The Slavegirl Auction

Totally Unsolicited Advice for Filmmakers

On the left we have a slavegirl auction scene from "Son of Sinbad," one of the more dad-friendly Arabian adventure movies from the 60s. Note that all the slavegirls wear chains that link their wrists to the large black belts they wear. It's this kind of detail that makes a scene work. On the right we have an image of unknown provenance from the Internet, one of a series of images of five naked women being auctioned as slaves. The "buy me" sign was put on by our graphic arts staff just for the hell of it. The slavegirl's not wearing anything under it. As usual, the Internet gets it right.

copyright 2005 by Pat Powers

The history of slavegirl auction scenes is a long and sad one. Most slavegirl auction scenes occurred back in the 1950s and 60s, when the Arabian Nights adventure genre was in full flower. With the censorship that was prevalent in those days, they were timid, tepid affairs, with fully clothed slavegirls standing sedately in line, even in relatively hot films like "Son of Sinbad."

Flash forward to the eighties, when the barbarian adventure B-movies and TV shows inspired by the success of "Conan the Barbarian" brought forth a few new slave auction scenes. The television scenes were, of course, censored, and generally ineptly done as well. More surprisingly, the ovies were ineptly done. Even the slavegirl auction scene in the movie "Gor" which was (incredibly loosely) based on John Norman's Gor novels fell far short of what it should be. It at LEAST had topless slaves being auctioned, but was a very brief scene that did nothing to develop the drama inherent in an auction scene, consisting solely of a helmeted baddie shoving a pouty, topless slavegirl in chains around for two seconds of screen time.

Fast forward again to the 2000s when the success of "Gladiator" inspired several B-movies (but, surprisingly, no TV shows as yet).These movies were truly inept, dwarfing even the anti-achievements of the 80s movies with their incredible stupidity, culminating in "Arena" which we'll discuss in full further on in all its hideous awfulness.

To understand what a slavegirl auction scene SHOULD be, you have to look at the works of John Norman, who perfectly captured the excitement of the slavegirl auction scene in "Dancer of Gor." The novel includes a lengthy and extensive auction scene experienced from the viewpoint of the slavegirl -- in fact it's three chapters long. As always, Norman is on point in regard to the sexual fantasy aspects of the scene, making much of the slavegirl's uncertainty as she looks at the audience, wondering which man might own her in the next few minutes, and what that might mean to her personally and sexually, as she is being sold as a pleasure slave.

The slavegirls are, of course, naked (Norman likes to cite the Gorean proverb that "Only a fool buys a slavegirl clothed.") Norman also has the slaver exhibit her to the audience as "a sexual animal," forcing her to display herself to the audience in all sorts of sexy ways and to respond sexually to his touch, which of course she does quite powerfully, this being a fantasy novel and all.

With this in mind, let's look at the Roger Corman ripoff (think "Gladiator") sexploitation flick "The Arena" which is about hot female fighting slaves and features a slavegirl auction scene. Despite the fact that it's about female slaves, it contains NO bondage. The auction scene occurs in a crowded public square. The slavegirls being auctioned are clothed from neck to knees in shapeless shifts which conceal any beauty they might possess which is somewhat surprising since they're all young, slender and attractive. (Sound like good salesmanship to you?) You mostly see the slavegirls from the shoulders up because any view of them is blocked from the crowd around them. They wear bored, pouty expressions and take little interest in what's going on around them. There's no signed that they're bound in any way. The slaver doesn't display their beauty or even talk about it. He just haggles over their price.

And it's not as though there aren't other scenes where practically or completely naked slavegirls are molested by their Roman masters, because there ARE. So they knew they were making a sexploitation flick.

This is all you see of the slavegirls being sold in "Arena." They're visible from the shoulders up, are clearly wearing clothes, do not appear to be bound, and don't appear to be very interested in what's going on around them. It might be possible to handle a slavegirl auction scene with less skill, but I can't imagine how.

You just have to wonder, what the HELL was the director thinking? Even if you're not playing up the sexual fantasy aspect --and in a sexploitation film like "The Arena" the director SHOULD have been doing just that -- a slave auction scene has a lot more drama if the participants in it look vulnerable and INTERESTED in the outcome of their sale.

If you're doing an R-rated film, this is one of the places where you can and should earn that "R" with naked slavegirls. Well, not fresh-out-of-the-shower naked slavegirls. No slaver worth his salt would send a slavegirl out without ANY decoration. That's bad marketing and sales technique. You dress the slavegirl in barbaric jewelry that highlights her beauty. Perhaps you put her in a few silky scraps of cloth that can be dramatically ripped away to further reveal her charms during the auction. A slavegirl on auction should wind up naked, but she need not start out that way. And as a filmmaker, you of course want to film her in a way that highlights her beauty, grace and sensuality.

Perhaps you could show one slavegirl overcome with fear at being auctioned, while another plays confidently to the men she writhes naked for. The men in the audience should be excited at the sight of the slavegirls, bidding wildly for them. Pump up the dramatic and emotional intensity of the scene as much as you can.

Even if you are planning to market your film to venues which don't permit nudity, a skimpy thong bikini can do a great job of standing in for nudity. The thong can even be barbaric and leatherish a la Jennifer O'Dell's leather bikini in The Lost World if you're doing something set in ancient times -- but it definitely should be skimpy. I mean, the E! channel programs have now gotten to the point where women wearing skimpy thongs bend over and waggle their butts at the camera, which closes up on them and gives us a great ogle of their womanly butts. You can DEFINITELY do a sexy slavegirl scene for television nowadays.

There's just no excuse for fully clothed slavegirl auction scenes unless you're doing something for a REALLY nudity-challenged market, and you know what? If you're doing that, I don't have any advice for you except don't do it. Prudes are NEVER gonna go for slavegirl auction scenes, and I don't care to advise you on how to do one for prudes any more than I care to advise you on how to go ice skating in a tar pit.

If you're going to do a slavegirl auction scene at all, do it right! Do it for the adults who will be watching. Milk it for all the suspense, sexiness, drama and kinky thrills you can get! Make the slavegirl naked. Have her dance. Have her writhe sensuously. Have her display her charms brazenly, or force her to display her charms despite her reluctance. Film her in a way that highlights her beauty and grace. Make her feelings of fear, uncertainty and excitement clear. Make the audience excited and boiling with lust. Enjoy the fantasy! Your audience will, too.