Film

Family-Style Porn

Middle-class Swinging and The Lifestyle

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THERE'S A LOT OF HUMANITY in the film The Lifestyle--human tragedy revealed in the longing for fantasy levels of sexual pleasure alongside the inevitable fate of aging and physical decay. The Lifestyle is a documentary about organized "sport fucking," group recreational sex among middle class suburban Americans. The subtext is corporeal: cellulite, scars, smoker's wrinkles, sagging buttocks, beer bellies and scrawny thighs. It's the porn movie you'd never want to be part of. A person doesn't have to be young or conventionally beautiful to be fuckable in the world of swingers.

The film shows the technical aspects of hosting a swingers party--how to cover an entire floor with mattresses, how to protect a mattress with towels under the sheets and how to make a bed so the sheets won't slide off. One man tapes a lone strand of red, white and blue crepe paper along a wall, then steps back and says, "See, it works!" Indulgence is at the heart of The Lifestyle. Sex and food are present in Costco proportions.

Bits of the outside world seep in around this otherwise singularly focused documentary. One man mentions his graduate paper on Pynchon's novel, Gravity's Rainbow, and what he sees as "the American tradition of suspicion and paranoia since World War II." A young woman, describing her husband's persuasiveness before their first time at a swingers party, says, "It was like me trying to convince him to buy contacts it took me two years to convince him."

Her husband touches his glasses and sheepishly admits he's not wearing his contacts. Soon, this couple will take a break from the parties as well.

According to Freud, civilization has a parasitic relationship with sex, great achievements running on the energy of sexual repression. This film seems to be about successful, middle class America hitting a wall in terms of achievement--recognizing mortality ("when we die, we'll die happy"), and running out of hobbies. No more panther collections or trips in the RV means retiring into a Hieronemous Bosch-esque future of fucking and fucking and fucking.

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