HOW DID YOU FIND THE P CLUB?
As an undergrad at Duke, I was writing my senior thesis on how divinity students were "re-imagining a Christian sexual ethics different than abstinence until marriage." So I was talking to a lot of folks around campus about beliefs on sex and faith. I kept hearing chatter about The P Club, and was finally introduced to Heidi through a friend. After many conversations with her, she brought me to The P Club to talk about the possibility of making a documentary, and after many conversations with them, they decided to trust me with making this film.
WHY DID YOU WANT TO MAKE THIS FILM?
I grew up in a big Methodist church in a small Southern town. Church was a big part of my life and my formation--most of my friends went to church, and many of our social events revolved around church events. Although I don't remember too many conversations about sex taking place at my church, the dominant cultural message was don't have sex until you are married. And if you do have sex before you are married, it's a sin. There was also a lot of talk associating "goodness," particularly for girls, around not having sex. Good girls, the culture seemed to say, don't have sex. So I always thought that there was this line that "good girls" (which, for the most part, my friends and I wanted to be) shouldn't cross, and if they did, they should feel ashamed of themselves.
Fast-forward to college, where I began realizing that there was a damaging disconnect between what the church was preaching and what people really needed from the church. It seemed that all of the guilt and shame around choosing to have sex, in whatever the situation, caused more heartbreak and anger towards the church than anything else. I began to adamantly believe that the typical church didn't do enough in giving folks a roadmap of how to truly navigate being a sexual being in the contemporary world. And that it was a travesty. I believe no one should turn away from faith because they feel like they are going to be judged for a lifestyle choice. Not to mention that if the church isn't talking about sex, it isn't talking about sexual violence or consent, which are the most important ethics conversations to be had on the topic! Everything became very clear for me when I saw that 76% of Evangelical Christians have sex before marriage. I realized how important it was time to have some honest conversations.
I wanted to make a film that would unearth that honesty, that would encourage viewers to think critically not only about their own sexual beliefs and habits, but how they want the Church to take part in this discussion. And I think The P Club was a perfect subject for that goal.
WHO IS THE INTENDED AUDIENCE FOR THIS FILM?
Everyone! Perhaps not five-year-olds, parents should screen with discretion, but hey, I'm glad my mom had the sex talk with me when I was seven because even at that age there are often misinformed rumblings about the topic. In general, I think there are some really useful aspects in the film to even talk about with pre-teens, teenagers, and college-aged young adults because at that age, navigating one's sexuality can be really overwhelming, and it can be really formative to have open conversations about it. But I think the film is a useful tool for folks at any age, because we never really stop being a sexual person, and how adults think and talk about sex is really important for shaping the way younger generations think and talk about it. The film is theologically bent towards Christianity, but there are themes I think even non-Christians could take away. Parents, teenagers, college students, pastors, youth leaders, academics... the list goes on. Guys should definitely watch the film and think very carefully about how they play into certain issues. The stories of sexual violence and controlling relationships, for example, were caused (in the situations of these women) by men. Men cannot be removed from this conversation.
WHY IS THE FILM ALMOST ALL INTERVIEWS?
I broke the cardinal rule for documentary in creating a documentary that is entirely interviews. This was a deliberate choice. I wanted to emulate a conversation among women, just like what was happening in The P Club space. But also, the form was somewhat of a political statement; I think that male directors and producers have for so long spoken for women about what they want out of sex, and I wanted to allow ia group of women to be given the opportunity to control the ways they talk about their own sexuality. And folks just need to sit and listen.
ALEX MENTIONS THAT SOME OF THE WOMEN IN THE P CLUB HAVE HAD FEMALE PARTNERS. WHY ARE THERE NO QUEER STORIES FEATURED IN THE FILM?
Yes, there are members of The P Club who have had female partners, and I think these stories would have really added to the film’s complexities. However, during interviews, these stories didn't really surface in a prominent enough way to be featured in the film. These women ended up talking about other things. I do regret not teasing this out more, and I ask anyone thinking of starting their own P Club to think critically about creating a space where LGBTQ folks feel comfortable talking. The stories of LGBTQ persons are particularly important to talk about in small group discussions because of the added ways that the Church has been harmful in including persons who identify in this way. Straight folks may feel like they can't talk about sex at Church, but LGBTQ folks may really feel like they can't talk about sex at Church, or even attend church at all in many places. If we want to talk about honestly and openly about sex, we have to talk about the issues of people with all kinds of sexualities and gender identities.
HOW CAN I START MY OWN P CLUB?
There are some wonderful guidelines at the beginning of the The [P] Club Documentary Leader's Guide about creating such a discussion group. The P Club recommends gathering a diverse group of folks you may know well or may only kind-of-know, who want to grow in their faith as a sexual being. Start meeting on a regular basis, ready to share thoughts and fears to a loving community. It may talk some time for everyone to feel comfortable, and that's okay. Establish a space of vulnerability, honesty, and safety, and people will eventually feel not only comfortable, but fulfilled. Showing the documentary is a great starting point!