Autobiographical filmmaker Caveh Zahedi’s, “I Am A Sex Addict” is a comical reconstruction of his decade-long struggle with sex addiction. Moments before his third wedding, Zahedi relates with utter sincerity and brazen vulnerability his obsession with prostitutes, retracing his romantic and sexual history. This includes his idealistic view of being able to have a successful polygamous relationship, which unfortunately never lives up to his expectations. This ideology leads to two ruinous marriages and many furious ex-girlfriends.
The film has a semi-documentary style. Zahedi plays himself but uses actresses to play his spouses, despite having asked the real people to star in the film without success. However, the film does include real life footage of himself and his past and present lovers, bringing to light that these are not fictional characters but real people. For me, Zahedi’s bold willingness to share these moments made the film more believable and intimate. This whimsical blend of recreations of actual events, home made videos and behind-the-scenes footage was a big plus for me. It enhanced its sincerity so much so that it seems Zahedi created this movie as homage to his loved ones, family and himself, instead of a wide spread audience. He also breaks the fourth wall as if he’s sharing his experiences directly.
Throughout the film Caveh Zahedi talks us through in vivid detail his relationships with women. The first was Anna; a relationship that lasted two years, only this coupling came with a twist. Caveh was a philosophy major and believed in free love. His role models were Jean Paul Sartre and Simone De Beauvoir, who had polygamous relationships that lasted their whole lives. This was the kind of relationship Caveh dreamed of and the one he had with Anna. Both had affairs but both got jealous.
Caveh then meets Caroline (Rebecca Lord, a French porn star), a make up artist, in Paris and begins seeing her, which he openly confesses to Anna. Caroline later comes to the U.S but Anna is overwhelmed with jealousy and forces Caveh to choose between them, he cannot. Anna goes to New York, leaving Caveh and Caroline to spend the summer together in L.A.
Now, Caveh has always been against marriage but offers to marry Caroline due to her visa about to expire. And they do. Soon after he and Caroline move to France to further Caveh’s film making career which goes unwarranted. He continues to speak to Anna, whom he still loves but she is angry at the discovery of his marriage to Caroline and Caroline jealous at the fact Anna and he converse.
After Caroline tries to jump out a window after Caveh plans to see Anna in Amsterdam, he promises never to see her again, “Equate virtue with sacrifice” which he doesn’t. Some time after Anna gets married. This deeply hurts Caveh as he had always believed her to be the love of his life and he had hoped they would one day get back together.
He begins to resent Caroline and their marriage. And so one day, out of quiet desperation he takes a walk down a street in Paris, lined with seductive prostitutes. He asks one “Will you suck me?” inexplicably aware as to where those words he spouted came from. Now after always considering himself a feminist and having participated in anti pornography protests, Caveh half expects the prostitute to 1) run away screaming or 2) slap him. To his surprise the prostitute is more than willing, replying, “I will suck you, I will fuck you”. Shocked and confused he quickly walks away but the prostitute possesses his thoughts. And somehow out of this quiet desperation conversed with a prostitute his obsession with prostitutes begins.
Now for the rest of the film Caveh presents strategies, ways in which he dealt with his addiction:
1) Masturbation. He masturbates himself into oblivion after seeing the prostitute, in the belief that he can deal with his demons through self-help, but this therapy is short lived. Only holding him over for a few days.
2) Dialogue. “See I knew she was a regular person but in my mind I had somehow made her into an image of erotic salvation. And it seemed that the only way I could get her off the erotic pedestal I had put her on was to have a real conversation with her”. However, the girl he originally sighted was no longer there, but many others were. So instead he asks every woman there “Will you suck me?” at which all the responses are the same, although, their prices vary. Afterwards, he feels euphoric. But now instead of fantasizing about one woman, he begins thinking about all of them. So he goes back the their for the next few days following. At first talking to them was satisfactory but soon it isn’t enough for Caveh.
