The spiritual side of erotic touch…
by David-Elijah Nahmod
The message of OUTspoken: Rent (also known as Serviced in the US), a 45 minute documentary by Charlie David and Nico Stagias, is that everyone is deserving of intimate touch and physical pleasure, regardless of age or body type. The filmmakers underscore this point by training their camera on two sex workers, an erotic masseur, and a “professional cuddler” and allow them to talk about their work and about what they offer their clients. Some of these clients appear on camera with them.
One of the film’s most fascinating subjects is Oscar, an actor who moonlights as a cuddler, a service some viewers may not have heard of before. Oscar points out that his service is platonic, what he offers to his clients is simple, non-sexual intimacy. Oscar is seen with two clients, one male and one female. There is no nudity between Oscar and his clients. He touches them, talks to them, finds out what their needs are. He brings intimacy, affection, and the human connection that’s missing from their daily lives to them. And they respond.
“The reason I like providing this service is because it allows me to really be present with that person who’s in front of me to make sure that I give them the most of my attention, so they feel like their being heard, understood,” Oscar says.
The film also provides viewers with a look at the opposite side of the spectrum. A porn star and BDSM escort who goes by the curious moniker Rogue Status speaks about his career in the sex trade. Rogue is quite candid as he talks about the work he does and how he keeps himself safe in what he admits has the potential to be a dangerous profession. Clips of Rogue appearing in bondage porn are included as he speaks.
“One of the best ways to feel safe & comfortable with someone is to be tied up by them,” he says. “Because you have to let yourself go somewhere else and it’s going to be cathartic, and you might cry.”
OUTspoken: Rent is fairly straightforward in its approach to its subject. The filmmakers focus their camera on the interviewees and let them speak uncensored. They all come across as regular guys who just happen to be in a business. They take their work seriously and treat their clientele with utmost respect while never crossing their own boundaries. Never before has a film so completely humanized sex workers.
One of the film’s most beautiful interludes is an encounter between Raj, a South Asian escort, and Andrew Gurza, a disabled man who uses a wheelchair and who needs help with getting in and out of bed. Raj and Gurza have been seeing each other for a while, and they’ve developed an intimate rapport that almost seems romantic. They start their sessions by asking each other how their day went. Raj carefully lifts Gurza out of his wheelchair and places him on the bed before undressing. As the two touch each other, they smile and kiss tenderly. It’s really quite lovely to see them together. Their onscreen encounter underscores the film’s message that everyone is deserving of touch and intimacy.
The film doesn’t preach or moralize about the whys and wherefores of sex work, it merely presents what is in a thoughtful and compassionate manner. The interviewees are articulate, intelligent and unapologetic about what they do. They make a strong case for more acceptance and less judgement of the sex trade and should be commended for opening up about their lives so honestly.
(2019) 45 minutes
Directed: Charlie David, Nico Stagias
Stars: Oscar Moreno, Rogue Status, Andrew Gurza, Shazad Hai (Raj)
Streaming at OUTtv, OUTtv.Go.com and their channels on Amazon and Apple TV.