The Bisexual’s Desiree Akhavan on filming ‘uncomfortable’ sex scenes
Bisexual filmmaker Desiree Akhavan has revealed why she persisted with filming “uncomfortable” sex scenes for her new TV series, The Bisexual.
Fresh from directing The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Akhavan will appear in front of the camera (as well as behind it) in the new Channel 4 comedy-drama.
The show follows New Yorker Leila—played by Akhavan—who breaks up with girlfriend and business partner Sadie (Maxine Peake) after a 10-year relationship.
Exploring the funny but awkward side of sex and working with your ex, Leila is “self-identified lesbian” in her thirties who comes out as bisexual.
Akhavan told PinkNews: “Filming sex scenes, if I am in them, is just one of those things where you just close your eyes and you do it.
“In post [production] when I’m having to review those scenes I feel so uncomfortable. I hate a lot of those scenes, they’re not easy for me to watch but telling the best possible story is much more of a priority than my own comfort and my own vanity as well.”
Akhavan’s own uneasiness with her bisexuality and the regular bi-erasure she experiences formed much of the inspiration behind the show—as well as her move from the US to the UK.
“So each character is inspired by someone in my life and each setting is based on a place I’ve been in London,” she explained.
“Why does the word bisexual make me uncomfortable? It doesn’t feel like something that represents me but it 100 percent represents me.
“I have friends who have been lesbian identified their whole lives, then came out as bi and received a lot of backlash.
“When I walk down the street with a same-sex partner and we’re holding hands, I am a lesbian, I’m living the life of a lesbian.
“And yet I know in my head that’s not true and my partner knows that’s not true, and it feels like I’m living a lie.”
Akhavan said she decided to explore the unease of her bisexuality through the medium of television.
“What did I associate with the term bisexual? And what guilt did I feel over the fact that I don’t have a loyalty to a gender, romantically?” the filmmaker said.
“When you’re bisexual, you’re exposing yourself to the presumption that you’re disingenuous, or a bit of a slut, or flaky.
“That’s not to say all lesbians hate bisexuals—all of the women who have loved me have been lesbians and have understood the fact that I’m bisexual and respected it.
“But I do think there is discomfort in the other and we’re so attached to our cliques, our identities because we fought for it.”
Akhavan spoke about the recent picketing at Pride in London, where anti-transgender radical feminists hijacked the start of the annual parade.
“Just look at the anti-trans pickets at Pride this year—those women are so scared because they fought for their lives to take up space as lesbians and now they feel someone is threatening it,” said Akhavan.
“It’s a bulls**t statement but that’s where we’re coming from—to have to fight so hard for your identity, to have to fight so hard for the space you take up, and then to have to share it with someone who takes it up in a different way, I think it’s a dangerous, weird, messy place to be in.”
The Bisexual was written by Akhavan and co-writer Cecilia Frugiuele, who together created Appropriate Behavior and recently released The Miseducation of Cameron Post, starring Chloe Moretz who is now set to make a docuseries about gay ‘cure’ therapy.
Before their research for the film on gay conversion therapy, Akhavan admitted she had no idea of the scale of the problem.
“I thought that gay conversion therapy was an irrelevant problem, that it was from the past, and then over the course of the year my co-writer and I took researching and rewriting, I realised that it’s actually incredibly relevant,” she explained.
“Gay conversion therapists are setting up shop actively in the States, the majority of them opening up in New York and LA.
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“I learned about the techniques they used – very basic, paper-thin psychology, like if you’re a gay woman you’ve done too many sports.
“During the course of our filming, Donald Trump and Mike Pence got elected into office. Mike Pence actively supports gay conversion therapy and his funding comes from organisations that support gay conversion therapy.
“I’m grateful to have brought attention to it but it exists. I thought because of the internet this kind of thing wouldn’t happen, that you’d be able to find your allies, but it’s really powerful the need to please your family and be a good kid.”
The Bisexual airs on Wednesday at 10pm on Channel 4.