Sofia, the sex therapist, has been faking it for years with her husband Rob. The film opens as James and his long-term boyfriend Jamie come to Sofia as clients to discuss a recent development in their relationship. James has suggested that they open up their sexual relationship to other partners, and the adoring Jamie is reluctant but willing to give it a try. In their session, roles reverse as Sofia admits her own problem which catapults her onto a far-flung quest for her own personal consummation.
Three important characters orbit these two couples. Severin is a dominatrix prostitute/artist who lives in a tiny industrial storage unit. She has never experienced a deep, lasting relationship and loneliness is taking its toll. Severin offers to help Sofia find her orgasm, and in return, Sofia will give Severin free therapy to help her in her quest for connection. Meanwhile, Ceth falls for James and Jamie – not separately, but as a couple. He pursues the idea of a monogamous three-way relationship with them. Caleb lives in an apartment with a grandstand view of James' and Jamie's apartment. He is shocked by the arrival of Ceth, seeing him as a danger to James' and Jamie's “perfect” relationship. He sets out to eliminate that threat.
All the characters converge on Shortbus, a modern-day weekly salon in the Parisian Gertrude Stein tradition. The salon takes place in the Brooklyn loft/domicile of host Justin Bond, who carefully fosters a communitarian sanctuary of art, music, politics and sex. It's in the shelter of this sanctuary that all our characters begin to understand how to answer the question: “Am I to be alone or am I not?”
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