November 21, 2018 By Jaime Marie Charlotte
Sticky: A (Self) Love Story documentary with Larry Flint, Nina Hartley, tackles the stigma around masturbation
Don’t you feel free about female masterbation ? Sticky: A (Self) Love Story is a documentary now available on VOD and DVD directed by Nicholas Tana. The film delves into history, religion, politics, art, and pop culture to understand how such a simple act as masturbation came to be associated with sin, danger, and shame.
The film accomplishes this through interviews with porn stars, sex experts, sex educators, musicians, and celebrities like Larry Flynt of Hustler Magazine, actress/comedian Janeane Garofalo and feminist sex-educator former pornstar Nina Hartley.
The movie director Nicholas Tana declared to the website Bustle:
“I hope the film primarily accomplishes getting the word out about the fact that something so common is such a stigma.” – “I think first we need to recognize this fact to do something about it. And then, in addition to that, I’d like to get more dialogue, especially around education. There’s this fear around sexuality and children.. there’s this hear no evil see no evil approach to it. leading toward more confusion.”
In the documentary, Tana shares the personal effect this attitude had on him as a child, when he was outcasted by classmates simply for admitting he masturbated. It took quite a long time to get the documentary made — about seven years. This had a lot to do with people’s reluctance to collaborate on a film delving into such a taboo subject.
Tana, an alumni of the Honors College at Arizona State University, reached out to his alma mater (several times) in hopes that they could alert students to a social media internship that would help with promotion of the film.
“They simply refused; they just said no. They gave no reason — the email just says ‘no.'”
Even when the film got a distributor, there were still obstacles to completing production. For instance, Tana was told by several VOD platforms that they would never stream a film that had “masturbation” in its title, which is why he came up with the clever title that the film has now. And even still, with the film complete and ready to be released onto VOD platforms, media executives become squeamish.
“Someone at CNN said if they put anything like this movie out there, they would be forced to resign… Some VOD platforms that are family friendly refuse to even have our film on there.”
Despite this pearl-clutching criticism, Tana has also encountered plenty of folks in the industry and in education who are thrilled by the documentary research around masterbation.
Plenty of folks in education are thrilled by the documentary subject’s as part of the excitement
The subject’s polarizing nature is part of why the film is so exciting for him:
“I like to see where we strangely put the boundaries on ourselves. To me, masturbation is the world’s most popular taboo. For many people, it’s the most common sexual act.”
And yet, as Tana acknowledges in our interview and in the film, it was at first extremely difficult to put himself on camera and share personal anecdotes about masturbation. He found himself worrying about his future career prospects. Even a few sexperts and sex educators in the film, after speaking extensively on the matter, became embarrassed when Tana turned the tables and asked about their own experiences with masterbation self-pleasure. Naturally, it was challenging for Tana to find a way to incorporate a personal storyline, even though masturbation is one of the most personal things we do. Eventually, he realized that acknowledging this strange discomfort was what the film needed. He continues:
“I was veering away from the personal. I was getting too removed by just talking to these experts. What really makes this subject so fascinating is how personal it is. And so what would happen if I ask myself or actually dared put myself on camera. What would happen if I started asking experts personal questions.. People got very uncomfortable. I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if we interwove this story with a narrator who is typical, hiding his face in shadows when interviewed, and as we go on, we start to reveal more about him. And then we start turning the tables on other people in the movie and ask them personal questions, too. It’s all to remind viewers that while we may be talking about it, let’s not forget, we are still embarrassed today… this is still very much a taboo subject.”
Tana didn’t immediately connect his interest in destigmatization with the awful incident about masterbation he had experienced as a child. This attitude is why he first set out to create the film as more of a mockumentary about masterbation.
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