Do you think I’m twisted? A polymorphously-perverse seeker of erotic thrills, fascinated by novel and forbidden conjunctions of continuously fluid gender? Do you ever wonder why my characters have so few limits, why they’re always open to sexual experimentation, why they usually allow their salacious fantasies free rein?
Blame it on Dr. Frank N. Furter.
I was twenty four or twenty five years old, a relentlessly over-achieving grad student, when I first saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The first night, I went with my then-boyfriend and his best friend. We returned the night after that, with more friends. When we shelled out a dollar fifty for the third night in a row, to watch Tim Curry purse his painted lips and prance around the screen and to participate in the audience rituals that had grown up around the film, I knew I was hooked.
Let’s do the time warp again...
Swim the warm waters of sins of the flesh...
Don’t dream it. Be it.
For those of you too young to remember, The Rocky Horror Picture is a musical, originally a play, then a cult classic movie released in 1975, that parodies the science fiction and horror films of the thirties and later. It’s clever and funny, irreverent and outrageous, occasionally touching. What resonated most for me, though, were its sexual themes.
The plot follows a newly engaged, virginal couple, Janet and Brad, apparently not long out of high school, who suffer a flat tire on a lonely back road in the Midwest. Through the streaming rain of the dark November night, they glimpse the lights of a Gothic-style mansion which turns out to be inhabited by transvestite mad scientist Dr. Frank N. Furter (Tim Curry) and his peculiar compatriots. Invited in, Brad and Janet are soon enmeshed in Frank’s schemes to create a horny male body builder (Rocky) for his own entertainment (“he’s good for relieving my tension”).
Frank is deliciously androgynous (“I’m not much of a man/by the light of day/but by night I’m one hell of a lover.”) In separate scenes, he seduces both Brad and Janet, who react in very different ways. Brad retreats into terrified infantilism (“Help me, Mommy!”), while Janet embraces her new-found sexual confidence.
The game has been disbanded.
My mind has been expanded.
It’s a gas that Frankie’s landed.
His lust is so sincere.
Frank turns out to be an alien from the planet Transsexual in the galaxy Transylvania. His minions revolt, killing him and his Creature, ejecting the human couple, and blasting off in the mansion-cum-spaceship for their home planet. The ending is actually very dark (unlike most of the horror flicks on which Rocky Horror is based). Brad and Janet are left crawling in the dirt; it’s not clear what will happen to them, but one suspects they’ll never be the same.
I really don’t know why this film had such a strong effect on me, but I can’t deny that it did. I found Brad’s and Janet’s sexual initiations incredibly erotic.
Brad (alarmed): I’ve never....
Frank: Yes... But isn’t it nice?
Despite the camp accent and exaggerated make-up, Tim Curry manages to be sexy in his corset, garter belt and high heels. I didn’t find it difficult to believe he’d be “one hell of a lover”. In some sense, he’s the villain, but I couldn’t help but appreciate his “sincere lust”.
Erotic nightmares beyond any measure
And sensual daydreams to treasure forever.
I strongly identified with Janet. My own sexuality was blossoming at that point. I was in a supposedly monogamous relationship with my boyfriend, but often found myself attracted to other men, and women, in my circle. I was constantly aroused. (Honestly, I don’t know how I managed to finish my PhD.) Within a year or so after first seeing Rocky Horror, my boyfriend and I had broken up and I’d entered what I sometimes call my “sex goddess phase”, when I had many lovers and indulged in many experiments.
I think the gender-fluid themes in the movie had a special impact. I hadn’t had any same-sex experiences at that point, but I knew I desired women as well as men. Rocky Horror thoroughly blurs gender lines in a way that felt comfortable and right to me.
I don’t know how many times I’ve seen the film (though I have not watched it for a while). I do know the entire score by heart. And I know Frank has left his mark on many of my stories.
Speaking of stories, in recent years I’ve thought about writing one featuring Janet. I’ve never done any fan fiction, and strictly speaking I don’t think this would qualify, but I’d love to explore what her life was like after that fateful night in the mansion. Having been touched by alien lust, would she ever be able to find satisfaction? Would she wander the world, burning through partners, perhaps kindling in them the same unquenchable longing she feels herself?
I have too many other projects on my plate to work on this idea right now, but here’s a flasher to give you a taste of my imaginings.
By Lisabet Sarai
Another city. Another bar. Another crowd of beautiful young people, ripe for the picking. She crosses one shapely leg over the other, baring some thigh above her seamed hold-ups (the classic look, still). That cute couple in the corner —her mouth waters. He resembles Brad, though. Better find someone else.
She’s sixty but looks thirty, thanks to that night’s immersion in alien lust—the night that corrupted her, defined her, sent her off on this endless quest through the party capitals of the world.
The band plays timeless rock from her youth. Kids gyrate to the beat, randiness palpable. The atmosphere crackles with sexual energy. She could have any of them. Though she yearns, premonitions of disappointment hold her back.
“Let’s dance.” The girl—or is it a boy?—extends a hand. Lightning bridges the gap to Janet’s fingers. Wild black curls, exaggerated make-up, scarlet lips made for kisses. The brazen creature pulls her into a lewd embrace on the dance floor. Soft breasts, hardness below—Janet melts, eager, hopeful.
“Where...?” she gasps, humping his (her?) leg.
Red, red mouth. White teeth. Clever fingers opening her, freeing her, turning her inside out. At last.
“If I told you, baby, you wouldn’t believe me.”
* * * *
With a bit of a mind flip
You’re into the time slip,
Will ever be the same...
Janet and me—both changed forever.