Sunday, February 23, 2014

(A)SEXUAL: Angela Tucker's documentary explores folk who feel no sexual attraction

In our current times of internet porn of every sort and sex appearing more regularly and obviously in everything from television to movies, advertising, fashion and (you name it), what's the poor asexual to do? And just what is an asexual? That subject is something that the 2012 documentary, (A)SEXUAL, from filmmaker Angela Tucker (shown below, who helped produce the currently heralded doc The New Black) aims to find out. It does this via mostly one young man, a fellow named David Jay, who, according to this documentary, has pretty much single-handedly brought to the world's attention the plight of the asexual person: someone who simply feels no sexual attraction -- hetero, homo, or anything in between -- toward another human being.

According to the statistics provided by this film, when Mr. Jay (shown below) began his drumming up interest in the subject, there were but a handful of confessed asexuals on record. Within a short time, thanks to Jay's endeavors and the worldwide web, there were thousands of them. Because, initially, there were no scientific studies done on asexuals (there are still, today, very few of these) -- there are plenty of 'em done on "sexuals," since that's what most of us are -- it is difficult to drum up a whole lot of what we might call real evidence. Hence this condition, along with the movie about it, is mostly anecdotal. Within the anecdotes, however, patterns begin to emerge.

One of these, if we go by what we see and hear from some of those interviewed, is that this "condition" may possibly be traced to a fear of sexuality, intimacy, self-worth or giving over, along with a number of other feelings and behavior that a competent therapist might better diagnose. This is not to say that in some folk, no sexual attraction lurks at all. But, as even Mr. Jay himself admits, due to the lack of firm evidence from scientific studies, this is difficult to quantify in any way. (Gays and lesbians have been shown to exhibit genetic differences, so what about asexuals? Somebody is probably doing research on this, even as I write....)

So we're left with anecdotes and the faces, bodies and voices of the people Ms Tucker follows and interviews over what looks like a few years' time. Fortunately, these folk are pretty interesting, even if the movie begins to run down a little before its short 75-minute running time has finished. A young girl named Poonam (above, left, with David) is certainly adorable, and a couple who claim asexuality and have a workable relationship even manages to marry by movie's end. A possible connection is also posited between asexuals and Asperger syndrome, which makes some sense to me.

But does David or any of this male crew ever have hard-ons or wet dreams? They do, it comes out, though what induces those erections and flowing seminal fluid remains unexplored. We note a connection to the GLBT community, which is ironic, since so much of that community is so heavily engaged in sexuality. The reaction to these asexuals from those attending a gay pride parade is generally rather silly, however. We even hear from that ubiquitous sex columnist Dan Savage, who tries to be fair but who also seems to find the idea of asexuality a little questionable.

By the end of the film, our David admits that he is now willing to at least try a relationship that includes sex. Well, good luck to him. And to the rest of these people we've met, still struggling with being outsiders in a already marginalized community. You can view (A)sexual now via Netflix streaming -- and maybe elsewhere.

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