3) Honesty. Caveh tells his wife that he has been tempted to receive oral sex from prostitutes and feels that if he can be open about his sexuality, he won’t be tempted anymore. She agrees. He also says that maybe if she gave him oral sex more, that would benefit the situation. This scene is extremely funny and slightly uncomfortable. Caroline gives Caveh three blowjobs all of which he orgasms at the end, but his erection sustains. Caveh states, “It was as if by no longer having to repress my sexuality, I suddenly unleashed a backlog of repressed sexual energy”. From then on Caveh becomes brutally honest with Caroline, saying aloud all the women he finds sexually attractive. Eventually it drives her mad “I don’t want to know!”
4) Dishonesty. Now that he is repressing his sexuality, Caveh starts obsessing over the women he desires. Again he masturbates like crazy, only this time in confessionals. Eventually he masturbates in every cathedral in Paris. Classy. During this time his arguments with Caroline have escalated and threatens to sleep with a prostitute.
5) Just do it. Caveh finally sleeps with a prostitute but also shares a slightly warped sexual desire. Initially he only wanted oral sex but after the girl says, “Rape me” Caveh couldn’t refuse. “For some reason those words triggered a chemical reaction in my brain and it was suddenly as if I had no choice”. He tells Caroline everything (uncomfortable because Caroline had been raped). They don’t have sex for a year. They move back to the U.S and break up. Caroline marries Teddy, one of Cavehs’ friends a year later. His desire to sleep with prostitutes again.
6) Just do it one last time. During this part of his story, Caveh receives oral sex from various prostitutes in his car, what seems like a daily occurrence. But he always feels empty and depressed after having done it, but still goes back for more the next day.
7) Just do it enough times. This is where Caveh meets Krista at Film School. Initially he only wants sex from her, but then sees into her soul and recognises that she is a person with feeling and thoughts too. They start going out and like his relationship with Caroline, he is open about which women he is attracted too and that he thinks of other women when he has sex. Eventually it drives her crazy “I don’t want to know”.
8) Go all the way. Caveh has never acted out all the fantasies he wants to whenever he has visited a prostitute. There go he thinks if he finally releases his darkest fantasies; violence and name calling, he would be healed. He tells Krista, she’s not impressed. He goes ahead anyway but his efforts are wasted, as the prostitute doesn’t understand what he wants her to say or do. Later Krista admits to kissing another guy, which happens again and again. Caveh becomes very jealous and the relationship becomes unbearable. Caveh then meets Devon, whom he confides in about his relationship with Krista. Devon also believes in free love and polygamous relationships and advises Caveh to stay true to himself and his addiction. Caveh concluded Krista is the problem.
9) Get a better girlfriend. Breaks up with Krista. Starts seeing Devon.
10) Do it together. Caveh suggests that Devon should watch him whilst he goes with a prostitute, as it’s something they can share together. Although, this never happens. They travel to Milan and Munich, for various commitments and Caveh realises Devon has a drinking problem. They break up back in the U.S. We see the real Devon and learn she died of cancer.
Caveh then shares his belief that every person that comes into our lives is a mirror of things that our in ourselves but that we cannot see. Devon was addicted to alcohol like he was addicted to sex; he had never made that link before. Therefore, he starts having therapy. He got married a second time and divorced. He kept on going to meetings and eventually his addiction subsided.
Then he meets Mandy, whom he has been with for seven years and who he is marrying. The film goes full circle, ending where it began, his wedding day. The film ends with him and Mandy in the church. I found the ending a little cliché although the home footage of him and Mandy arguing made it less fairytale and more real life.
Objectification is evident in this film so has been helpful toward my research. This scene I found particularly interesting and helpful as it’s a conflict of views of whether open sex, polygamous relationships is justifiable. And how we naturally stereotype people who are into open relationships, have fetishes and desires that don’t conform to society’s ideals, as perverse.
Whilst I can’t highly recommend this film, I can’t advise you to miss it either. I appreciate that Caveh Zahedi has been open about fantasies and fetishes he’s had, because let’s face it, many people do. Whilst we would like to think of them as perverse sex crazed maniacs, in reality they are actually rocking in the minds of your friends and family members. So for that I applaud him. He also openly confesses that he saw the prostitutes as just mere things for his sexual needs, so openly admits to objectifying women. But isn’t that there job? With mutual consent are they really being objectified? This is a major conflict that has arisen throughout my research and is something I will soon conclude. Overall, the film was fine but I don’t feel Caveh justified his actions or addiction as well as he could.