I’m going to tell you right up front, this is sort of a hard film to review. Let’s start off by giving you the film’s breakdown:
Facing a sex obsessed culture, a mountain of stereotypes and misconceptions, and a lack of social or scientific research, asexuals – people who experience no sexual attraction – struggle to claim their identities.
This film deals with a small percentage of the world’s population that identifies themselves as asexual. If there’s one thing I learned from watching this film, it’s that there are several different interpretations of what that means. So, I’d rather not try to define it. I’ll just say that I always understood it to refer to people who have no sex drive. Maybe that’s not even accurate. Maybe it’s fairer to say that they lack that the innate desire and feelings to take relationships to a physical level. This, of course, does not mean that they do not desire relationships or connecting with people or even intimacy in some respects. Just that sex isn’t brought into the fold.
The film itself speaks with several asexuals, going a bit more in depth with a couple of them, but focuses primarily on David Jay. Jay is probably best known for founding AVEN (aka: the Asexuality Visibility & Education Network). It’s portrayed in the film as being sort of a Facebook for asexuals. A community that had around 150 members in (I believe) 2006 and had grown to over 25,000 by the time this film was made. Through founding the site, David Jay has sort of fallen into the role of spokesperson for the asexual community. The film highlights his many speaking obligations and appearances on cable news shows and even The View.
Let me start by saying that David Jay is exactly the kind of guy you would want to be your spokesperson for anything. Although still pretty young, he’s intelligent, very well spoken, extremely driven and good spirited. That being said, I’m going to dive into (Documentary) spoilers now so if you want to go in fresh, just skip to my rating at the bottom. The film’s main goal is to promote awareness of the asexual community. This makes up the majority of the film but there are a couple of moments that I thought I’d focus on. Moments that got me asking questions.
The first I’d like to discuss takes place when AVEN members join in on a gay pride parade to promote awareness of their community. Some asexuals in the film said that they felt more closely identified to the gay and lesbian community because their feelings are also thought of, by some, as being “queer”. To me, it felt odd… like the wrong venue. I can’t say that I feel asexuals and, say, homosexuals are fighting the same fight. I mean, do people really look down on people for being born feeling as if they just want to abstain? I know for a fact that there are people out there that frown on the gay community for their sexual orientation (I, myself, am not one of them).
Not to mention, where does the desire to educate and promote come from? My biggest question with the whole thing is, I guess, is this really a movement? To sort of answer my own question, the film does mention all the responses asexuals hear when they discuss their asexuality with people. Everything from accusations of sexual naivety to traumatization to being closeted gay. In that regard, if such was the case with me, I suppose I too would want to get out there and explain that I was just a normal person who didn’t desire to have sex. So, perhaps, that is the goal.
Another point worth mentioning in the film is a poignant one towards the end with a reflective David Jay clearly shot some time after the majority of the film’s footage. Throughout the film, Jay has been very outspoken about not needing a sexual relationship to be happy. That he has a large friend network that provides him with all the “love” he needs. However, after some time and after watching many of those relationships dissolve, David begins to change his tone a bit. In a very honest moment, Jay makes a very careful statement about realizing that sex will be something he will need to have in order to find the true intimate relationship that, I think, we all seek.
In this moment, it’s almost as if Jay is raising a white flag. Succumbing to the fact that sex has won and asexuals cannot find a fulfilling relationship without it. This is, of course, juxtaposed against a scene with an asexual who feels quite the opposite and is quite content living her life on her own. I only write this because Jay’s admission felt like a bit of a blow to his own movement… again, whatever that movement may be.
The whole thing, while answering several of my questions, left me almost feeling more confused than when I started. I hesitated to even write them because I feel as though, when writing about sexuality, one should be delicate. Especially when speaking to masses about an orientation that is not their own. That is to say, I don’t want you to listen to me define what asexuality and AVEN is. That is not mine to do. My opinions and questions are those raised by the film as it was presented and not a statement on asexuality in general. I highly recommend that you visit the site yourself, do your own research and draw your own conclusions from the film.
As far as the film goes, I did really like it. As much as parts of it may have confused me, it brought up a lot of questions and peaked my curiousity which I think should be as much a part of their goal as raising awareness. The film itself is shot very nice and is fine to look at so I have no real technical qualms with it.
In the end, I can’t help and look at that IMDB description and get hung up on those last words: “struggle to claim their identities.” If anything, I think AVEN is a good thing in that it provides a forum for people who are asexual to come together and find peace in people who feel the same way they do. It must be a lonely feeling because they are definitely a minority of the population (a surprising 1% according to the film).
You can find this film on iTunes by clicking here!!!