Everyone has their way of dealing with breakups. Some of us search for rebounds; others find solace in a tub of Ben & Jerry’s. Others opt for the road less traveled.
Annie, the protagonist of the new eight-episode series Unicornland, embarks on such a trip, exploring her sexuality post-divorce by dating couples: Williamsburg hipsters, Wall Street power duos, and Bushwick Burners (as in Burning Man).
Producers made an effort to highlight New York City’s diversity: The cast is 60 percent nonwhite, LGBT-inclusive, and includes real people from the polyamory scene. Creator and producer Lucy Gillespie tells us more.
What was the light bulb moment for Unicornland?
I was at NYU when I discovered the fetish scene — and through that, the sex-positive, alternative relationship, and polyamorous communities. Some of those themes were explored in scripts I wrote [for class]. In one ... [my] heroine Scarlet got head from her teenage diving instructor. The professors hated this moment! Was Scarlet a slut? If she was slutty, she should be more slutty. Or she should get pregnant. [Students] were uncomfortable. Cunnilingus was distasteful, lewd, unnecessary. I thought, I’m sitting in a world-renowned institute ... in the heart of downtown Manhattan, a five-minute walk away from Stonewall, and even here... this is still frowned upon?
In summer 2015, I had the idea for a sort of Alice in Wonderland story, about a woman who wanders naively through the New York fetish scene and comes of age.
What have you learned most about the polyamorous and sex-positive communities in New York?
I was already a member of that world [before Unicornland]. But I did sort of feel like a day-tripper and a fraud. I have a lot of dear friends who are lifestylers. I was worried, in making the series, that I would misrepresent them or appropriate their lifestyle. But [they]... offered themselves to the project. Andrew Sparksfire of Hacienda [Villa] let us use his house — the site of notorious Brooklyn sex parties — to [film]. The more raw and real I’ve shown the scene to be, the more support and love we’ve received.
What do you want the audience to learn?
My ideal demographic is everyone who read 50 Shades of Grey. I want these people to learn from Annie’s journey. There’s so much stigma around female sexuality. It’s conditioned into women from such a young age and it’s so deeply rooted and insidious. I used to believe that there was a finite amount of people I could sleep with before I would receive a “slut” card in the mail, or ... evaporated into a fine dust. And that’s just not the case.
And being sex-positive doesn’t mean sleeping around for its own sake. It could just mean spending more time with your vibrator, getting to know what you like. It could even mean saying “no more” when you’re not feeling like it. Or making the effort to tell your partner to go down on you for 20 minutes and not feeling ashamed or embarrassed that it takes so long. What I hope the audience learns from Unicornland is that sexual desire starts with you. Take time for yourself.