We Will Not Be Silenced

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We will not be silenced.

There are people who want to drown out our voices with their vociferant malevolence and we are here to say, “Hey! I’m still here. We’re still here.”

The Sex Myth: A Devised Play is, as you’ve likely seen or read, a series of raw personal stories told by a drop-dead gorgeous cast of eight assorted flavors. This play has certainly changed my life. We aren’t just talking about sex, we are talking about raw dogging the sugar-honey-iced-tea out of the usual narrative. Be it sex, sexuality, aging, gender, religion, abuse, femininity/masculinity, or self-worth…you will hear our voices.

photo by Jody Christopherson

We are now more than halfway through our run and every performance feels like the first. We, the cast, have spent two whole months getting to know, love, and trust one another so that we can feel comfortable enough to share these stories. By the end of the rehearsal process, there were very few surprises. But now we have you: the audience. We don’t know you. And we (or at least I) feel so naked… so vulnerable and exposed on that stage before you. But you laugh, you cry, you listen. We thank you.

I am not very used to being heard. In my monologue, I talk a bit about silence. I had a hard time finding my voice in the world. This is something that I struggle with constantly. Working with these incredible and talented individuals, however, has changed that. I feel safe enough to explore the depths of my identity, and so I do. The Sex Myth has given us a platform upon which to be heard. It is always terrifying. But I somehow manage to walk away a little bit taller after each show. The self love is real, y’all!

We sing, we dance, we yell, we cry, we play, we chant, we march, we tear down, we build up, and we orgasm simultaneously. But most importantly, we change the narrative.

The Sex Myth is real. There is a bar…a holy grail that we are expected to aspire to. But what happens when you gather eight people from different walks of life who think that the bar should be burned? A movement. Rachel has started a movement here, to change the way we think and talk about sex and toxic norms. The cast, crew, and production team are now a part of that movement. And when you come see this thought-provoking piece of theatre, and then go back out into the world and talk about the way you talk about sex, you will be a part of it too. Are you ready?

The Sex Myth Debuts This Week!

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You’ve read our reflections on devising the show and considering the important issues discussed by its cast, you’ve seen our rehearsal photos, and watched our flash mob and Instagram takeovers. We hope you’ve also purchased your tickets, because The Sex Myth: A Devised Play debuts this week! Join us Wednesday, August 16 through Sunday, August 20 at HERE Arts Center for the inaugural production of The Sex Myth!

In the meantime, pregame by catching up on some of the buzz:

 

The Boston Globe

 

“The ‘mythical’ part of the play’s message is the cognitive dissonance between assumptions about sexual activity and reality.” Director Hanne Larsen and Associate Producer Katie Eelman are interviewed by The Boston Globe about the show, its roots in Boston, and its upcoming NYC production.

 

Playbill

“The show is a mix of personal monologues—performed by real people, not actors—that challenge our perceptions of what is ‘normal’ when it comes to sex.” Playbill names The Sex Myth as one of 13 off-Broadway shows not to miss this month.

 

Huffington Post Latin Voices

“Sexual liberation could be celibacy for an individual. To make a blanket statement on what sexual liberation looks like is to not take into account the variety of experiences people have from any spectrum that exists. Sexual liberation is relative. Having a narrow minded view on such a complex subject only serves masters in self-righteousness.” Co-star Sergio Castillo writes about The Sex Myth for Huffington Post Latin Voices.

 

Feminist Feline

Corinne Falotico writes about The Sex Myth as an “updated, more inclusive ‘ Vagina Monologues’ for Feminist Feline.

 

Sex Gets Real

Executive Producer and author of The Sex Myth Rachel Hills and co-star of our NYC production Jennie Runk join Dawn Serra on Sex Gets Real for a discussion on sexuality, beauty, and expectations around both.

 

Huffington Post Sex Heroes

“Working this summer on The Sex Mytha devised feminist production that aims to dismantle the harmful ideas we sub-consciously and explicitly learn about sex, has connected me with people who share my dream of an inclusive and safe world. We’re moving toward that dream together using an oft-forgotten superpower: listening.” Co-star Sherill-Marie Henriquez writes about identity affirmation, pansexuality, and The Sex Myth for Huffington Post.

 

All We Cannot Say


Author and Executive Producer Rachel Hills discusses shame, stigma, sexuality, and more on All We Cannot Say.

 

Psych Up Live

Director Hanne Larsen and co-stars Jennie Runk, Jari Jones, and Non Kuramoto discuss the creation of The Sex Myth and their roles in the production on Voice America / Psych Up Live.

