Through a stroke of something like luck (okay... it was luck), yesterday I was invited to the preview screening of Lovers' Guide 3D: Igniting Desire. I went along, although without any particular expectations. Although, following a quick assault on Google, I was aware of their presence, I'd never seen a Lovers' Guide film before and so had very little idea of what was going to be presented. All I knew was that it was in 3D and had already been termed "the Avatar of sex-instruction movies" by The Times. I liked Avatar, so that was high praise in my mind.
Had I any expectations at all, they would have been something like Sex: How To Do Everything with Em & Lo, considering that the Lovers' Guides have been going for 20 years, and guessing that this would be one in a series, focusing on one aspect of sex, like oral, or kink, or penetration. I was wrong, and I've never been so glad to be wrong.
So, how do I describe it?
Produced by Robert Page and William Campbell, with a script by Emily Dubberley and narration by Gemma Bissix of Hollyoaks (ouch) and Jeremy Edwards, also of Hollyoaks but also Holby City (double ouch), this Lovers' Guide is, essentially, an instructional video without being methodical, educational without being too preachy, sexual without being too arousing, and a guide which doesn't give too much guidance. No, I know I'm not making sense. I told you it'd be hard to explain.
The Guide divides itself into 13 sections (12, if you want to be superstitious, and take away the end credits), all of which deal with one aspect of what we'd consider sexual contact - sex, flirt, desire, kiss, caress, touch, lick, spice, play, penetrate, climax, share - all packed into one hour. With this brief running time, each aspect was covered to a degree comprehensive enough to go over all the basic aspects without going into too much detail or attempting to repeat the same point several times in order to pad it out. The film was presented with each title floating onto the screen and emitting a halo of 3D light, and then the narration, which lurches between Bissix and Edwards like a table tennis match of words, over a variety of scenes. Most of them depicted one of several couples having sex, but not in a totally random way - they fitted the narration, ergo:
Narrator: "Blah blah blah blah oral sex."
[Video of a couple having oral sex.]
Narrator: "Blah blah blah blah oxytocins."
[Scientific diagram showing the parts of the brain where said neurotransmitters fire off.]
Narrator: "Blah blah blah blah symphony orchestra."
[Video of the conductor having sex with one of the violinists.]
Except that last one. But you probably worked that out.
In all fairness, "blah blah blah blah" isn't a fair approximation of the script. At times the narration was a little overbearing (with the sound balance occasionally making it feel as if the narrators' voices were sticking into your head like a piece of glass), but the wording was spot-on. Not too little, not too much. The basic facts were presented in a direct way and the visuals did the rest. Page and Campbell picked couples who were, in many cases, married or engaged, and so the pleasure we saw was real, which was pleasing. There was music, which was repeated over and over again (apart from the end credits music, which was amazing!) and became a bit tiresome, but not so much as to distract from the overall effect. So it was pleasant to engage in watching.
And the 3D element is not cheesy. Thank you, God. It doesn't really add much, but it's not really a gimmick, as such... the focal point of the viewing experience - people making love - is always presented in 3D. Everything else is blurred out or not in focus, which is perhaps a better alternative to traditional backgrounds, which may be distracting for the keen-eyed viewer. Here, you have something solid, definite, almost tactile, to look at.
So - well presented, good format, well laid-out, good script... now what's its target audience?
Here I had to stop and think. Who would watch this? It's called a lovers' guide, but is it merely a guide for lovers? Personally, I thought it might be suitable for two general groups of people:-
1. Lovers. Nothing wrong with revisiting the basics. Through conversations afterwards, we picked up on the idea that, although the film didn't really introduce anything earth-shattering or mind-blowing about the subjects addressed, it was very good as a refresher course. As Tom, Dubberley's boyfriend, put it, "we know all this stuff, but it got me thinking, why don't I act upon it?". Absolutely true. We had mutual masturbation, sex toys, light bondage, different sex positions, fantasising and skin-touching in the film, yet when I thought about it, how many of those things did I apply last time I had sex? It got people thinking about things, and that's actually what many lovers I've spoken to need to do more!
2. Virgins. It's an odd suggestion, but this one came up in conversation too. Our sex education program is still not great, and with a largely Tory government we're probably going to end up with it scrapped and children finding out about birds having sex with bees at some indeterminable point. A lot of sexual "education" when one is growing up comes from porn, which gives a largely unrealistic idea of what to expect! Sadly, if I were a teacher and suggested this, I'd probably be arrested! But in all honesty, if a group of young people who were thinking about having sex were to watch this, it would be a damn sight better education than putting a condom over a cucumber would ever be. Simple things like indulging in foreplay before penetration... fantasising during sex... masturbating alone and with your partner. We know about them now (whether we do them or not - see point one!), but were we told about them in year 9, 10 or 11?
But however well-done this entire production is, it's difficult to imagine how it might be distributed. It's on release the week before Valentine's this year (Christ, Valentine's again - isn't it going to be depressing, single again on Valentine's?), but although they're aiming for an 18 rating, this has graphic depiction of penetration and all else, and I don't know how the BBFC may take to that.
"It's for educational purposes," said Dubberley, when I asked her about the potential problems of having male ejaculation on screen. "It's very different from what you'd see in porn." She's not wrong there. As I've mentioned before, it's realistic. But for all its good intentions, I think (although I hope, again, that I am wrong) that, this being Britain and all, The Lovers' Guide 3D may just prove difficult to find.
But surely that's more of a reason for watching it? Isn't that why people watch The Human Centipede? Isn't that why people read Spycatcher? Only you have an advantage with this... the team behind it want you to see it.
And so do I. Whoever you are, whatever sexual status you are in, or consider yourself to be in. This is 'edu-info-tainment' at its highest. It doesn't teach you anything - you don't learn anything new or groundbreaking, or even slightly left field - but it makes you think. And if you think about it, you can act upon it. And, at risk of being preachy, isn't that what sex is about, when it comes down to it?
So, if you can... see this. Watch it, take note of what it says, let it activate your brain, and make little sighing noises to yourself whenever it seems appropriate.