIBULE is a film about pleasure. Pleasure as a means of reclaiming agency from the cultural and medical systems that deny our autonomy. Pleasure as a way of healing inherited trauma stored in the body. Pleasure as a tool for identifying what you want and advocating for it, which ripples out into all other aspects of life. Because, as Riley’s grandma tells her in the film, “If you’re on good terms with your vagina you have a better life.”