Becky Knight has a Masters of Public Health in Human Sexuality and is certified as a sexuality educator by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists. Her private practice focuses on women's sexual health and satisfaction. Read more »
I hosted an advanced screening of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s film “Don Jon” as well as a panel discussion afterward. Laurie Berzack (aka Carolinas Matchmaker) and Keema Mingo (film instructor) joined me in discussing the film and its message. I found it interesting that of all of the movies that JGL could have chosen for his writer-director debut (he also stars), he chose to tell this particular story. I’ve paid attention to what he has said in press interviews leading up to the release and I think this film was the result of a genuine desire to explore just how pervasively porn is influencing our culture, and how that normalization is affecting our views on sex, romance, and relationships.
Keema had some great things to say about story arc and how a good story follows the protagonist undergoing a change or evolution. So what was Don Jon’s evolution? He goes through multiple women a week (both online and IRL), using them only to bolster his insatiable ego. But his burgeoning relationships with two women (played by Scarlett Johansson and Julianne Moore) challenge him to re-think his approach.
My questions for Laurie were about her clients, who are looking for serious relationships and willing to pay her to find them, and how she sees them influenced (or not) by the supposed “pornification” of our popular culture. Are people’s expectations unrealistic? When the easily-satisfied ideal-looking women is only a click away, does a real woman–with a real body and emotional needs–have a chance of capturing a man’s attention? Or for that matter, what man can compete with the perfectly chiseled, funny, and endlessly romantic men found in Hollywood romcoms? We indulge in media that makes us feel good, but is it ultimately setting us up for disappointment when our real relationships just can’t measure up?
Whether we watch porn or romcoms or both, I think it pays to be mindful of the ways our media choices may be influencing our romantic and erotic expectations. Most entertainment is “entertainment” precisely because it is a departure from our routine daily existence — we can take a mental vacation to a place that satisfies our longings for excitement, connection, or any number of things. The problems isn’t necessarily in the desire to do so, but when the desire to do so comes at the expense of dealing with the reality.
The good news is that most people can separate fact from fiction. For us, an imperfect reality still trumps a perfect fantasy.
I watched When Harry Met Sally last weekend for the umpteenth time — So many great scenes and memorable quotes, i.e. “I’ll have what she’s having.”
And now it seems a study has proved Harry was on to something when he said “Men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.” It also shows that he was right about a few other things:
Men were much more attracted to their female friends than vice versa
Men were also more likely than women to think that their opposite-sex friends were attracted to them
Men were more willing to act on this mistakenly perceived mutual attraction.
Although men were equally as likely to desire “romantic dates” with “taken” friends as with single ones, women were sensitive to their male friends’ relationship status and uninterested in pursuing those who were already involved with someone else.
The reviews of WALL-E have been overwhelmingly positive, as they should be. It’s another fantastic Pixar creation. As everyone has been raving, the movie takes some bold risks: very little dialogue, no radio-friendly hit songs, lack of celebrity voices, etc. It also addresses some not-so-fun issues like apathy, consumerism and the impending destruction of Earth.
However, I haven’t seen any reviewer address the things that I noticed. I guess all that sexological training has actually permeated my brain!
A sexologist’s observations:
1) Even though I would assume that robots are a-sexual, we automatically assume WALL-E is male, and when EVE arrives, we assume she is a female. Sure, the names are clues, but I also think it’s interesting that the male is angular, boxy, and with sharp edges. Anyone else notice that EVE is smooth and round?
2) Pay attention to the “body” language. I find it so interesting that even robots can assume the obvious mating stances and dances. There are universal “mating calls” that animals, humans, and now robots engage in.
3) An essential aspect of being human is the desire for intimate contact. WALL-E and EVE would be little more than metal and wires were it not for their desire for connectedness. Why do we attribute them with “feelings?” Why do we empathize with their plight? Because they embody feelings: fear, desire, annoyance, attraction. It’s sad that these robots are more in tune with their bodies and their feelings than many humans are.
4) How are the humans continuing the species? Seriously. Removed from earth for 700 years, they are now so lazy and fat that they can barely move. How are they getting their groove on?
5) When is Pixar going to make a movie with a female heroine? I am a fan of Pixar’s work, but I am beginning to wonder what they have against Sheroes.
6) I didn’t make the association while watching the film, and most people probably wouldn’t notice, but this image in particular has some strong sexual connotations: