The Preacher’s Daughter: The Power of Sexual Expression in Ti West’s ‘X’


It’s no secret that sex is rarely treated with respect in a slasher film. Many sexually empowered people (especially sex workers) are victimized by figures who don’t see them as people, but as bodies to use and abuse as they please and without asking. These depictions are not actually far off from how some folks still view sex off-screen. They shame those who choose to take actual pleasure in—or better yet, make a profit off of—desire. 

The issue, of course, stems from cultural hang-ups about sex overall, especially when it comes to anyone who presents as traditionally feminine, or femme. Conservatives still shame those who have sex for reasons other than procreation. Yet, they punish people who are impregnated against their will. Incels call out women for putting them in the friend zone, but actively admit to not wanting to please them. And don’t even get me started on how we still dismiss claims of sexual violence, especially if the claimant has had more than one sexual partner (and god forbid they had multiple consenting partners at a time). 

In a year where we are seeing U.S. politicians actively attempt to outlaw education and legislation related to sexual and gender-based freedoms, it’s refreshing to see a “fucked up horror picture” like X (2022), where having an open relationship with your identity is not seen as a problem, but rather as a solution. In fact, Ti West’s sex-positive slasher flick actually deems repression of any kind as the true villain; the self-hatred that comes with it breeds resentment of others who choose to express themselves instead. 

Also Read: ‘Girl House’ is a Stellar Sex-Positive Slasher

Following a group of sex workers as they attempt to shoot a low-budget porno (titled The Farmer’s Daughter) on a farm in rural Texas, X always promised tits, ass, and dick. And while the film absolutely delivers on all those fronts (although, I personally could have used a bit more of the latter appendage, thank you very much), it also has a lot of heart. It offers nuanced insights into what it means to be a horny woman in a sex-phobic landscape. 

As soon as The Farmer’s Daughter crew leaves strip club Bayou Burlesque, you are worried for their safety. And it’s not just because they appear to be driving towards the site of their own Texas Chainsaw Massacre. On their way, they stop at a gas station (named the Pedlar, a cheeky nod to West’s ghost story The Innkeepers) where a TV broadcasts a Christian preacher ranting about moral corruption. The female cashier can’t help but give them dirty looks. Then, when they do finally get to the farm they face instant judgment and disdain from elderly owner Harold (Stephen Ure). We then learn he’s rather familiar with the aforementioned preacher’s teachings. As blonde bombshell Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow) states rather astutely later on in the film, this group “turn[s] folks on, and it scares them.” 

Also Read: ‘X’: Stephen King Shares His Opinion On Ti West’s New Horror Film


On the surface, The Farmer’s Daughter deems like a pretty basic porno flick. It follows a wayward traveler (played by Scott Mescudi’s Jackson Hole) as he is seduced by various women (sisters, in fact) while waiting for his car to be fixed. But the simple storytelling definitely comes from a place of self-awareness, with puffed-up producer Wayne Gilroy (Martin Henderson) utilizing stereotypes and tropes in an attempt to secure a hit on home video. There’s also a poetic weight to the choice on West’s part, as The Farmer’s Daughter star Maxine Minx (Mia Goth) has her own good-girl-gone-bad backstory involving a problematic patriarch. 

As we learn in the X’s climax, Maxine is the daughter of the very preacher we saw on that gas station TV. He’s a man who sees free sexuality as a sin and his child as living proof of this fact. She took her daddy’s gospel to “not accept the life [she] does not deserve” to heart. Maxine flees her pious past behind to pursue her dream of becoming a big, bright shining star. Think of her as X’s Dirk Diggler. And she really does have that “X factor” needed to make it. She impresses more experienced actress Bobby-Lynne during her first sex scene. She also catches the eye of Harold’s supposedly shy wife, Pearl (more on her in a hot minute). 

Also Read: ‘X’ Director Ti West Talks Flipping the Slasher Script In His Return to the Genre [Watch]

Religious repression is an ongoing theme in X, with one of the film’s many twists on sexist slasher tropes being Jenna Ortega’s character Lorainne’s transformation from “Church Mouse” boom operator to amateur porn star. In early scenes, Lorainne is framed as being prude. Her loose clothing and cross around her neck signaling that she is “not like the other girls” on the crew (and thus, a possible candidate for the film’s final girl). But over the course of the film she comes out of her sheltered shell. She eventually asks to be an active participant in the on-screen action before getting offed herself. 

