Corey Silverberg of aboutsexuality recently brought to my attention two new movies being produced in Hollywood. One, The Surrogate, follows poet Mark O’Brien’s experience with a sexual surrogate and the next, Hysteria, is a romantic comedy about the history of the vibrator. I’m interested to see how audiences interpret these psychologically driven stories and I anticipate the rise of controversy and conversation over psychosexual practices.
Both films have a certain relevance to Naked Therapy. The Surrogate focuses on the relatively rare sexual surrogacy practice that works in tandem with other therapists to help conquer sexual dysfunction, intimacy issues, and other relavant conditions. Much like Sarah, Surrogates understand that the best way to analyze and restore a client’s sexual health is to experience it first hand. While the professionals don’t have sexual intercorse with their clients, they do engage in the intimacies appropriate to analysis. It’s a controversial practice, one that’s faced harsh criticism since its conception in 1970. But perhaps this film will demonstrate the legitimacy not only of sexual surrogacy, but any theory that sees physicality as a viable psychotherapeutic technique.
I’m optimistic about Hysteria and, being a romantic comedy, hope that the film will spend less time laughing at female hysteria than explaining it. If done well, this film could reintroduce the idea that sexual health is intrinsically tied to mental health. The treatment of female hysteria serves as a paradigm for the emerging prevalence of male hysteria and proves that traditional forms of therapy devoid of sexual relevance cannot cure hysterics alone.
But more important than the films themselves, I wonder if we’re on the cusp of a trend in Hollywood: the psychosexual film. In addition to The Surrogate and Hysteria, 2011 will also exhibit Shame, a film about sex addiction and A Dangerous Method, Cronenberg’s piece on psychoanalysis and the relationship between Freud and Jung. Of course, these films aren’t unprecedented. Kinsey was Oscar-bait in 2004, and last year’s Black Swan invited psychosexual themes and theories, albiet more much more implicitly. Yet the psychosexual film certainly seems more prevalent lately.
Does this trend reflect a more psychologically progressive society, ready to embrace sexuality as a mainstream therapeutic practice? Or does it simply communicate Hollywood’s “sex sells” mantra? Only time, and an $11.75 ticket to the movies, will tell.