 

Buy your ticket at HERE, RSVP, and invite your friends. We can’t wait to see you this week when the curtain opens.

 

Wow, where did THAT come from?

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“I’m bi: -sexual*, -racial, -polar, kinda -lingual, aspiring -coastal, and a fucking Gemini, to boot. I reject a binary, but my whole identity is one of duality and dichotomy. My identity crisis IS my identity crisis.”

These are some of the words that didn’t make the cut for the final draft of my monologue, but they should give you an idea of where I’m coming from. I’m between a lot of worlds. I’ve been thinking about/analyzing/naval-gazing my bi-everything-ness since childhood. I went into the process of creating this work with the assumption that I’d be talking about my myriad identities. I was totally wrong.


The thing is, I’m sick of my story. I’ve told it so many times that it’s been boiled down into sound bites, and telling it feels automated. Our fearless leader, director Hanne Larsen, encouraged us to draw from what’s current in our lives while creating our pieces. I’ve been reflecting on age and aging lately, especially as a woman in the entertainment industry. I knew it was the right subject for my piece when I read an early draft aloud and teared up at a certain line. This far into the rehearsal process, I can still barely manage to get the line out without my voice breaking. I did NOT expect this to be the theme of my piece, but here we are.

I’m the oldest person in the cast, crew, and production team (by a hair.) Still, I’m learning so much every day from this talented, diverse group of people. (And yes, I know I’m not THAT old. Come see the play and I’ll tell you more.) 

On my birthday this year, I shared my thoughts on aging in a Facebook post. Friends, family, colleagues, classmates, and people I’ve met once or only online of all ages commented to share their identification. The resulting discourse was so fascinating, I knew I had to take it further. My contribution to the The Sex Myth: A Devised Play is just the beginning of my response.

 

PS: What #hashtag should I use on social media to talk about age positivity and acceptance??? Does one exist? (Think “#effyourbeautystandards.”) I’d love to hear your suggestions!

(*I’m not personally fond of using the word “pansexual” to describe my orientation, but I’m attracted to people who don’t fall on the binary as well as women and men.)

Introducing Our Talkback Hosts

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The Sex Myth is a show that’s all about sparking conversation. Which is why we’re hosting an audience Q&A following the performance each night, featuring some of our favorite movers and shakers in the fields of gender and sexuality. Our talkback guests will talk with The Sex Myth team about their work and how it intersects with the play, followed by an opportunity for you to share your thoughts and questions with our cast and crew.

Find out more about our talkback guests below, and head to HERE to pick up tickets for the performance featuring the person you most want to hear from!

Wednesday, August 16 – Rachel Hills

Rachel Hills | The Sex Myth

Rachel is the Executive Director of Break The Sex Myth and the author of the The Sex Myth: The Gap Between Our Fantasies and Reality, which unpacks the invisible norms and unspoken assumptions that shape the way we think about sex. An outspoken feminist and international journalist, Rachel’s work has been published in more than thirty of the world’s leading political and lifestyle publications, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Elle, TIME, NYMag.com, the New Republic, the New Inquiry, Daily Beast, Buzzfeed, Vogue, and many others. As a speaker, she has engaged audiences in the United States, Canada, the UK, and Australia in lectures, workshops, two TEDx talks.

 

Thursday, August 17 – Jennifer Pozner

Journalist Jennifer L. Pozner is a media critic, author of Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV, and founding director of Women In Media & News. Her next book will focus on media complicity in Donald Trump’s rise to power — and how journalism can resist authoritarianism. Bring her to your school, non-profit, or business for a media literacy talk or workshop, or ask her your media-related questions on Twitter.

 

Friday, August 18 – Emma Sulkowicz

Credit to Artnet News

Emma Sulkowicz (b. 1992) is an American artist of Japanese-Chinese-Jewish descent who lives and makes art in her hometown, New York City. She earned a BFA in Visual Arts from Columbia University in 2015 and studied studio art in the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. She is perhaps best known for her senior thesis at Columbia University — “Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight)” — an endurance performance artwork in which she carried a dorm mattress everywhere on Columbia’s campus for as long as she attended the same school as her attacker. Her awards include the National Organization for Women’s Woman of Courage Award (2016) and Susan B. Anthony Award (2014), the United States Student Association’s National Student Movement Builder of the Year Award (2015), and the Feminist Majority Foundation and Ms. Magazine’s Ms. Wonder Award (2015).

