Entertainment

Everything I Learned About Sex from Canadian Movies

On the 20th anniversary of the car-sex classic 'Crash,' I looked back at how Canadian cinema had warped my brain.
May 25, 2016, 1:50pm

Still via 'Crash'

When I was 14 years old, my parents took it upon themselves to share the movie Crash with me.

Not the Academy Award-winning 2004 film in which Canadian director Paul Haggis solved racism through overbearing melodrama and the revelation that some black people like hockey. No, we're talking the 1996 Cannes Special Jury Prize-winning film in which Canadian director David Cronenberg explored modern existential crises through a mix of sex, death, and car crashes. This was not an entirely unprecedented move on my parents' part. I had recently declared myself a fan of Canadian cinema after discovering the work of filmmakers like Bruce McDonald, Patricia Rozema, and Atom Egoyan. So when another Canadian director's daring, audacity, and originality started causing a stir at the world's most prestigious film festival, my parents decided to express their support for my new interest by giving me clippings about the film and the J.G. Ballard book on which it was based. And when Crash finally came out on home video—I was too young to see the R-rated feature in theaters—they rented it for me. They then proceeded to watch it with me. There's a part of me that wishes I could claim that watching 100 straight minutes of intermingling vehicles and flesh interspersed with the occasional bout of wound-fucking with my parents was a uniquely bizarre moment in my adolescent development. But it was actually just one of many times in which the sexual content of CanCon shaped my young life. I was not exactly a sheltered child, but I was an incredibly unpopular one—and an undiagnosed autistic—which meant that, outside of an actual clinical educational on the matter, most of my early knowledge about sex came from the weird domestic films that I spent most of my time watching. This made for the occasional good influence—Bruce LaBruce's art porn, in particular, shaped both my aesthetic and political beliefs for the better—but it also left my impressionable young mind permanently warped by Cronenberg's lust zombies, Egoyan's intermittent repression, and the great necrophilia boom of the 90s. And I'm not sure that I'll ever truly recover from the oddly titillating confusion of seeing my childhood crush, Casey Jones (Elias Koteas) go from hanging with Ninja Turtles to waxing lustily about schoolgirls in his MC gig in Exotica and getting involved in all sorts of car crash fucking in Crash. It's only now, 20 years after my parents handed me that first article on Crash, that I'm beginning to make sense of my (mis)education at the hands of Canadian film. Here are some of the more enduring lessons that still govern and haunt my life:

How to MacGyver a Condom ('Hustler White,' 1996)

Bruce LaBruce's work has taught me many valuable things over the years. But one scene in this film (which I, like many young indie nerds, discovered via the music video for Rusty's "Misogyny") also taught me that, in a pinch, you can use a bread bag in place of a proper prophylactic. I have yet to try this at home. Despite the aesthetically pleasant touch that a well-branded bag can add to a good gang bang, but I'm pretty sure that it would be both ineffective and incredibly abrasive. I have, however, felt the need occasionally declare "if you're out of condoms, you can always use a bread bag like in Hustler White!" at inopportune moments. So while bread has never had a chance to (not) save me from STIs or pregnancy, it has at least prevented me from banging anyone who can't reference Bruce LaBruce. Which, I'd argue, is an equally important form of protection.

The Existence (and the Medical Realities of) Necrophilia ('Kissed,' 1996; 'Post Mortem,' 1999)

I don't really know what was going on in this country in the mid to late 90s, but while our neighbors to the south were all about seeing dead people, we were more about, well, seeing dead people. The Headstones (AKA the band Hugh Dillon was in before he was in a more famous fictional band in Hard Core Logo and, eventually, a TV cop) had an anthemic single about necrophilia with 1993's "Cemetery." Then Lynne Stopkewich and Louis Bélanger both made feature length films about it. In addition to giving me a lifelong crush on its star, Molly Parker, Stopkewich's Kissed offered me some brief technical details on how to bang a dead dude (it's all about blood flow, apparently). Post Mortem taught me that corpsefuckng is a great way to determine if people in a morgue have been mispronounced dead, and can double as a great resuscitation technique. I've had no opportunities to test any of this out for myself—my own obsession with death is more of a hands and all other body parts off affair—but I can vouch for their efficacy as conversation topics in the right or wrong company.

Pegging Before It Was Cool ('Better Than Chocolate,' 1999)

2015 was the year that pegging broke thanks to Broad City (and Deadpool helped keep the activity in the mainstream public consciousness earlier this year), but I first learned about all of the fun that I could be having with a well-wielded dildo thanks to a sweet scene from Anne Wheeler's almost all-inclusive romantic comedy.

Puberty Sucks ('Ginger Snaps,' 2000)

I was well past my own menarche when John Fawcett's brilliant horror film about teenage girls and werewolves came out, so Ginger's transformation, uncontrollable sexual urges, death obsession, and feelings of alienation did actually teach me anything about puberty. But the movie pretty much confirmed everything I already knew about The Change. If I ever have children, a screening of Ginger Snaps will be an essential part of their period-related education.

Reproduction, Feelings, and Snowsuit Sounds ('The Brood,' 1979) Sometimes, when a mommy and daddy hate each other very much, the mommy grows snowsuit-wearing rage babies out of her body. Or at least that's what happens in Cronenberg's unique take on divorce, estrangement, and murderous snowsuit creatures. Sadly, my own experimentation into the world of psychoplasmics, the treatment used in the film, has come to little more than the occasional breakout of stress acne.

The Sexual Implications of the Colour Red ('Videodrome,' 1983)

In an early scene in Cronenberg's McLuhanesque technological horror romp, Max Renn calls attention to his fellow panelist, Nicki Brand, and her choice of dress on a TV show. "It's very stimulating. And it's red. You know what Freud would've said about that dress." Nicki then admits that she lives in "a highly excited state of overstimulation." And then they highly stimulate each other over tumor-inducing, new flesh-promoting torture porn back at his place. I tried to recreate this scene when a boy started commenting on the red hoodie I was wearing at a pool hall when I was 16. "You know what Freud said about red," I said with attempted flirtation. He stared at me blankly and then walked away, leaving me in a sorry state of understimulation.

Sexually Transmitted Infections, Particularly of the Armpit Vagina Dentata and Bathtub Sex Slug Variety ('Shivers,' 1975; 'Rabid,' 1977)

I had a good five years of sex-ed and parental guidance of the non-Crash variety under my belt by the time I finally saw Cronenberg's contentious breakthrough feature and his even more contentious follow-up, so I thought I was pretty well-versed in risks involved with having sex. But none of those textbooks or instructional videos informed me that I was also at risk of developing murderous orifices under my armpit like Rose in Rabid, or that phallic slug-like creatures could turn me into a mindless, sex-driven zombie type like the entire population of the cold and clinical apartment complex in Shivers. I'm still not sure, on a medical level, how or why these things happen, nor do I have any tips on how to prevent them (a bread bag?) but I must be doing something right because I have never once had to deal with an armpit orifice or had any phallic parasites crawling into my cavities while bathing in a yuppie apartment tower. That said, Cronenberg does a much better job of preparing you for the existential dread and emptiness of modern adulthood than a public school health nurse saying that you'll be sad if you have sex before you get married.

Toast Fucking is All the Rage ('Kids In The Hall: Brain Candy,' 1996)

It's the new thing where you fuck or get fucked with toast. Follow Sarah Kurchak on Twitter.