ByDavid Opie, writer at Creators.co
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David Opie

Stephen King's IT explores a number of unsettling themes throughout its 1,100+ pages, including child abuse, racial prejudice and numerous counts of mutilation, but what's fascinated fans most ever since the book was first published is that sex scene. You know the one.

In lieu of a compass or map, the Losers' Club members take turns to put their "thing" in Beverley Marsh, losing their virginity together so that the group's bond can be strengthened long enough to help them escape the sewers of Derry. Questionable motivations aside, the real reason why many fans have objected to seeing this scene adapted in Andrés Muschietti's movie is because of the children's age.

Despite the film's R rating, Muschietti avoided depicting the sewer orgy in his adaptation because both the characters and the actors themselves are still in their early teens. Whether this was the right decision or not, it's fascinating to note how another controversial sex scene from Stephen King's book has generated far less of a furore before the movie's release, even though this too features teenagers exploring their sexuality in unusual ways.

Psychopaths Need Love Too

'IT' [Credit: New Line Cinema]
'IT' [Credit: New Line Cinema]

Lazy-eyed clowns and giant spiders understandably draw focus in IT, but the likes of Henry Bowers and his gang of thugs are a horror unto themselves, terrorizing the Losers' Club long before Pennywise rose from its slumber.

Although Henry Bowers is the leader and subsequently the only one to pose a genuine threat in both halves of the book, Patrick Hockstetter is arguably far more disturbed. Bowers may be a victim of circumstance and poor parenting, but Hockstetter's evil is innate, something that unnerves even his fellow bullies.

Suffering from the delusion that he's the only 'real' person in the world, Patrick murdered a number of animals and even his little baby brother before encountering The Losers Club, hiding the bodies of his victims in an abandoned refrigerator. However, before Hocksetter ultimately met his untimely fate at the hands of , King took the opportunity to flesh out his character with some flesh-on-flesh action.

While the psychotic duo hang out seemingly alone at a dumping ground, Hocksetter begins to make sexual advances toward Henry Bowers, acting on whatever he desires in that moment. Beverley watches on in hiding, forced to watch Patrick tug on Henry's trouser snake before she can escape:

"He had one hand between Henry’s thighs and one hand between his own. One hand was flogging Henry’s thing gently; with his other hand Patrick was rubbing his own. Except he wasn’t exactly rubbing it–he was kind of… squeezing it, pulling it, letting it flop back down. 'What is he doing?' Beverly wondered, dismayed."

At first, Bowers allows this to happen, enjoying the physical gratification of this assisted jerk-off. However, things quickly develop into an ending that's anything but happy once Patrick tries to follow through with a blowjob. Henry immediately rebukes this, knocking Hockstetter to the ground in rage — presumably because it's only gay when mouths are involved?

Bowers slings homophobic language at Patrick almost as easily as the stones thrown in the ensuing rock fight, but Hockstetter takes it all in his stride:

"From farther off, Patrick's voice: 'You liked it.'

'I didn't like it!' Henry shouted. 'And if you tell anyone I did, I'll kill you, you fucking little pansy!'

'You got a boner,' Patrick said. He sounded like he was smiling."

Clearly, there's no love lost between the two. Instead, this encounter provides us with a rare glimpse into the sexual repression and confusion that can drive bullies in their malice, while serving as a reminder that teenagers often experiment sexually — so why wasn't this scene included in the 2017 movie adaptation of IT?

Why Is There No Queer Content In The 2017 Adaptation Of IT?

At face value, it's rather obvious why the handjob that Hockstetter gave Bowers was removed from Muschietti's movie. After all, if the highly publicized sewer orgy couldn't make it into the R-rated cut, what hope did a random sexual encounter between two supporting characters have, both of whom are decidedly evil? Even the arguably more controversial script originally written by Cary Fukunaga circumvented this scene by killing off Hockstetter far earlier than in the book.

At the end of the day, IT may be a R-rated — one which aimed to stay as faithful to the source material as possible — but it's still a blockbuster movie. Warner Bros. could only push the envelope so far here and ultimately, pre-teen sex will always offend mainstream audiences before the likes of blood and violence, even if said violence is aimed directly at children.

What's interesting here though is that this isn't the only queer content that floated away in the transition from page to screen. Like the 1990 TV adaptation before it, Muschietti's version of IT removes almost all of the queer references that are threaded throughout Stephen King's book.

While much of this is negative, including homophobic slurs made by the bullies and the leper's desire to orally pleasure Eddie, what stands out here most is the absence of a scene taken from near the beginning of the book where a gay couple are attacked for being too effeminate. Murder victim Adrian Mellon is described posthumously as a "fruit" and a "bum-puncher" by the cops, and even when the attack itself unfolds, no one comes to his aid, despite there being numerous witnesses safely holed up nearby:

"The buildings of Main Street loomed dark and secret. No one came to help — not even from the one white island of light which marked the bus station, and Hagarty did not see how that could be: there were people in there. He had seen them when he and Ade walked past. Would none of them come to help? None at all?"

Sure, this murder would technically appear in the movie's sequel, chronologically speaking. Furthermore, Muschietti also retains the theme of the victim as invisible and helpless through other means in his version of the story, so such a sequence is arguably not even necessary. However, the point remains though that numerous references to homosexuality have disappeared during translation to the screen.

The absence of queer representation in mainstream cinema is hardly new, but it's also possible that director Andrés Muschietti may have avoided including these elements in the film precisely because of the way they're depicted in the original source material.

Is IT Homophobic?

'IT' [Credit: New Line Cinema]
'IT' [Credit: New Line Cinema]

In a book filled with a surprising amount of queer content, the only sexual acts explicitly used to convey this occur between two of IT's most unhinged characters, Patrick Hockstetter and Henry Bowers. Sure, psychopaths have sexual needs too, but in terms of representation at least, this scenario is actually a rather damning portrayal of homosexuality. While it's unfortunate that Muschietti felt the need to erase queer content from his adaptation, it could also be argued that it's better to have no gay representation at all than to shed a damning light on people in this way.

With misspelled graffiti such as "STICK NAILS IN EYES OF ALL FAGOTS (FOR GOD)" prominently described in IT's pages, it's no wonder that some heated message boards have accused Stephen King himself of homophobia too, although the reality is far more complicated than that (King's own daughter Naomi would likely take offense at such accusations given that she's an out and proud lesbian herself).

Nonetheless, the very fact that no one is even discussing the sex scene between Bowers and Hockstetter is even more telling than its absence in the movie. Sure, it's easy to see why a youthful orgy in the sewers could overshadow a quick handjob between psychopaths, but one would think that King's description of Henry's penis as "a snake with no backbone" would certainly incite at least some discussion in the run-up to the 2017 movie adaptation. Ignoring such key elements of characterization from the book — not to mention the hilarious descriptions of male anatomy — inevitably simplifies the movie adaptation in ways that 's original text never intended.

Much like the blood that only members of the Losers' Club can see, queer representation is most visible to those who deviate from the heteronormativity of mainstream society. Those who lament the dilution of queer content in the movie might do well to follow the words of scriptwriter Lawrence D. Cohen who was forced to streamline his script for the 1990 TV adaptation of :

“I look at as a glass half full situation … The way I see it, the best moments from the book made the cut and the rest are casualties of war.”

Do you think that queer content from Stephen King's book should have been included in the 2017 movie adaptation of IT? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!

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