According to School of Seduction, working-class women have few options in patriarchal Russia, and all of them involve finding a man. To aid young ladies in that quest, there are seduction schools where they can learn the timeless art of bumping, grinding and butt-wiggling their way into a prospective partner’s heart and pants—in particular, the pocket where he keeps his wallet.
Focused on a trio of women navigating this warped and sexist landscape, Alina Rudnitskaya’s documentary (premiering on Nov. 9 at the DOC NYC festival) is an eye-opening snapshot of gender dynamics in modern Russia. Praised by President Vladimir Putin as a place where “a man is a man and a woman is a woman,” it’s a country that instills in its female population the belief that independence is a pathway to ostracization and sorrow, and that marriage and parenthood is the primary means by which happiness can be attained. As a result, there can be no greater aim than to land a man willing to put a literal ring on it—regardless of whether love is also part of the matrimonial package.
That’s where the schools of seduction come in. In crowded classrooms, scores of women dressed in underwear and revealing outfits follow the instructions of a middle-aged male teacher who guides them through exercises in which they must bend over a chair in order to receive some rear-end grinding, wiggle their asses in the air, and participate in dance routines where they’re grabbed by the neck and thrashed about, crotch-to-crotch, in a display of intense macho attention (the more violent, the more genuine, apparently). The overarching lesson is clear: self-worth only comes from the interest of a man, and women should use whatever sexual tools they have at their disposal to catch one. With a shamelessness that’s almost as startling as its chauvinism, the program strives to turn women into veritable Venus flytraps.