Virgin Hunters

Virgin Hunters May 13, 2005

Just a few items.

1. My review of Mindhunters is up at CT. It’s nothing special — and I could be referring to my review as much as to the film! — and it kind of fell into my lap at the last minute because there weren’t any press screenings in the vicinity of the critic who was originally assigned to it, but there are worse diversions out there.

2. Last night the wife and I attended the screening that Artizan Productions held for the cast and crew of The Big V, their upcoming documentary on virginity, in which I am one of the interviewees. I had seen it before on DVD, but last night was an opportunity to meet the other interviewees and to catch up on what’s happened to us all since we were interviewed last summer.

For my part (and yes, that’s me to the left), I got married; another guy has since become engaged; and one couple, who didn’t even kiss until their wedding ceremony, is now expecting. There was a Q&A; afterwards with all us interviewees at the front of the room, and it was interesting to see how, with all the engagements and marriages and whatnot, we were taking a more pronounced “wait for marriage” line than I think is evident in the film. Romeo, the self-described “choosy” gay man who, as one of the filmmakers has put it, “waited 36 years until he found ‘Mr. Right,'” was sitting on a stool to my left, and I began to wonder what he made of all this, since “waiting for marriage” has never been an option for gay people, at least not until recently.

When someone from the audience finally asked him a question along those lines, he said he wanted to introduce some ambiguity around the subject of what, exactly, “virginity” is anyway, and that led to an interesting exchange. One of the filmmakers talked about how one of the reasons AIDS is spreading so catastrophically in Africa is that some women participate in anal sex, thinking it isn’t “really” sex anyway; you see something similar in Catherine Breillat’s Fat Girl (2001; my review), where a man persuades a woman to engage in anal and oral sex because supposedly she will remain a “virgin” this way; on the other hand, I mentioned that a gay man I knew at university considered himself a “virgin” because, if you’ll pardon the semi-clinical terminology, he had penetrated other men but had not been penetrated himself; and then there was all the parsing around Bill Clinton’s famously cryptic definition of “sexual relations”. One of the points Romeo makes in the film is that virginity is often defined in terms of the integrity of a woman’s hymen, yet men of course do not have that particular bit of anatomy, so what does it mean to say that a man is a “virgin”, or to say that two men have or have not had sex?

I applaud the filmmakers, both of whom are Christian, for trying to explore these issues, and I’m sure it wasn’t easy. Many of the people who were interviewed for this film happen to be Christian as well, and that does come through, which might give some viewers yet another reason to think the film is pushing a “wait for marriage” message. But the filmmakers said they tried to find “characters” for their film who reflected other religious points of view (they did find an Islamic woman who underwent surgery to restore her hymen, partly for the family’s honour), or perhaps even no religious point of view at all. But in our culture, it just so happens that most of the people who put off the deed for so long — and are willing to talk about it — come from this background.

Anyway, nuff said about that. Catch the film on VisionTV next week and form your own impressions!

3. The FedEx guy just arrived with a parcel from Paul Schrader’s production company. I now have my screener of Dominion: A Prequel to the Exorcist, which opens in select cities next Friday. I can now finally go have that shower that I’ve been putting off all morning, lest I miss the FedEx guy and thus make meeting my deadline even more difficult than it already is. Woo-hoo!

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