Tying Fred Nile in knots

Wednesday, December 4, 1991

Sacred Sex
Produced and directed by Cynthia Connop
Reviewed by Barry Healy

In the words of the old song: "Birds do it, bees do it, Even educated fleas do it".

But Cole Porter never thought that humans could reach nirvana doing it. However, Sacred Sex, billed as "True stories of the new sexuality", proves that humans are capable of using sex for the most sublime and maybe the most ridiculous ends.

It is a quirky and amusing documentary similar in some ways to Cane Toads or Cannibal Tours.

The film makers travelled the world to record group Tantric sex workshops in Hawaii and to interview Chinese Taoist sex philosopher Jolan Chang at home in Sweden, North American sacred sex enthusiasts and a couple of the ultimate yuppie self-discovery freaks in the Caribbean.

What saves it from being a dry exposition in modern anthropology is the vibrant presence of ex-porn queen Annie Sparkle, who, among other things, proves in her "post porn modernist" stage show that if all the penises that she has sucked were laid end to end, they would equal the height of the Empire State Building!

Annie ingenuously grins her gap-toothed smile at the camera and announces such zingers as: "I like to devote each sexual experience to some purpose. Like 'world peace' is a good one, or 'I need more money', or 'My cat is sick so I devote this orgasm to my cat'." She also has a boyfriend, who used to be a woman, whose genitalia, minutely presented on screen, are a marvel of modern corrective surgery.

By the end of the film Annie wins you completely because of her total freedom with her body and sexuality. While some of the other interviewees are agonising over their feelings and oozing seriousness about their "ancient" wisdom, Annie is out there wowing the crowds at her show with her candour — not to mention the close-up examination of her cervix which she provides her audiences.

Given the self-absorption of many of the people filmed, it would be easy to dismiss this film as just a left over of the '80s "me" infatuation. Not so: Sacred Sex shows that the potential for human beings in the area of sexuality is far beyond what we are socially conditioned to expect.

If materialists find the word "sacred" too much to take, at least it is clear from this film that extraordinary advances in pleasure and health are easily available if people choose to investigate.

The Liberal Party's Waste Watch committee choked on that. It has protested that $270,000 of taxpayers' money has been wasted on this film. When the shortened version hits the ABC next year, Fred Nile will tie himself in knots (but not if he sees what some people can do when they get into similar positions!). And those on the left who argue for censorship of pornography in feminist terms may also be discomfited. This film is as explicit as any porn film. It is clearly directed at human liberation, but could it have been made in a censorious environment, albeit a "progressive" one?

And, of course, could any of this fascinating "ancient" information have become available at all if were it not marketed like every other commodity in capitalist society? The Hawaiian seminars cost in the order of $2000, and Jolan Chang supports his Taoist philosophising by publishing books (i.e. retailing an aspect of Chinese culture that was once free). Another couple in the film support their Tantric lifestyle, which they discuss in the most spiritual terms, by profitably trading sacred items from the Third World.

It is to the film makers' credit that within the whirl of commercial exploitation of sex they have managed to produce this straightforward and interesting account. It will be fascinating to watch the sacred cows being defended when it reaches the TV screens.

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