Movie review: Beyond Vanilla,
Unforgettable Journey To The Wilder Side Of Sex
I, like countless others, believe that fear of the unknown causes
a crippling amount of misunderstanding in our society. Whether that
unknown is a cultural practice, an ethnic trait, or a sexual subculture is
irrelevant. Without a safe introduction to something we consider foreign,
we tend to gloss over what could be meaningful and worthwhile in a
practice and instead react out of fear to create prohibitions, taboos,
avoidance and eventually hatred and intolerance of the people whose
practices we don't understand.
Documentaries such as Beyond Vanilla attempt to take the unknown factor
out of certain forms of sexual behavior that mainstream society considers
deviant, and they succeed in many respects. The effect is felt most fully
when the viewer is truly there to learn and approaches the subject with an
open mind; otherwise, many elements of Beyond Vanilla will still make the
average viewer highly uncomfortable and may perpetuate the view that the
BDSM subculture is "perverted", "gross" or unfathomable (for instance,
several people left the theater when scenes of bodily mutilation were
The movie is presented intelligently and in a lighthearted manner, and
gives insight from well-trained professionals and practitioners in an easy
to understand format. Its director/producer, Claes Lilja, surveys a wide
variety of people from different income levels, ethnic backgrounds, sexual
preferences and gender identities, showing the pervasiveness of
alternative lifestyles in people we consider "normal".
Lilja also attempts to get to the bottom of the "why" question - for
instance, the movie quotes statistics stating that there is no higher
occurrence of childhood sexual abuse in those who engage in BDSM than in
those who don't - sexual play is usually not a reenactment of past
disturbing experiences, but an attempt to reach a higher level of
consciousness and, for some, actually leads to an out of body experience.
I couldn't help thinking that the thrill of the pain, fear or adrenaline
rush of BDSM must be similar to that felt by any adrenaline or pleasure
junkie - whether it's through drugs, sex, work or risk-taking, all are
attempts at reaching a state of detachment from daily life and its ability
to numb the mind and create disquiet in the soul. Some of the
interviewees in Beyond Vanilla describe their sexplay as psychologically
therapeutic, some seem to consider it spiritual. I came out of the movie
finally seeing the logic in someone describing fisting as an intimate,
One of the funniest points of the film was when the interviewees were
discussing "scat", or sexplay involving defecation - I had to laugh when
a man who had talked throughout the film with relish about seemingly
every conceivable practice was reduced to something like "Ewwwww!
That's so gross! I'd never do that!" I guess we all have to draw the
What this movie can teach you: Beyond
Vanilla contains detailed depictions, descriptions and how-to
demonstrations that cover sex toys, bondage, S&M, BDSM, dominatrixes/domination,
flogging, fire play, knife play, tops, bottoms, submissive, fisting,
skin-piercing, water sports (golden showers), hankie codes,
transexualism, bigendered people, and more!!!
you have questions you’ve always wanted answered about sex or the sex industry?
firstname.lastname@example.org to submit them to Michelle and her interviewees.
Ladies - interested in seeing sex toys and having their functions
explained in a safe, open environment? Email me to schedule an in home "girls night in" to talk about
anatomy, sex and toys along with your girlfriends!