 

Saturday, August 19 – Zahira Kelly

Zahira Kelly is a writer, artist, award-winning sociocultural critic, and speaker. She writes an advice column at TheNewInquiry.com and is creator and author of Bad-Dominicana, an AfroLatina feminist blog and twitter with a large, constantly growing following comprised of everyone from editors of major publications and scholars to teenage girls. She has been featured in a number of publications such as The New York Times, Latina, Complex, Vibe, Cosmopolitan, Time, BBC, and many more for her sociocultural analysis. In her writing, dynamic use of social media, and at speaking events, she employ Indigenous style storytelling, no holds barred analysis of abuse culture, colonialism, social power dynamics and critique of media and pop culture. She aims to pick apart white supremacist capitalist hetero-patriarchy from an anticolonial AfroLatina perspective.

Sunday, August 20 – Bryony Cole

Bryony is the creator of Future of Sex, a podcast and event series exploring the evolving worlds of sex and tech. She regularly speaks at tech conferences as well as academic institutions about how technology is impacting our sexuality and has become a leading voice in the modern sex-positive feminist movement. Recent engagements include Tech Open Air, Parsons School of Design and Pen World Voices Festival. She will be co-leading the Sex Summit at Techfestival in Copenhagen this Fall. Future of Sex podcast has been dubbed “the podcast helping women to build the future of sextech.”

 

Sharing the Raw Self

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“So, who are you playing? Tell me about your character!”

Is something I hear over and over again when I tell people that I am in a play.

Lucky for us, this play gives us the opportunity to play not only one character, but to explore various voices and concepts that society shoves in our face every day. We get to play disgruntled models, rude subway riders, old couples in a morning park — every day occurrences that also inadvertently affect our relationship with The Sex Myth and intimacy whether we realize or not.

In this show we also get to play one of the, albeit ironically, most difficult roles to “perform”: ourselves.

As a stand-up comedian one of the things I find fascinating is the number of people who tell me how brave I am for doing it. Even some members of the cast have admitted to me that they have flirted with the idea of stand-up comedy but have been terrified of actually going for it. The common reason for this fear that people tell me is because stand-up means putting yourself, your thoughts, and your sense of humor out there for everybody to pick apart immediately.

Well friends, I am here to tell you that I, personally, have never felt brave about doing comedy where I could focus on finding the funny above all else.

No joke I have written or told on stage has scared me as much as the first time I read my monologue out loud to the cast. Funny wasn’t the end-goal, and I couldn’t analyze the outside world for humor. I had to pay full attention to my paranoid and emotional inner monologue that I usually put a plug on.    

The Sex Myth rehearsal process has required me and my fellow castmates to reflect on ourselves and our relationship with sex in ways that we had never thought of or avoided throughout our lives. Many of our monologues include anecdotes that we had never shared with others before or fears and uncomfortable thoughts that we didn’t even know we had until we were in the incredible safe space that the team has created for each other. If anything, I think my castmates’ honesty as well as their willingness to listen to everyone else’s stories and to let the stories affect them deeply, is brave. And their bravery is what gives me the strength to face one of my least favorite things to think too deeply about: myself.

I get goosebumps during every rehearsal, as my heart swells with admiration for The Sex Myth Cast and their commitment to sharing their raw selves. I hope that you, the audience, will also be encouraged to explore your own “characters” with bravery, and not be afraid of what you find there.

Shameless

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“My first kiss with a girl was in a closet.”

Quién te Manda

If you asked nine-year-old me where she saw herself in fifteen years, she would have said on Broadway with Toni Braxton, or on tour with Christina Aguilera, or running her own hair salon/restaurant/party planning business. Yeah, I had a lot of dreams. And I still do.

For some reason, though, whenever I played “Barbies” with my cousins and sister, my Barbie’s life trajectory didn’t match what I I imagined for my own future. It always went the same: Barbie graduated from high school, went to college, got married, and woke up pregnant the day after her wedding. The next day, baby Kelsey was born.

This is the pattern I learned. I was told by my brown-skinned Dominican aunt that I was supposed to make sure I had a college degree, but also be sure to marry a doctor with blue eyes – male, of course – and make my mother a grandmother.

The Sex Myth is comprised of monologues from each of the eight cast members. The monologues tell our own, true stories. In my monologue, I tell the story of how when I was about five, I used to pretend to be a puppy with my friend. One day, I pecked her on the lips. When we told our older sisters, they just said “Girls don’t kiss each other like that.”

But they do. And we did.

Later, I came out to friends as bisexual. Word got around to a relative of mine, who simply said, “Bisexuality is a phase.”

