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(A)sexual

Increasingly against the popular tide, conservatives continue to war against gay marriage and rights, but one wonders how they might react to yet another "alternative lifestyle" explored in Angela Tucker's "(A)sexual."

Increasingly against the popular tide, conservatives continue to war against gay marriage and rights, but one wonders how they might react to yet another “alternative lifestyle” explored in Angela Tucker’s “(A)sexual.” Presumably they’d be flummoxed, as are most of the men and women on the street interviewed here. Focusing on that segment of the population (possibly as many as 3 million U.S. residents) professing no sexual interest whatsoever in either gender, this docu provides a fascinating look at an orientation most are inclined to disbelieve truly exists. Further fest travel, broadcast sales and home-format dissemination are signaled.

Average Joes and Janes queried about what “asexuality” means are usually way off the mark, assuming it applies to people who are mentally ill, on the rebound from a bad relationship, repressed, celibate, recovering from sexual abuse, etc. But one of the few studies dedicated to the subject determined that 1% of 18,000 polled had no sex drive at all, and further suggested that this was (as many scientists believe of homosexuality) not a choice, but something with which those in question were born.

Still, the usual reaction is incredulousness, as we see when “The View’s” hostesses bombard AVEN (Asexual Visibility and Education Network) founder/spokesman David Jay with jokey off-color comments in response to his explanation of a growing community (largely thanks to AVEN’s website) of people who feel no sexual attraction in any direction. Some are lifelong virgins; others tried and tried to experience a breakthrough with sex until they realized it was never going to happen. Some masturbate, some don’t; some like physical closeness (cuddling, hand-holding) or even seek life partners, while others do not.

Archival footage name-checks Morrissey (“the first openly celibate rock star,” though he’s since renounced that ’80s self-categorization) and comedienne Janeane Garofalo, who admits onstage a “a genuine lack of interest, which isn’t really good news for my boyfried of 10 years.” But the primary focus is on average folks greatly relieved to discover they aren’t lone freaks, but rather part of an as yet barely acknowledged minority populace that simply isn’t encoded with basic sexual desire.

As Jay works to boost asexuals’ national profile, AVEN marches for exposure’s sake in the San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade, chanting, “We love you! But not that way!” to variably tickled, puzzled and hostile response. Among various experts consulted here, sex advice columnist Dan Savage is the most dismissive, opining that asexuals are just “conflicted” and have turned their evasion of sexual issues into an ersatz identity.

Brightly assembled docu takes the right interested but neutral stance toward an area that’s barely begun to be acknowledged or studied. (There are early indications that there may be a link between Asperger’s and asexuality.) Unexpected epilogue only adds to the sense that this is virgin (ahem) territory.

(A)sexual

  • Production: An Arts Engine presentation of a Big Mouth production in association with TurkerGurl. Produced by Katy Chevigny, Beth Davenport, Jolene Pinder. Directed by Angela Tucker.
  • Crew: Camera (color, DV-to-HD), Jolene Pinder, Jason Blalock; editor, Michelle Chang; sound, Beth Davenport, Pinder, Tucker. Reviewed at Frameline (Documentaries), San Francisco, June 18, 2011. (Also in NewFest.) Running time: 75 MIN.
  • With: With: David Jay, Antonia, Elizabeth, Brian, Barb, Lori Brotto, Carol Queen, Anthony Goaert, Cynthia Graham, Dan Savage.
  • Music By: