Tuesday, June 7th, 2022

Queerguru’s David Lagachu reviews A SEXPLANATION “one of the best 1 hour 16 minutes of my life”


The name itself gives away more than it should. The trailer gives away even more. Even then, I was tempted to watch the documentary. And the decision to watch it culminated in one of the best 1 hour 16 minutes of my life. The immediate thought that came to my mind as I was watching the documentary was – Wow, I have been so wrong about America and how Americans deal with sex and sexuality as a nation. This thought strictly came from my Indian point of view. For us majority of Indians, America has always been the poster child of a sexually liberated nation, or so we thought so. Be it movies or TV series, we have been fed strong images of young American people indulging in sexual acts in their bedrooms, open indoor spaces, open outdoor spaces, and basically everywhere. So when the director, actor, and narrator of the documentary Alex Liu (36) starts sharing his experiences of growing up with a sizeable amount of shame for being a gay man in America and a sexually active person in general, my image of the sexually liberated America suffers a rude shock – the remnants of the shock still stays with me as I write this review. 

In one of the early montages used in the narrative, the following words of former US president George W. Bush stand out the most: Abstinence is the only way for young people to avoid STDs. For me as the audience that became the hook-up line through the lens of which I decided to watch and ‘judge’ this film. 

Concentrating on the words of the central figure of the documentary, Alex Liu, one gets an idea that suppressing any form of sex-related discussions within families has been elevated to an art form in America. And our narrator being a gay Asian American, the pressure and the shame around it has been double for him.  

My biggest takeaway from the documentary is that talking about sex, sexuality and everything in between broadens your mind and takes away the so-called stigma from these topics – it takes the ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ away and positively encourages you to open your hearts out about various sex-related topics; be it good, bad or ugly. 

When there is talk of sex, politics ought to make an appearance. The debate between the liberals and the conservatives and their respective takes on sex and sexual health dominate a significant portion of the documentary. 

Alex takes a ‘what the fuck’ tour of America in a bid to ‘strip away generations of inherited shame in 60 mins’. Initially, he begins the discussion at home, with his parents. As the film progresses, he visits premier institutes across America including the Kinsey Institute in Indiana, and talks to experts, researchers, activists, and ‘real’ people to gain insights and to hopefully find the answers to the questions that have been torturing him since his childhood. Some of the revelations are quite shocking too.

For instance, during Alex’s conversation with Mike, a Pornhub data scientist, it is revealed that women search more for keywords such as gangbang and bondage on the site and it brings into focus the difference between sexual fantasy and reality. In another conversation, Dr. Laurie Betito, a sex therapist and a radio host, talks about ‘responsible fun’, which is only possible through proper sexual education at various stages of life. The documentary also emphasizes the fact that sexual education can happen at any age, be it 16 or 60. 

In its running course, A Sexplanation, starts and pushes forward a discussion on the ABCD of sex and sexual health, and how they constitute the very core of our existence. Repressing one’s sexuality can lead to emotional as well as physical damage. While the documentary encompasses all forms of sexuality in its outlook but it particularly talks about the connection between repressed homosexuality and its negative effect on mental health through the sexual journey of Alex. So, the abstinence that Bush talked about early on in the documentary is not really a feasible option, as abstinence is just another name for sexual repression. 

The conversations never feel didactic; in fact, they have a unique combination of enlightenment and humour. While talking to a Catholic priest, Alex quips that he is giving the Church ‘three minutes to defend two millennia of sexual persecution’. 

Among various pertinent questions that the documentary asks, the one that stands out is – Is there a model for sexuality? The answer is a unanimous no. However, even the so-called experts fail to define something as seemingly simple as – what is sex? 

The narrator Alex realizes during the course of the film that he has missed out on a lot as a gay man in his 30s, as he had to repress his sexuality for the longest time. And through this project of his, he wants to send out a beautiful message – every form of the body is beautiful and every form of sexuality is valid. There are roughly 7.8 billion people on this planet and hence there are 7.8 billion varieties of sexualities. 

P.S: I personally would love to see an Indianized version of this documentary. 


Review by  David Lagachu 

Queeruru Correspondent  David Lagachu lives in Assam, India “I am constantly trying to find a perfect balance between academia and my love for writing about films, pop and queer culture. I consider myself a global citizen and would love to be a part of a significant history of mankind.”   i@maglobalcitizen

Posted by queerguru  at  14:54

Genres:  documentary

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