We like to believe that we are rational beings who order our lives as we see fit and all our behaviour comes down to choice. Yet when it comes to sexually destructive behaviour, rational choice is noticeable largely by its absence. Why did Brandon choose to present as a man in, of all places, Nebraska? Why not move to New York, where transgender sexuality is more accepted? The same can be asked of John Lotter and Tom Nissen. Why didn’t they simply expel Brandon from their circle after the bathroom incident? Instead they committed the rape that spiralled into triple murder and will most likely end in Lotter’s own execution.

Similarly irrational choices are evident in the other films reviewed to date. Georgina didn’t have to have sex among the Parmesan rounds at her husband’s restaurant in The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover. Lynda didn’t have to flash her knickers at the workmen in her uncle’s bus depot. Harry Black didn’t have to solicit sex from a minor in Last Exit to Brooklyn. Why didn’t they make safer, socially approved choices?

Many real-life instances where sex destroys lives often have an air of unavoidability about them, a seemingly unstoppable trajectory along which the participants hurtle to their doom as if they were actors playing pre-scripted parts rather than human beings capable of rational choice

Many real-life instances where sex destroys lives often have an air of unavoidability about them, a seemingly unstoppable trajectory along which the participants hurtle to their doom as if they were actors playing pre-scripted parts rather than human beings capable of rational choice. Josef Fritzl built the secret basement where he imprisoned and raped his daughter for over two decades. With every spade of secretively dug earth he could have chosen to stop. He didn’t—or couldn’t. Ditto Gayle Newland, who presented herself on Facebook as a man and spent two years cultivating a friendship with a woman that led to them having blindfolded sex using a prosthetic penis and ended in tears in a courtroom.

It is not uncommon for sex offenders to express relief at being caught, as if they have been saved from an overwhelming force, a madness they couldn’t control[1]. The films in this chapter examine this phenomenon, starting with Paul Schrader’s 1990 drama The Comfort of Strangers.


Start: Sexcatraz Pt. 1 – Welcome to Sexcatraz
Previous: Sexcatraz Pt. 11 – The Conformist
Next: Sexcatraz Pt. 13 – The Comfort of Strangers


Footnotes

[1] Dr Lam Hoe Yeoh, convicted in November 2014 on multiple counts of filming patients in his surgery toilet, admitted to the “most enormous relief” when he was apprehended.

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