The acclaimed documentary A Sexplanation has been released to TVOD.
Co-written and directed by health reporter Alex Liu, the film follows Alex on his journey to free himself from a shame-filled past surrounding sex towards a happy, healthy and more liberated future.
We find out early on that Alex comes from a loving, yet conservative, Asian Catholic upbringing. His grandmother and mother are revealed to have been scolded and silenced by authority figures when they dared to seek out information about their bodies and sex. It is little wonder that the topic of sexuality became off limits in his household, which was only compounded by the fact that he was gay.
When asked, his parents explained that they trusted that he would get all the information he needed from the sex education classes provided by Alex’s schooling. This, as many of us now realize, is a fallacy most parents still subscribe to. The truth of the matter is that the sex education Alex received in the 90’s is not much different than the education kids receive today. Essentially, it’s an abstinence-based school of thought promoting sex as part of marriage and utilizing scare tactics such as graphic photos of untreated STI’s and extreme childbirth in order to deter adolescents from partaking in sexual activity. Further, information on homosexuality is not always presented to students and is even required to taught as an aberration to “normal” sexuality in a number of states. Any deviation from these pre-described norms are treated as immoral and only help to bolster America’s unique obsession and deep-rooted shame around sexuality.
Alex travels across North America to try and unpack this. He speaks with a number of experts, psychologists and scientists who breakdown the cultural roots of the shame surrounding pleasure and the guilt people feel when confronted with it. He makes a visit to the world-famous Kinsey Institute to participate in a study and later has an illuminating and very progressive conversation with a Jesuit priest that is quite surprising. He speaks to conservatives and progressives on both sides of the issue and unsurprisingly, finds little overlap between the two philosophies about sex education in our schools.
Alex is fearless in his quest for dismantling the shame he was raised with. His earnestness is palpable as is his genuine discomfort in certain situations as he pushes through the quite evident feelings of shame to get at the truth. You feel his nervous laughter in your gut as he has awkward sexual conversations with his parents and addresses the taboo nature of certain fantasy scenarios with psychologists. His struggle is our struggle as queer people of a certain age, raised in American society.
By the end of the film Alex uncovers a path towards personal change that requires an openness to communicate and share his authentic self with his loved ones now that he has filled in the gaps of his own sexual education. With respect to society at large, the experts and Alex agree that the foundation for shame-free sexuality starts at home. Frank and honest discussion from an early age combined with comprehensive sexual education classes in schools would help eliminate our culture’s problem with shame when it comes to sex. It’s a tall order but not impossible to hope for; especially after Alex interviews the people over at ‘Great Conversations’. It’s a highlight of the film that will make you wish such a program was available to us when we were growing up.
While there are no easy answers to the questions surrounding America’s somewhat Victorian attitude towards sex, A Sexplanation takes an honest, educational and entertaining stab at it. It is a worthwhile and cathartic watch.
A Sexplanation is available stream or download on Apple TV, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon and other major VOD platforms.