Monday, January 11, 2010

"Gone But Not Forgotten": Sex, Intimacy, Affection

The other night I watched an Indie gay film titled Gone But Not Forgotten. Over the past few days and nights I have been thinking of the effect the movie had on me. (I will try to avoid plot spoilers.)

The story is basic enough: Drew Parker, a forest ranger, rescues mark, a man with amnesia who fell from the cliffs. Their friendship soon becomes more, but their romance is threatened as Mark's forgotten past comes back to claim him.

Other than Mark's amnesia, the plot uses very little, if any, complex or stilted plot devices. Also, being a low-budget Indie film, some quality is lacking at points and there are at least two scenes I feel the actors' deliveries were a little flat. However, I still found it all very touching and profound. I have not been able to stop thinking of how it made me feel and what I think about issues of sex, intimacy, and affection.

For starters, some of the things I found enjoyable about the film was what it lacked from most other gay cinema. There weren't any bars, dance clubs, back rooms, or "fabulously" outrageous drag queens that all too often dress the scenes. There weren't bitchy drama queens, mannish lesbians, or youth obsessed twinks filling out the cast. Other than some natural nods to the usual angst of being gay men and the final explanation of what sent Mark to the mountain, the story could easily be have been about a heterosexual couple.

What struck me the most was the development of the relationship between Drew and Mark. If it were not for knowing the film is gay cinema, the romantic connection between the two men doesn't begin to become apparent until nearly thirty minutes into the film. That the writer and director take the time to show the men developing a friendship into a romance is something I have rarely seen in gay cinema. My experience is most of the time the relationship seems to start with sex and everything else comes later. Even when the romance becomes known there is a delay and development before any sex actually occurs. There is a real sense of a meaningful relationship developing, not just a flurry of passion and romance.

When the characters do actually have sex it is probably the only such scene I have seen in gay cinema I really feel should be called a "love scene." Most other films seem to rely on the styles and modes used in porn. While I know some who would call this particular scene pornographic, there is a definite difference in how it is handled. The montage is slow, deliberate, caring, affectionate, and really portrays two people joining together in intimacy--not just getting off together.

This is the difficulty I have with much of the portrayal and discussion of sex in both gay culture and general society. The sense of intimacy, affection, and emotional impact often seem lost. Sex seems more like an itch to be scratched. Now, I'm not pure on this either. I've had more than my share of sexual partners over the past eleven years. The vast majority of them have been out of a desire to appease my libido, and it is because of these experiences that I strongly believe sex needs to be treated as something more than a biological urge.

I often hear the argument that men are better at separating sex from love. While I'm sure there is some supporting research surveys, this does not describe me. For me, physical touch is inextricably linked to affection and intimacy. I remember in my adolescence wishing I could hug my friends to show them how I cared about them, but I didn't as such displays are not considered appropriate, especially between boys/men. One of the things I actually liked about my mission was that the Elders would actually hug each other. Although I understood why, I didn't like it when my mission president said we shouldn't be doing it so often, especially in public. My desire and need for physical affection and intimacy are such that, although it would be difficult, I would rather go without sex for the rest of my life as long as I had someone to hold, and who would hold me back.

This is what watching Gone But Not Forgotten has evoked in me: seeing such a portrayal of affection and intimacy brings up such a powerful yearning for it myself that I feel physically ill when I think about it. It is not a matter of libido; although, it is not divorced from it either. It is not about sex; although that is a natural extension and expression of what I yearn for. As Drew puts it, "I just want somebody to come home to. Somebody that wants to come home to me too. That when they walk out that door, I know that they're gonna walk back in again."

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