Tuesday, January 17, 2012

FOURPLAY: Sex saved my life ...

Sex saved my life. And I'm sure if a lot more of us were honest with ourselves we'd admit the same thing.

As a young, angst ridden and alienated young man in my late teens, I was desperate to connect with something, anything. I threw myself into political activism, theater, academics, anything that could absorb me so completely that I could blot out the yawning chasm of need that was the source of so much "activity."

I also happened to be gay and very much in the closet to not only everyone else but most especially to myself. Looking back at some of the photographs from that period, I can't imagine that anyone with half an ounce of gaydar wasn't VERY AWARE of my gayness. I remember one kind theater director once telling me in a production of Gilbert and Sullivan's IOLANTHE (does that scream gay, or what!) that if there was anything I ever wanted to talk about with him, his door was always open.

"What could I possibly have to talk to you about?" I protested.

"Um, your sexual identity," he replied.

Yikes! Hammer to the nail! I think I left almost immediately and protested to EVERYONE I knew that the director of the play I was in was trying to "recruit" me and I just wished all those "faggots" would leave me alone!

Too bad I couldn't leave myself alone cause I was with me 24 hours a day! Anyway, long story short, after trying to date a few women then making a VERY drunken and awkward pass at an out queer housemate one night (and denying that it ever took place the next day), I acknowledged the need and went hunting for someone to act on it with.

Luckily, I found my first love, a lieutenant in the Army at the time via a newspaper personal ad. Remember those? Almost immediately, after the first time we were together, I finally was released from the crushing anxiety that had haunted me from late adolescence onward. And it wasn't the act of sex itself that saved me, but the intimacy that it unleashed, the tenderness and feelings of finally belonging and being accepted, really accepted for who I was, naked and stripped of my ego.

Luckily, that partner was up for the responsibility and love that such connection can awaken. We talked, we shared, we dated, and eventually, like so many first loves, we moved on when it became clear that love alone did not make for the foundation of a lasting relationship.

Again, luckily, I've found a longer, lasting relationship with my partner Carlos Trevino, the incredibly talented writer of FOURPLAY: TAMPA, which plays a Sundance this week. Earlier sexual encounters/relationships can help one sort out what one is looking for in a relationship as a whole, and can put sex in its proper place as part of a balanced relationship. It's called experience, and if we deny someone from having these adult experiences, or develop systems that punish them for these experiences (e.g. denying the availability of contraception so sex leads to the spread of disease or the burden of conception), then we actually elevate the importance of sex in our society to a dangerous form of control.

Also, if we only tell each other stories where sex isn't given its proper due in the world at large which we represent, or is used purely as pornographic titillation, or a cudgel to inflict even more pain and fear upon our audiences (e.g the entire oeuvre of filmmaker Lars Von Trier), then we also become part of a system of control that manipulates the powerful force of sexual connection for ill gotten gain.

No, not all sexual encounters and acts are positive. I'm not naive or unaware of the horrible power dynamics involved when sex is used for intimidation, oppression and assault. Consent on the part of all ADULT (as defined by law) parties without any coercion must be given. Besides mystical/religious fervor or drug experiences, sexual union is one of the most powerful experiences one can have to connect one to one's being and existence to others on this planet. As such, it should be seriously studied and considered. And it should be one of the major subjects of our arts and entertainment. Hence my desire to make the FOURPLAY series of shorts.

Do you have any especially moving or life-saving experience that involved sexual connection? If so, I'd love to hear about it. Please consider commenting/responding to this post and I'll print if appropriate. Anonymous postings are fine.

Finally, a reminder that our Kickstarter for the FOURPLAY feature launched. For as little as $10 you can see FOURPLAY: TAMPA, the short playing at Sundance, via a Vimeo link that we'll pass onto donors after the festival.

Kyle Henry
Director - FOURPLAY

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