'Videos for Lovers': Why Did This Married Couple Allow a Camera in Their Bedroom?
But for Loren Kapelow and her late husband Stephen, the creators of this eight-part video series, it was far more about education than eroticism. "Videos for Lovers" (VFL) is a series of real people having real, intimate conversations and yes, real sex. The goal: to equip couples at any stage of a relationship with the tools to create real connection and help them uncover what's missing in the bedroom so they can build a lasting and fulfilling sex life.
It was a goal that Kapelow fought to see through even after the passing of her husband, and one that required expert consultation with experts at places like the Kinsey Institute and Harvard.
But there's no doubt that the most crucial participants of all were the real couples who opened their bedrooms doors to the filmmakers, and to the public, allowing the most intimate view of their bodies, their relationships, and their sexual desires.
What would inspire a couple to literally lay bare so much of themselves?
For Donna and her husband Gary it's a simpler answer than you'd imagine, and since Gary's passing only a year ago, it's one Donna is even prouder to have made while they could still be together.
And how did you first find out about the opportunity to participate in the Video for Life series?
Well, it's kind of unique in that I was actually working for Loren and Steven [the creators of the series]. I was their designer and illustrator, and Loren knew both of our backgrounds, Gary's and mine -- specifically about the fact that we'd had sexual issues in our first marriages that we were working to overcome. So they were interviewing hundreds of couples for the series and one day she just came to me and said, "What about you and Gary?", and I said, "What about us?" and she asked me if we'd be interested because we had a story -- a pretty common story in that our backgrounds were similar to so many couples that could benefit from the series. So we discussed this, and decided, "Sure, why not do it!"
What were your apprehensions and fears going in -- specifically regarding the fact that your sexual act would be videotaped?
We were both really comfortable with --- I will use the word exhibitionism rather than nudity – because we had both been doing modeling for years -- nude modeling. And the way Loren and Steve handled the taping was extremely professional and private. Plus we really wanted to do this. We'd both had some real rough times in our previous marriage, and we decided that maybe how we overcame it -- through learning to communicate, through taking risks -- would be well shared with other people. And to be honest, the sex scenes were easier to do than the scenes where we talked about our relationship and our sexual needs! People say it's easier to have sex rather than talk about it. It's very, very true.
It was really more our apprehensions about the opinions of business associates who would find out we'd decided to do this. There was a little, 'Oh my, how could you do that? Weren't you embarrassed?!' I worked for Loren and Steve, so there was no issue there, but with Gary's business it was a different story. He had clients and associates who knew nothing about this, so we were a little concerned that if people knew they would say, "Ok, you're doing something that's totally off the charts. We can't do business with you."
And how did they react?
Well at first they were a little, like, 'You're doing what?!' but then we explained it and we were shocked that people weren't just accepting but really interested and supportive. They thought we were doing a wonderful thing for ourselves and our marriage, and also other people. Some people didn't and still do not accept sexuality within couples –- that sex can actually be fun and a relationship can be fun and that you can have great sex when you're married. Basically it came to the point where when we did do [the video series], there were people who were like, "Whoa! But hey, you've got more guts than I do!"
What is the goal of the "Videos for Lovers" series from your perspective? What was it that you and Gary wanted to really show people or prove?
You've heard the term seven-year itch? Well we wanted to help couples get to a point in their first years of their marriage where they don't have that "seven-year itch." To show them that it is always time to increase "the curve ball" -- to find ways to play and communicate and learn how not to be bored. Husbands and wives -- I hear them all the time saying, "Oh my god, the sex with my wife is so boring," or ,"oh my husband doesn't do this and doesn't do that. All he wants to do is finish!" And I just don't understand why people don't explore other avenues to be un-bored. Personally, I was never bored.
So these videos are meant to teach those communication tools and patterns to help people be less afraid about making changes in the bedroom. But why do you think people are so afraid in the first place?
I think it's because of taboos. There are still a lot of taboos in this country. Even for Gary and me, even though we were comfortable with our sexuality. I was raised a very conservative Christian, Gary in a Protestant family. I was taught that sex is mainly for the purpose of procreation, and if you happen to enjoy it, yes, God makes it enjoyable so that you will procreate. I'm unable to have children. I've never been able to have children, so what happens to me and other women who can't have children. What are you supposed to do? Not have sex? I don't think so.
Another reason, especially in my case, is an overwhelming amount of influence from past relationships, past baggage. My first husband was very abusive. I brought that into my relationship with Gary. And Gary had also had a very challenging sexual relationship with his wife. She was unwilling to work on their sexual relationship. So it was a road that we traveled together. We knew it wasn't going to be easy, but the whole point and the whole reason we succeeded was because of talking.
Can you imagine every couple in America being able to stand up and wash the dishes and talk about their sex life? It would be incredible. That's what participating in the series helped us do, and it made us so much closer.
What's something you and Gary carried with you from your experience with the series? Something you found really worked?
When I said, can you imagine washing dishes and talking about sex -- that's one thing that really stayed with us –- being comfortable talking about sex any time, anywhere. We would take a dip in the Jacuzzi and talk about our sexuality without having any interest in having sex at that moment in our lives. It was just fun! And that really did stick with us. Also, something specific to the series -- we learned to talk about the sex right after having sex. "Were there things I could do differently?" I'd say, or, "Are there things about this that would work better for you?"
Do you think there's a right and a wrong time to watch this series as a couple? That you need to build a certain level of trust before you're ready to take on something like this in your sexual relationship?
No. I think the earlier the better. Communication needs to be learned right out of the box. It's harder to correct it later than if you are very open with each other right from the start. Every single person that I've ever talked to who watched when they first started dating said it enhanced their relationship so much. But I really believe there has to be a sincere, immense amount of trust going in. The vulnerability and opening of yourself -- it creates real intimacy.
Couples, women in particular, are so afraid of feeling vulnerable or asking a man to feel vulnerable. In this case I think women can take the lead and say, "OK let's watch this. Let's take these videos and see what we can learn and what will help us be closer together." And they need to explain to their partner that the men in these videos are real -- they're husbands or boyfriends or lovers, and they took a step out on a limb to show what they've done to make their relationship and ultimately their sex better. So I say the sooner you can get to that, the better.
I think the ultimate question on many people's minds is, how is what you and Gary did any different than if you were just actors in a porn film?
When women watch porn with their husbands or partner –- typical porn –- they feel like they're being compared. It doesn't matter if it's a blonde or brunette or redhead. Most women feel like they're being compared.
And they feel like, 'No, I can't stretch my leg around the back of my neck, and no, I don't have double D's!' It's not erotic to most women. They're like, "how can you even think about coming to bed with me because you're thinking about the woman on the DVD..." There's a big difference between having sex and being intimate, and the conversation and communication we learned, and then acted on, in these videos shows that difference.
Jessie Rosen is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. Check out her blog 20-nothings.
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