I’ve been watching quite a bit of TV lately. Well, not really TV, but movies. I don’t have cable TV, so I mostly watch whatever I can find on Netflix or Amazon.com. I don’t usually sit and watch things on the television much. I don’t really have time. But the past couple of weeks at work (one of my jobs, anyway) were particularly arduous, so a few nights this past week, I allowed myself the luxury of watching some movies.
You’d assume that being a registered sex offender and watching movies in the privacy of your home are two totally unrelated topics. I mean, what does being on the registry have to do with what I watch, by myself, in my own home? And I suppose, it all reality, the two are only related in my mind. But since so much of my existence takes place in the mind, the relationship is, nonetheless, palpable.
But as I enter “gay movies” into the search box in Netflix or Amazon.com, I’m haunted by a nagging thought in my mind, a fear of how someone else might perceive my choice of movie. It’s silly, but I ask myself if a sex offender should even be watching movies that have anything to do with sex. Of course, I know in my mind that the answer is OF COURSE. Sex offenders are people. They have needs, desires, longings, interests just the same as everyone else. Being on the registry does not somehow make these things go away.
Sex offender counseling, though, can be a two-edged sword. Without a doubt, it can be a life-changing experience. I am a firm believer in the power of therapy, if it is done right. I don’t believe there is a person alive who would not benefit from some sort of guided introspection, a meta-examination of their own psyche, a chance to find out what “makes them tick.”
At the same time, the implicit message weaved into the fabric of therapy can often be the misleading notion that because someone did something really bad involving sex, that sex in and of itself is somehow bad, that it must be avoided, and that it is now taboo to the person convicted of such an offense. The lesson learned is all-to-often that sex, and anything related to sex, is a temptation that will lead to reoffending and therefore must be resisted at all costs.
Of course it’s poppycock. (That’s British for “utter nonsense.”) But once it’s ingrained, it’s hard to unlearn. So I choose my movies, and I try to enjoy them. And for the most part, I do. I’ve learned to counter the negative self-talk in my mind with healthy, reasoned-based talk. So I push the silly, guilt-ridden nonsense to the outer edges of my thinking, and I watch. And I pine.
That’s where the other side of being a registered sex offender intertwines with my movie watching choices. Very often, as I watch the romance unfold, no matter how unrealistic it may be, I long to experience such romance in my own life once again. But I fear that I am damaged goods, tainted by a past that will not quiesce no matter how much I would like it to. It’s tough enough in the gay world to get older, but having a label like “sex offender” makes an already untenable situation even more so.
And so I watch movies. Arguably, the next best thing to being there.