An Interview With Lawrence Ferrara

Creator of “Power Erotic”
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Lawrence-Headshot-BerFilmmaker Lawrence Ferrara has been making films since the early 2000s.

Born and living in Boston, he began classes at Boston Film & Video Foundation which prompted him to write his first feature, A Stranger Within. The experience from that film was his version of “film school.” Multiple short films later, resulted in this current project; a documentary about gay male sexuality, a gritty, real-life exploration into the sex lives of gay men.

His short film, Just For Leather, 2004 was an instant festival hit, garnering him Best Male Short Film at the 2004 Long Island International Film Festival and was distributed by Frameline in San Francisco.

Graduating from the Connecticut School of Broadcasting and currently hosting a live local talk show confronting controversial issues inspired him to make this documentary film. “I like to challenge beliefs and open new perspectives by exploring complex subjects with no easy answers,” he states.

To find out more about Lawrence and “Power Erotic” go to::  www.powererotic.net.

JRK:  Tell us about yourself, your background and how you got started in filmmaking.

LF:  I was born in Boston’s South Shore, and currently living in Cambridge, MA.  I worked in property real estate management.  I also make films attending film festivals and speaking out about gay male sexuality anywhere I can.

JRK:  Power Erotic is your most recent work.  What’s it about?

Power Erotic is a documentary that explores why strength, dominance and masculinity are so sexually exciting, for so many people. The focus is on how it influences gay male sexuality. It explores why some men like to be dominated and why some men like to dominate. It is illuminating to some and disturbing to others. A frank discussion about sexuality is expected to have that polarity discussing issues such as power, masculinity, domination and submission.
 
JRK:  You refer to a concept called “differential power.”  Can you explain that?

LF:  Sex is not usually equal. The differentials of power drive so much, if not all of human sexuality. It’s biologically inherent in straight sexuality with gender differences. Even when couples strive to achieve a balanced sexual relationship there is still someone penetrating into the body of another and someone being penetrated. There’s give and take. Active and passive. Dominance and submission. There are many shades of grey so sometimes these differentials are subtle, like choosing a mate based upon height, age, muscularity, race, endowment etc.. all of which has the ability to make us feel more powerful or less powerful. Other times the differentials of power are more accentuated as in leather lifestyles or SM scenes. The differentials of power in strength and masculinity are present in almost all human interactions, not the least being in sex.

Gay male personal ads reveal that most gay men are looking to be dominated but only by a more masculine, powerful man. The common fantasies of straight men, blue-collar men, police officers, athletes etc.. all create accentuated differentials of power. They make us feel more submissive. And putting on leather or a police uniform give us a sense of enhanced masculinity making us feel more powerful. Power and aggression is sexy and evolved to be so in order to achieve reproductive success. Testosterone is the hormone for sex as well as aggression.  It’s within us, whether we like it or not.

JRK:  I love the quote in one of the reviews for the film by Amos Lassen, “It requires you to shed your emotional baggage, sexual hang ups, politically correct judgments and moral teachings in order to understand the issues discussed in the film.”  What are some of the issues discussed?

LF:  The film can be confrontational. There is a brutal honesty about the way I conducted the interviews. Discussing the psychological motives from childhood that can influence sexual behavior is interesting to some but disturbing to others, especially to those who have not come to terms with their own sexuality or childhood or both. Maybe we don’t want to remember being bullied in school and it maybe difficult to watch how some guys in my film are attracted to that sexually. There are a few guys in my film who reveal that they could not please their fathers, and now are looking to submit and please a man in bed as a result. There are more than a few men in my film who come to these realizations and it’s a tough segment.

I find these scenarios interesting from a psychological perspective because sex can be healing, and empowering, but others find it disturbing. It’s very Freudian and there are psychologists in the film to help gain some insight into these scenes. 

JRK:  You stated that, you “like to challenge beliefs and open new perspectives by exploring complex subjects with no easy answers.”  I am a lot like that.  If we don’t challenge folks to think about things they normally don’t think about, how can we actually come up with answers?

LF:  We can come up with answers by keeping an open mind. To read books and listen to people that don’t necessarily support your already ingrained belief system. To listen and learn and not judge what’s right or wrong, or good or bad. Humiliation, objectification and degradation are common themes in normal human sexuality. Freud talked about “debasing” the sexual object,  It’s interesting yet politically incorrect.

Some men have expressed outrage, saying that sex depends on mutual respect and being “nice” to each other in bed. It can be difficult to understand that sometimes dominating someone in bed actually is being nice to them. They are receiving what they want, what they crave. The submissive is actually in charge and it’s the way he chooses to express his sexuality. It can be a sort of psychotherapy for many but that is often misunderstood.

We are taught that sex should be nice, and loving. And seeing someone getting humiliate and used for sex is offensive to some. But if we shed our emotional or moral baggage, we can begin to understand these dynamics. I think we need more of an awareness and education. So you have to drop your moral teachings, drop your guard to get the most out of the film.

JRK:  Fifteen gay men are the subject of the film whose sexuality revolves around power, dominance and control.  Where’d you find these 15 men who so unabashedly let you voyeuristically capture their sexual interactions?

