We all have sex. That’s just a fact of life. But it can sometimes feel taboo, shameful even; however, filmmaker and health reporter Alex Liu seeks to change this.
After watching A Sexplanation, it was incredible to be the first in the UK to speak with Alex about his personal life, his general career, and the upcoming documentary.
A Sexplanation is both a journey through and a celebration of sex, sexual identity, and everything in-between. Alex took the leap into the world of sex, not just for himself, but for those of us still unsure about taking that step.
“People just wanna know how to make sex feel good and work for you”, began Alex as we shared some thoughts on the state of sex education in the U.S, where Alex is from, and UK, where I reside.
We then began the interview, when we asked Alex about his childhood which, by all accounts, was “pretty pleasant” as he had “very loving parents, very supportive”, which was great to hear from someone who, despite this support, considered suicide at a young age due to the shame that surrounded him in regard to his sexuality and sexual self-gratification.
“The one thing my family was not prepared for as I started getting older was my same-sex attraction... my queer identity”. Even some parents today struggle with knowing their child is anything but straight, while some are simply surprised and supportive.
This may come from a lack of knowledge about different sexualities, which, especially when Alex was younger, wasn’t a priority at all – and sadly, while it seems to be more talked about, still isn’t today.
“I had a lot of anger and confusion towards my parents, I blamed them a lot for not being there for me in a way... you think I had it bad? They had it so much worse... when it came to sex and sex education”.
Since no one could really help Alex with his feelings and his newfound sexuality, he turned to “destructive behaviours”, as well as having “depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation... it took us a long time as a family to figure out how to navigate forward.”
This is of course a sad story, but within A Sexplanation, Alex speaks with his parents about their experiences with sex education, and he realises that they didn’t have much in the way of sexual knowledge, and his grandmother even less so.
We then asked Alex to share with us what troubles him the most about sex education within the U.S now, as well as when he was growing up.
Now, it seems that it’s a “little better”, according to Alex, but there has also been a “lot of steps back in the past month”.
“But when I was growing up... the political and public health goal was how we prevent teen pregnancy, cause it was at all-time highs, and how do we prevent HIV... so the main message is just ‘don’t have sex’... the most moral thing you can do with these urges is to stop yourself.”
It seems that when Alex, and others his age, were ready to learn about what sex is, he was simply told (when he was younger) just to not have sex, and repress any sexual urges. Surely we all know, however, that this simply does not work.
Preaching abstinence in schools leads to young people still having sex, but with either a lack of information, or the wrong facts entirely. This leads to higher teen pregnancies, higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and other sexual blunders.
“Repression of strong desires or urges doesn’t make them go away” states Alex, “it just makes them come out in way more harmful ways.”
“People think a lot about how you minimise risks, but no one talks about how you maximise pleasure”, which is a very important part of sex that is seemingly not only ignored here in the UK, but in the U.S, too.
“We got a lot of the shame... but none of the positives” Alex finishes.
We then moved on to how Alex came out to his parents, way before the documentary began, and it shows just how important it is for parents to be just as educated about not just sex (between both straight and homosexual couples), but sexuality, identity, and everything that comes with those things.
Alex said that his parents noticed something was wrong, with him “sleeping all day” and his “grades tanking”; unfortunately, Alex felt, at this point in his life, that his only option was “to kill myself or tell someone I was gay”, which was a heartbreaking statement to hear.
It was great to hear, however, that Alex had a “supportive community of friends at school”, as well as teachers who “all supported me to the point where I came out to my parents.”
Alex explained that, while his parents had no problems with him being gay, they just didn’t know how to show him that his life still had “love and meaning”.
Moving onto the crux of the documentary itself, Alex stated that one of the reasons he was unsure if he wanted to tell his story, was that he was “scared it would be coated purely as a gay story, a queer story, ‘this is only for gay people, and really this was for everyone.”
We couldn’t agree more, as A Sexplanation felt like an inclusive journey for everyone; gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, and everyone else – that's what was so special about the documentary, and why we were so excited to speak to Alex about it.
“Everyone has something in their life that they need to come out about”, says Alex, “it may not be a same-sex attraction, but it’s something, right?” Coming out doesn’t always need to relate to sexual identity, it can “be as simple as masturbation”, Alex continues to explain.
“There’s really seven billion sexualities when you think about it” said Alex when discussing how many of us can feel abnormal or out of place when it comes to our quirks or kinks; however, as Alex sees it (and we couldn’t agree more), the only thing we all have in common is that none of us are normal, which is in fact a beautiful thing.
Alex then asks us all a very important question: “Isn't the world just more delicious if you can come out about it and have people know you and love you for who you are?” We definitely think so.
Alex then discusses the biggest misconception we have about sex education, where we seem to think it takes place from “12 to 18... but really sex ed is something that should start from birth to death.”
How can sexual education last only a few years, when our bodies, minds, sexual preferences and desires are changing as we get older? Answer: it can’t (and we’re sure Alex would agree!).
When asked about what was next for him, Alex told us that he has nothing planned at the moment and that he’s primarily focused on getting A Sexplanation out into the world.
He did, however, divulge on the thing that shocked him the most about the documentary, which was that he was “able to talk to people that for my whole life, I really kinda hated...
“Talking to conservative republican politicians, talking to anti-abortion activists, talking to even a catholic priest... in my mind I coated these people as the enemy, right...
“It quickly became obvious that I was being kind of a hypocrite because what I was asking from the world, is to love and accept me for who I am without judgement, but I was unwilling to extend the same thing those who I deemed my enemy”. That was until the interviews.
Alex’s conversations with these people not only showed him facing his fears, but that it’s possible to have a conversation with someone who has the complete opposite view to you, without it ending in a screaming match over opinions or morals.
Sex, according to Alex, is “so core and essential to who we all are”, which is a beautiful way of putting it, and yet again, we agreed with Alex’s wonderful idea of what sex really is, and what it can be.
When asked about the MRI section of the documentary, Alex let out a nervous laugh, as it was quite the uncommon experience. He essentially masturbated in an MRI machine for scientists who are the first ever to study sex in this way.
“It was probably the least erotic sexual experience I’ve had in my life,” laughed Alex. “You’re stuck in an MRI machine... you have a camera crew and a research team barking orders at you...
“There’s a lot of pressure to get it done in the time allotted... it was terrifying to have to masturbate on camera... but the process I think was really helpful for me to get over the shame I have for masturbation.”
Throughout the interview, Alex had shared so much about himself, and enlightened us about sex and who we are in a whole new way.
Our final question to Alex was what A Sexplanation taught him, to which he replied “getting over shame is a daily battle... the only cure is talking about it; the only way to get rid of the darkness is to shed light on it.”
Speaking to Alex was an eye-opening experience, to say the least, as he taught us so much within the documentary, and his positive attitude in the midst of his fears and evolution as a person was something we’re very grateful to be a part of.
Being open about who he is saved Alex’s life, and we hope that anyone struggling with who they are can see themselves in Alex, and take those “baby steps” he prescribes, and grow into whoever you wish to be.
You can watch A Sexplanation on digital download from June 6th, 2022.
Written by Melissa, who you can follow on Twitter @melissajournal