By Mary Kiwanuka
A man hammers a nail through his penis without a peep from his lips. He obediently kneels over his girlfriend’s lap as she repeatedly spanks him in the nude.
Tying his hands with a black leather band, the girl takes out a leather ship and strikes the man’s bare back. Shoving iron balls the size of billiards up the man’s rectum until he groans, she says, “I wonder if he can take this.”
“Yeah that’s it,” she says, applauding a job well done.
Sick isn’t it? It should be. This is the movie Sick — The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist. At the age of 43, Flanagan had survived longer that most victims of cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that causes the body to produce thick mucus which clogs the lungs. Today, the average life expectancy for people with cystic fibrosis is 30 years but when Flanagan was born, few survived past childhood.
In a candid poem, WHY (1985), Flanagan explains his attraction to sado-masochism.
“Because it feels good’ because it gives me an erection; because it makes me come; because I’ sick…because I had time to hold my penis; because I had awful stomach aches and holding my penis made it feel better; because I’m a Catholic…because I had to take my clothes off and lie inside this giant plastic bag so the doctors could collect my sweat; because once upon a time I had such a high fever my parents had to strip me naked and wrap me in sheets to stop the convulsions; because my parents loved me even more when I was suffering…because as someone once said, HE’S GOT MORE BALLS THAN I DO, because it is an act of courage; because it takes guts; because I’m proud of it; because I can’t climb mountains.”
Sick is Flanagan’s story, the story of a man physically and emotionally suffering through an incurable disease, Flanagan in defiance of his fate, contributes to his pain by physically maiming himself.
This is what makes Sick so disturbing, and even a little offensive. In 90 minutes, Flanagan declares Jesus was the first masochist, makes a doll that coughs up mucus, cums, shits, pierces his own penis and sprays the camera lens with blood and finally drives himself to the hospital, where he later dies. For those with sensitive stomachs and Judeo-Christian values, Sick is SICK.