This choice to co-star in The Farmer’s Daughter is fully Lorainne’s. She decides it upon after witnessing not one, but two live sex acts performed by Jackson, Maxine, and Bobby-Lynne. She is encouraged, but not pressured, to make good on this newfound curiosity by her new friends and coworkers, all of whom have progressive views on not only sex work, but sexuality as a spectrum. 

We don’t see much of the pre-production on Lorainne’s big debut aside from Bobby-Lynn and Maxine doing her makeup while Jackson does push-ups. There’s no moment of her nervously questioning her choice, or worse, backing out at the last minute. The only person who seems uncomfortable with any of it is the true prude of the group, Lorraine’s boyfriend and wannabe director RJ (Owen Campbell). He’s later seen attempting to run off with the group’s only car before being thwarted by little miss Pearl. 

Also Read: ‘X’ Stars Mia Goth and Brittany Snow Talk Complex Female Characters In The World of Ti West [Watch]

What happens next is the start of X’s next act, where the titillation gives way to torture. After rejecting a grope-filled embrace from Pearl, RJ is brutally stabbed to death by the nightgown-adorned woman as she straddles him. After she finishes the job, she takes a moment to revel in the ecstasy of what she’s just done. She sways sensually in front of the car’s headlights as though she is the young woman in the old photographs on her walls. On this high, she is also able to successfully kill a tighty whitie-wearing Wayne (another fun moment of subversion as all the women die fully dressed). 


A few scenes later, Pearl will have a more literal orgasm by way of her true love, Harold. This interaction, we learn, has been a longtime, well, coming, with Harold claiming that he can’t have sex without his heart giving out. This repeated rejection has done its own damage on Pearl, body and soul. 

The finale of X reveals the dark truth: Pearl and Harold have been taking young, free lovin’ boarders hostage in their home, likely for Pearl to take advantage of them sexually (see: the unnamed man with his pants down Lorainne finds in their cellar). And now she has her sights set on Maxine, ogling her body any chance she gets. Pearl even dares to caress her while she sleeps despite being explicitly told not to touch her without her consent. 

Also Read: ‘X’ Delivers a Devilishly Sexy, Deliciously Gory Throwback [SXSW 2022]

Part of Pearl’s fixation with Maxine is that she sees herself in the younger woman, quite literally. Goth plays both characters, donning extensive prosthetics to play the aging Pearl, and appearing as young Pearl in photos. But also we get the sense that Pearl was once as liberated as Maxine was, and perhaps not just with Harold. And while society may have given up on her as an object of desire, her desire has clearly not waned. 

West’s upcoming prequel film, Pearl, should give us more insight into the specifics of this fascinating character’s past. but clearly X wants us to consider how we desexualize women as they age, prioritizing supple bodies over lived-in ones. Pearl herself has internalized this problematic messaging, seeking out young men and women as her preferred victims (see: her not attempting to make it with the middle-aged Wayne) and becoming bitter when they don’t want to play along with her sick games (see also: her calling Bobby-Lynne a “whore” and feeding her to a crocodile after she simply offers her a blanket). 

In the end, Pearl is defeated by her own horndog hubris, nearly blowing herself (and her hip) away after trying to lone survivor and general superstar Maxine with a gun the size of her frail body. Before Pearl can recover, Maxine drives over her head, zooming off into the night on a cocaine high while repeating her mantra: I will not accept a life I do not deserve.

Also Read: ‘X’ Prequel Film Announced by Ti West And A24 — Production Already Wrapped!

In another life (or even just another decade), Pearl might have been able to be more like Maxine. She might have put her passion ahead of societal pressures and letting her freak flag fly at full mast. Hell, maybe if she’d even just seen more positive portrayals of sex first-hand (whether through porn, or in-person), she could have at least come to see the true power of consensual sex, saving herself and many others from unnecessary physical and emotional harm. 

While it may be too late for Pearl but, as X suggests, it’s not too late for us to reconsider the way we, and the films we watch, frame sex and those who are so often thrust into the center of it. After all, horror, even at its most playful, ought to challenge the status quo, combatting man-made weapons of suppression with unadulterated expression. 


Sign up for The Harbinger a Dread Central Newsletter