For many women, achieving sexual pleasure isn’t easy or simple. It’s something small business owner and sex positivity advocate Sid Azmi of Please, a pleasure shop in Brooklyn, knows better than most. As a survivor of both sexual abuse and female genital mutilation in her conservative Singaporean hometown, Azmi had to adapt to the limitations of her mental-emotional trauma and physical anatomy to experience sexual pleasure.
“If you want pleasure, you can have it,” Azmi tells NewNowNext. “You can make it happen for yourself, even if your body or circumstance might have failed you before. You just have to make your own standards and ideals, and create your own experiences and be indulgent in self-love.”
It’s “hard work,” she adds, and physical roadblocks to pleasure are often made worse by internalized shame and societal stigmas, but finding sexual fulfillment in challenging or unusual situations isn’t impossible. Now, Azmi has made it her life’s mission to help anyone and everyone find pleasure in expressing their sexuality—and queer-owned production company Sour Peach Films is highlighting her story in its latest documentary short, Please.
When director Erica Rose of Sour Peach Films first encountered Azmi, she instantly wanted to collaborate on a creative project. Rose, who frequents the neighborhood where Please is located, stopped by the shop often enough to become familiar with Azmi’s pleasure-first approach to sex positivity.
The prospect of joining forces felt natural, since Rose’s work at Sour Peach Films centers female sexuality. And besides, Azmi’s personality was absolutely infectious; Rose knew there had to be a story worth telling there. “One day, I went to the store and found Sid demonstrating a new sex toy to a middle aged couple,” Rose says. “She was exuberant, patient, and made them feel absolutely at home. I thought to myself, This woman’s story needs to be documented on camera.”
So, Rose did what any director would do: She cold-emailed Azmi, met up for coffee, and asked if she could make a film about her life. The narrative element—Azmi’s story of personal trials and triumphs—came organically, and the Rose knew the doc could have broad appeal. “If Sid can [find pleasure],” she says, “so can you.”
As a business owner, Azmi strives to create a welcoming and inclusive space. Most of Azmi’s staff at Please identify as LGBTQ, something Azmi says wasn’t intentional; rather, it’s reflective of the values she looks for in her employees. “It wasn’t their queerness that endeared me to them; it’s the fact that they have been challenged as individuals in different aspects and times of their lives, and have rose above these obstacles to become incredibly empathetic, aware, and strong human beings,” she says.
A year and a half after completing the film, Rose and her production partner, Chelsea Moore, are finally releasing the film digitally. (The duo previously screened their dramatic narrative short, Girl Talk, at NewFest LGBT Film Festival earlier this year.) Azmi is still “so proud and grateful” to be included in the doc. As for Rose? The pleasure’s all hers.
“I made this film as a love letter to [Sid] and her mission, and I know she’s grateful for that,” Rose says.
Below, watch Please for free on Vimeo.