William Catlett in ‘Stages’

By Dawn Washington

While Issa Rae has been gloriously living her year(s) of yes and working the come up, I think we are all looking at our watches to see when we will finally get into Insecure Season 3. I don’t know about you, but it has felt like Cardi B’s foreva waiting for this joint. There has been a bone thrown to us here and here but no firm date as of yet.

Issa was doing her thing well before Insecure shot to fame and had a growing list of productions to her credit before HBO even knew her name. We just may need to roll with these until season 3 hits our screens.

Stages is one of her earlier productions.

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Directed by James Bland, it is a contemplative and provoking short about a man who has experienced a serious break up. What makes this film work is that there is not one word uttered within its entire 12 minutes. I enjoyed the film for the way it documents how this particular man (Will Catlett) processes his evolving emotions surrounding a love who is no longer in his life.

One of the ways this character “works through” his dismay over the breakup is through his hotline bling- a suggestion the film seems to make about men in general and how they process their emotions. When he texts her that he’s “bored” and asks if she’d like to come over, the message is clear. Throughout their graphic sex scene, a montage of sexual positions, expertly executed cinematically, it is also clear that these two know how to get off. And if sex was only about getting off, then the scene would document what it is like to have great sex.

However, the film goes on to authentically exhibit the aftermath of random “I’m-bored” sex, revenge sex, jump-off sex…casual sex. Stages beautifully captures the total emptiness that is felt through the characters after such encounters.

William Catlett

As the lead in the film sits in the window sill, smoking a cigarette, and as his sexual partner for the night sits up in the bed blankly looking his way, no words between them, it becomes very clear that all they’ve participated in are mechanics. Afterwards, he returns to his despondent state because the one with whom he rather be with is not there (a thematic expression that runs throughout the short). And she, the woman with no name, reduced to the body parts she provocatively adorns when she first knocks on his door, walks out with the same, nothing more.

As I took Stages in and its messages, I realized that perhaps not experiencing this type of emptiness after sex is what great sex is all about.

We put a lot of emphasis on mechanics, don’t we? How long it lasts, his/her performance, what he/she did, etc. But could we be focusing on just a portion of it all? What if great sex is about a full experience? What if I’m cheating myself when I just focus on performance?

It’s not just what happens before; it’s not just what happens during; it’s what happens after as well.

And perhaps what happens after is one of the most enduring parts of it all.

One the most lasting memories I have about my husband is the one evening after sex he looked straight into my eyes and with a smile asked, “How was your day?” Fire.

Perhaps knowing that the person you just laid with is going to wake up with you the next morning because he wants to be there, or knowing that he is genuinely interested in what type of day you had after he hit it, or perhaps just knowing that he’ll be there period….maybe that’s the greatest part of sex, the after.

And let me be clear, what I’m getting at is not a promo for marriage or even monogamy. What I’m trying to get at is the intention of sex. And often what I hear and see out there about the intention of sex is the total of opposite of a full experience. If I can help it, I don’t want to rob myself of all that sex has to offer me. So, here’s to great sex…all of it.

 Watch the entire film here!


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Do you feel you’re getting all that sex has to offer?

 Dawn is a writer and a mother who holds down a day job in academia. Currently she is getting her shit together. More to come from her!

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