I brook against the idea of it being a movie about passing around sexually transmitted diseases. Because that just seems too simple. But the idea of sexual abuse, or sexual assault, I can see that more. It’s not my reading of the movie, but I can see it.
This is mainly because when we did the podcast for a movie called Your Sister’s Sister, my girlfriend identified an encounter that goes on between two of the characters as a sexual assault. I won’t spoil it here, since I think you should see that movie and it’s something of a spoiler, but it kind of opened my eyes as to the definition of sexual assault. What is going on in It Follows certainly falls under those guidelines, which I would glibly define as “under false pretenses” if asked to do so. Hugh/Jeff certainly has sex with Jay under false pretenses, even though there is consent. But she doesn’t realize what she is consenting to, so is that truly consent? Of course not. Sure, she is taking on risk in a sexual encounter, as we all do, but this is not a risk she can even imagine. He is fucking her for a devious purpose, so even though she has consented to the act of sex with him, she has done so under a certain assumption. That they are both performing the same act. That isn’t the case. So isn’t that an assault?
I love the way this debate works on me, because in a sense, aren’t many sexual encounters agreed to on varying premises? I might be doing it for love. Or to get off. Or to have a baby. You might be doing it because you’re bored. Or just want company. Or to have a baby. We don’t agree on those things every time, and we certainly don’t clear them with each other every time. So there’s so much gray area here. Of course, the situations in It Follows and Your Sister’s Sister involve more active intent, even criminal intent, so that adds another layer.
Regardless, I still think this movie is about how sex gets tied into love, and how that follows you for a very long time, almost beyond your control, and it can wreck you. Especially if you have sex at a young age. But not necessarily so. I was a late bloomer in that regard. But I had this acquaintance in high school who lost her virginity to some douchebag who never spoke to her again. They had sex to “Save a Prayer” by Duran Duran. She kept going on about that song for the three years I knew her in high school and talking about how he was the love of her life. I’m guessing she cannot hear that song today without thinking about that moment.
I think of her when I think of this movie, much more than I think of STD transmission. Or the inevitability of death.