Sex Onstage

So I was just having dinner with a friend and the movie shortbus came up. I haven’t seen it yet but I hear it is pretty racy. Then we started talking about the history of sex onstage. Could you conceivably stage something like shortbus? In the 60’s there was the “orgy” in Hair, there are various Richard Schechner works that were reputedly pretty explicit (The Prometheus Project, Dionysus 69), there’s the performance art of Annie Sprinkle. Last year DTW presented Ann Liv Young’s brutal and graphic Michael in which one of the performers actually ejaculated onstage; there was also the notoriously graphic sex in Red Light Winter.

I’m sure a theater historian could point out dozens more examples…

I once interviewed author Bruce Benderson about his novel The Romanian, which, though about his affair with a Romanian hustler, was surprisingly demure. He said, “I thought the emotional drama was a lot more interesting than the sexual drama. And that comes back to the idea about how literary you can be when it comes to eroticism. If all you’re describing is sex then all you can do is do pornography its just like cocks and cunts and assholes…”

So is there any value to explicit sexuality onstage? Does it ever, or has it ever, worked? If it titillates you, is it still art? Maybe sex works better as comedy, implied rather than shown. After all Compulsive Sexual Behavior isn’t inherently funny, in fact it is quite the opposite, but a va-va-voom vamp or oversexed Lothario is.

What do you think?

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