LF:  I love to interview. Partly from my intuition, part from natural curiosity, it’s instinctive for me. I talk to complete strangers and strike up a conversation and end up discovering personal experiences that they have rarely if ever shared before. The same occurs in this documentary.  Even I am a little shocked at some of the personal things these guys feel comfortable revealing to me. I always wanted to be a talk-show host, so, I guess I took those skills into making this documentary.

I found the 15 men in gay male personal ads. I told them in advance they had to sign a release and provide ID.

They were all authentic sexual connections revolving around dominance and submissive scenes. It was the interviews that were most important to me. They were so emotionally and psychologically aroused after, that the interviews were intensely profound, raw and honest.  They even revealed things they never even thought of before. Some had those “Ahh Ha” moments where the light bulb lit up in their minds and came to some realizations which were supressed for so many years. Some even thanked me for the “psychotherapy session!”

JRK:  On your website is says that the “last 20 minutes of the film explodes into an emotional roller coaster as gay men confront their intimate and sometimes disturbing childhood experiences which motivate their sexual behavior.”  Can you delve into some of those experiences without giving away too much of the film’s premise?

LF:  The fist half of the film explores how our evolutionary psychology influences our sexuality. How sex is part of our animal instincts and can help explain why a man might be sexually aggressive and get off on exerting dominance and taking control But it is the last half of the film when the guys begin to open up why they like to be dominated.

Why they crave to be degraded and humiliated.  As I asked quite penetrating questions revealing personal and intimate experiences. I wanted to uncover those emotional experiences. It was quite intense. As one reviewer stated, it’s a “mind fuck.”

JRK:  What is the aura surrounding human sexuality?  Why is it that we are so hung up about something as natural as sex?

LF:  Sex is such a powerful force it has to be under the control of authority. Sex is dictated to us by politicians, the church, our family, the morals of our time, etc.. Our society

Many gay men are still in the closet! The most common fantasy is one of dominance and submission, yet no one seems willing to discuss it. Most gay men don’t even discuss it with their best friend.

For those into dominance and submissive fantasies it’s even worse. For a man to be submissive especially to another man is associated with shame and it relates to our ideas about masculinity and gender roles. I think those scripts need to be relaxed for us to be willing to be open about these fantasies without embarrassment, guilt or shame. I was told I would never be able to make this film because no one wants to admit their true sexuality. So, I’m grateful to these 15 men were so open about topics so sensitive and intimate.

JRK:  Many men are very sexually based and aren’t wired for monogamous vanilla sex even though many try to contain them within this box.  Given the intense sexual attraction to other men and their fantasies, can a loving relationship exist with another man?

LF:  Sex and love can be two different things. Sure it’s possible to have a long-term loving relationship with another man. The sex will not be like it was in the beginning. There will not be that sense of adrenaline you can get with a one-night stand. Objectification of a partner is possible only when you do not know him well. So we engage our deepest fantasies with strangers and have more loving sex with those we are in a relationship with. In humans and other species as well, sexual attraction drop off significantly with time. Being comfortable with someone is one of the biggest killers of arousal and that’s why so many men get love in their relationships but look elsewhere for sex. Couple that with the fact that many men hide their submissive or dominance fantasies from their partners and you have many men going outside their relationships for what they really want. There are porn stars, sex symbols, web cam models and escorts in my film that reveal how many men in relationships gay and straight who seek them out requesting scenes of domination.

It’s the oldest question in sexuality. How do I regain that fire in our sex lives? I have a suggestion.

Make-up sex. It’s about creating that intense adrenaline rush, which stimulates arousal. How about getting into a simple, playful fight of some sort? Or have sex after a real fight. Saying something provocative, arguing or whatever gets the blood boiling.  Wrestling, throwing each other on the bed, anything that’s controlled, yet excites the passions can stimulate sex for those in longer-term relationships. You have to be creative.

JRK:  Do you have any parting thoughts for Diversity Rules readers?

LF:  Many people are afraid of exploring their own connections between sexuality and aggression. Mutual give and take, and reciprocity works for many couples. But for others they are too afraid to break out of that box so they do what society says is expected. You hear from many in my film who got stuck in that role when what they really want is to lose control or take control, to dominate or submit. Many men thought that they could not, were not allowed to have the sex they want. Society says that’s not nice. They suppress these urges or go outside of their relationship. A staggering number of men, both gay and straight desperately seek out these scenes of domination outside of their relationship because they are afraid to be upfront with their partner. Many people are not having the sex they want out of fear, shame and guilt. 

There is a lot of misinformation surrounding human sexuality and even more so regarding any alternative behavior in sexuality. Some have argued that a guy who is all top, is being selfish or is somehow not catering to the other, more passive guy’s needs. This could not be further from reality.  In most cases it’s the bottom whose in control. They dictate the scene. It is their fantasy being realized. Bottom men in my film reveal that they are using the dominant top for their own sexual needs. And many times they do not want to achieve orgasm. A common phrase is; no reciprocation necessary or wanted. It could be more of a head-trip, a psychological need being satisfied. And maybe the top is satisfying his physical sex drive and the bottom is getting off on that. So, who is really using who?  It’s an interesting and complex dynamic.

Dominant, strong, masculine men are hot indeed. My documentary explores why that is. But on the other hand I think gay men can be so obsessed with it, that it can border on the neurotic. If everyone is looking for their fantasy man, there will be a lot of lonely gay men spending hours making love only to their computer.

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