A VIRAL VALENTINE VIEWFINDER.
With Special Guest Star, Alison Pilling
‘Why can’t love and sex and romance be like they are in the movies?’ is a common cry. Well, who says it CAN’T be like that? In fact, Cinema might just be able to help you form, shape, express, control and fulfil some of your deepest, most personal longings.
I sat down with an expert in the field to find out how. Sit Back, Relax and enjoy the journey..
What was your first romantic image?
You know: the one in your head that defined relationships, the interaction between lovers? THAT one!
Chances are, it had something to do with film. Movies are a vicarious yet essential vessel for capturing the moments that define sensuality, love, eroticism, spiritual connection and yes, those momentary glimpses of sexual energy. Fantasy and reality intertwine, like lovers / forces of nature, through the power of the screen and its moral aesthetics.
It’s only natural that as we grew up, (however conservative or protective our childhood backgrounds); that critical, essential first glimpse of a very adult or at least adolescent impulse toward love, and its civil or primal expressions was connected to the visual language of film.
Movie iconography, imagery and insight can shape our deepest fears and fantasies as much as they can reflect them. Perhaps, even provide precarious platform to the sometimes flawed, possibly helpful opportunity for social and psychological projection.
And so as Valentine’s Day approaches, it’s an apt time to tour a sample of cinematic gems in this field, with a proper expert.
I called sexy polymath Alison Pilling of Sex School for Grown Ups.
This woman is amazing: a natural healer, teacher, communicator. Talking to her is a joy; one immediately feels at ease.
That’s quite some gift in today’s charged climate. Given that our entire social and media politic has changed in the zeitgeist of sexual vs social expression, especially in the last two to three years.
The pervading ethos is on one hand very liberated in terms of lifestyle choice and expression. And yet? All are now bound by unwritten yet newly imposed fears of saying the wrong thing.
While the most explicit of arenas seems open to debate, by contrast the most old school of innocuous impulses seem somehow forbidden. There is a sense of our moral and cultural DNA being rewritten and that, in turn, feeds a far more dangerous underworld of subversive misogyny.
Notice the rise in trolling online is not restricted to politics but also, to sexuality. The fraternity of those playing that repellent card of ‘political correctness gone mad’; just so they can post offensive and sexist comments.
How do we find some moderation, a third way of sorts? Well: Alison can help. And indeed, she does. During our conversation, her perspective is refreshing and has a shamanic, immediate
impact. The boundaries are implicit and non-intrusive, facilitated by the boundless joy of creative communication.
So, chatting to Alison is a liberating enlightenment. Comforting and exciting at once.
Indeed, one of Alison’s leading interests is in charting a kind of map to fulfilment to a sense of personal and erotic freedom. As part of understanding that total honesty and probity in discussion with a partner (or /and, therapist en route) can initiate a quest of sorts.
Where am I going with this? How does the seemingly unconnected realm of psycho-sexual insight of our erotic mindset connect to the initially disparate world of film?
Well, to quote Iron Man 3: ‘we create our own demons’.
To understand our turnoffs and turn-ons, it is useful, no essential, even, to begin identifying and thereby decoding our own peak erotic experiences.
‘Sex Therapist Jack Morin identified an Erotic Equation
Attraction + Obstacles = Excitement which summarises a situation many of us may have
experienced. In his book, The Erotic Mind, Morin talks about what makes situations
erotic identifying “Four Cornerstones of Eroticism”: Longing and desire, Overcoming
Ambivalence, Violating Prohibitions and the Search for Power.’
IE: at a subconscious level, there are fundamental images and triggers that integrate themselves to our worldview. That, in turn, can unconsciously influence our sexual
and romantic lives.
It is therefore not only interesting but imperative that one confront, recognise and articulate that pervading aspect. Allowing us to be in choice rather than being controlled;
turning limitation to liberation. If we do this in constructive concert with one’s partners /lovers our erotic life can be informed and heightened as it’s free of compulsion and projection.
It is entirely logical to just listen to Alison’s insights and then reverse engineer the personal paradigm to a cinematic impact on our erotic imagination. An aspect of film might just have led
to a specific fantasy or burning need /desire for fulfilment that can define or destroy us unless we flip that power back.
(Understanding our emotional aphrodisiacs helps us in this. Jack Morin mentions four: Closeness, Anxiety, Guilt and Anger. They may seem paradoxical but these emotions can intensify or inhibit arousal.)
And a talking therapy, in safe, trusting, pastoral format, can equip one with the articulacy to understand and harness a fantasy, safely, without its shadow undermining our communication and without having to impose our particular predilection on someone else. Ultimately beginning to understand its power for transformation.
It’s like the path of the hero in film and literature, delivered through reference to sex. Yes, one wishes a safe return to the home scene at the end of the adventure, but there must be bravery, some measured yet comfortable risk and thereby a discovery and in turn, a kind of vanquishing of the dragons of repression and destruction.
And Alison can help us re-route our communication wires in the realm of sexuality, enjoyably.
Granted, we did this through a filter of movies and Ms Pilling, is by her own admission, by no means a film buff. All the better! Because I felt free and clear to discuss quite frankly, just some of those films that for me defined my kind of ‘take’ on what romance /sex look like, on film.
So here we go. My take on take Alison’s instinctive reaction..to a set of images, clips, moments in film. Some sexy; some just softer /romantic in association.
Happy Valentine’s Day, readers! Longing and desire expressed in each, what else is there?
Alison: The longing and desire palpable, spouses unaware and at home breaking taboos of societal mores with the ideal partner, the stranger on the train.
Alison: Violating prohibitions, another man’s wife, polite society all be damned, guilt enhancing desire. There is a natural companion piece in In The End of The Affair.
Catholic guilt heightens desires, the related emotions of remorse, naughtiness, and shame mean the love affair is intense and limited.
Alison: With its stylish undertones of domination and submission, the exploration of the power dynamic, control and surrender. Time amplified by the gift of a watch
as a measure of control, perhaps?
Alison: Exploring prohibitions, overcoming Kidman’s ambivalence, drawing her in to new worlds of promise and forbidden group experiences.
James: Or is it vice versa? This is Nic’s film as much as it is Tom’s. Same year she did The Blue Room on stage, which covered similar ground. Agree: the shifting power dynamic makes the whole movie so intriguing. Love it, I must say. Underrated gem!
Alison: My earliest turn on, the seduction of the powerful man, challenging power, withholding and ceding in turn is intoxicating.
James: There was a miniseries sequel in 1994..with Timothy Dalton succeeding Clark Gable as Rhett and Joanne Whalley taking over from Vivien Leigh as Scarlett.
Many thanks to Alison.
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