Is it possible to develop a sexual intelligence? Can we unravel the mysteries of desire and fantasy? In Kim Cattrall: Sexual Intelligence, the actress (Sex and the City) and author (Satisfaction) who famously broadened our notions of modern sexuality, navigates a whimsical investigation into what turns us on and why. Drawing on mythology, history, master works of art, cheeky animation and candid interviews with a diverse group of sexual adventurers, sexologists and authors, Kim urges us to broaden and explore our own understanding of erotic desire – making us laugh all the while. From the glorious beaches of Cyprus – the mythical birthplace of love Goddess Aphrodite – to the site in England of a 200 year old, 26 ft long phallus to the “Secret Museum” in Naples, where the erotic treasures of ancient Pompeii have been locked away for centuries, Kim takes us on a breathless tour of sexual significance and cultural discovery.
Smart, arousing, and blush-worthy, Kim Cattrall: Sexual Intelligence is Sex 101 for adults.
eyelights: its historical perspective on desire.
eyesores: Kim Cattrall’s presentation. its limited diversity.
“Lust and laughter trump fear and shame.” – Kim Cattrall
‘Sexual Intelligence’ is a full-length HBO documentary on sexuality, featuring Kim Cattrall as host. Released in 2005 in tandem with an eponymous coffee table book, it attempts to provide a modern perspective on the roots of human desire – as opposed to being a “how to” guide (something Cattrall had already explored in a previous book, ‘Satisfaction: The Art of the Female Orgasm’).
Over the course of 82 minutes, aided by explicit historical artifacts, art, and photography, as well as insight from sex educators and a half dozen adults, the show begins with the perceptions that some people have of men and women, and proceeds to deconstruct them by going back as far back as Ancient Greece to find out if these perceptions have always held true.
Obviously they haven’t.
What we come to learn in this film (if one doesn’t already know that) is that perception is molded by society throughout the centuries. For instance, although the phallus was celebrated two thousand years ago, it was eventually hidden from sight, suggesting that a fear of the penis had gripped European society. Conversely, it suggests, the female form can be seen everywhere.
Frankly, I wasn’t entirely convinced that the conclusions were at all accurate here. One of the first problems is that the film takes an insular North American perspective, forgoing any other view, thereby suggesting that the North American approach to sexuality is universal. Which it isn’t. In fact, even within North America, there isn’t universality, there is multiplicity.
The biggest irony is that the show used only non-North American sources to explain our current social mores – there was no attempt at understanding how North American views shifted after its forefathers landed here, cut off from most European influences. The connections between our European roots and the current perceptions were tenuous to say the least.
Having said this, an 80-minute documentary can’t possibly explore everything in depth, and ‘Sexual Intelligence’ makes attempts to expand its thesis somewhat. It talks about perceptions of the vulva, for instance, touching briefly on the G-spot and clitoris, discusses arousal (confirming that it’s mostly intellectual, not physical), fantasies, Eros and orgasms.
To me, the best parts were with the specialists, which included Michael Bader, Betty Dodson, Thomas Moore, and Maggie Paley, who provided the show’s substance in a sober, informed way. Although Kim Cattrall delivered some interesting material herself, her narrations were artificial and annoyed me; I would have preferred a natural, grounded approach.
As for the 6 or 7 participants (a small pool, admittedly), they offered a few interesting perspectives, given that they weren’t all heterosexual, but it was rather mundane in many areas. Or grating: there was this one guy who was a real douche bag, giving the impression that men are only interested in one thing, will always cheat, and can’t connect with another except through sex.
I hate that any modern treatise of human sexuality would promote such a view without plenty of material to counter it. The problem is that it merely serves to continue to normalize and ingrain a perspective which is false. I am a heterosexual man, and I can express my feelings elsewhere than through sex, I don’t only think about sex (even if I’m fascinated by it), and I would NEVER cheat on anyone.
I realize that he just one man, but it’s one out of three and one of the other men also says that men only think with their dicks. So it really skews the data. I’m not saying that this attitude doesn’t exist, it does, but normalizing it isn’t exactly helping to shake stereotypical perceptions that we have of men… and women. It’s like saying all women want from men is money.
‘Sexual Intelligence’ tries to be open-minded and sex positive, but it trips itself up by stacking its deck with these @$$holes. Combined with its relatively short run time (it’s virtually impossible to accomplish what it’s trying to do in one sitting), it feels a bit thin and unfocused. With more data, a larger palette of participants, it might have come close. But, as it stand, it hardly come off as particularly informed.
Date of viewing: July 27, 2014