When our stories don’t fit into the dominant narrative, they are often dismissed.

But they do exist. We do exist.

Through my community’s reactions, I learned what I was supposed to want in life. I learned more from my grandmother’s long, disapproving “Bueeeeeno,” than from any lecture I got about tolerance. When I went after the things I actually did want, I encountered shame.

There’s a huge yet subtle difference between shame and guilt.

 

Guilt: a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.

Shame: the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another.

Shame isn’t just, “I feel bad for what I did”; it’s “I feel bad for what I am.” I didn’t feel bad about kissing my friend. I don’t feel bad about not wanting children, or prioritizing my goals over romantic involvements, or being pansexual. But for a long time, I felt ashamed of what I wanted. When shame silences our desires, we sometimes succumb to the more popular narrative of straight-hetero-cis-married-with-children-to-a-doctor-with-blue-eyes. We chase what we think we should want; we become who we think we should be.

Sherill-Marie Henriquez in makeup by Assistant Director Isabel Quinzaños Alonso. Photo by Sarah Kiernan.

 

“Shame hates it when we reach out and tell our story. It hates having words wrapped around it- it can’t survive being shared. Shame loves secrecy. When we bury our story, the shame metastasizes.” Brené BrownThe Gifts of Imperfection

 

 

 

In our first week of rehearsals for The Sex Myth, we each wrote our intentions for the show on an index card. I wrote “Sin verguenza – Shameless.” I’ve shared – maybe overshared – a lot of shame-filled thoughts with the cast in this rehearsal process. Luckily, Hanne, Isabel, and the cast have created a space where I did not feel judged or ignored, but rather affirmed and relatable. It turns out that when we share our stories, we open ourselves up to meeting people who have similar experiences and sometimes even similar feelings. We feel less alone, and the shame shrivels up into an ugly little ball.

I think nine-year-old me would be pretty proud.

 

Buy tickets to The Sex Myth: A Devised Play here.

Party with The Sex Myth

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Many supporters and fans of The Sex Myth will join the cast and crew of The Sex Myth for a celebratory afterparty on opening night, August 16. We have so much to thank you for: backing our show, spreading the word, and showing up to opening night to welcome our fantastic cast to the stage. We’re excited to announce the details of the evening.

Join us at The Folly NYC in Greenwich Village (just an eight minute walk from HERE) for the exclusive opening night afterparty, starting just after the show, at 10:30 pm. Did you forget to buy tickets during our crowdfunding campaign? Fear not, there are still a limited number of tickets available. They’ll go on sale through HERE soon, but reach out to info@thesexmyth.com to secure your spot now. Attendance includes two drinks on us, fun and fearless feminist conversation, and a very special performance…

FONT DRAMA
Font Drama (Miss Eaves + Clara Bizna$$) will perform a short set at Folly NYC after the debut performance of The Sex Myth. Miss Eaves, known for her viral summer sensation “Thunder Thighs” is the artist-in-residence and incredible swag designer at The Sex Myth. Clara Bizna$$ is a multi-talented member of our cast. We can’t wait to see these two perform! Pregame by checking out their songs.

Don’t forget to buy tickets to The Sex Myth: A Devised Play, and share what we’re doing with your friends. We look forward to seeing you August 16-20 in New York City!

The New ‘Normal’

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As a model, I’m not used to working with a consistent team. A shoot takes a village, but that village (comprised of photographers, stylists, designers, hair and makeup artists, etc.) changes with each shoot! It’s been so much fun working on The Sex Myth with and getting to know my incredible cast-mates during the past few weeks! The Sex Myth is a devised play, so the cast members play a role in both writing and performing the stories. I knew we would be spending a lot of time together, sharing our thoughts and working on the script. What I didn’t realize when I began this journey was just how much my new friends’ stories would shape me, my perspective on storytelling, and my interpretation of what it means to be “normal.”

During our first rehearsals, we dove right in—sharing our stories and talking about the things that made us both unique and similar. I realized almost immediately that everyone had a different understanding of what was “normal” depending on the lives the lead and the experiences they chose and didn’t chose to have. Every cast member had vastly different backgrounds, but we were all there for the same reasons: we hoped to convey our raw stories, connect with a diverse audience, and break down barriers.

This personal creative process of creating the script ourselves forces us to reflect objectively and dissect our insecurities. I was forced to look deep within myself and question some notions that I had always taken at face value as society’s “norm.”  At first, the thought of diving into such an emotionally and mentally intense process with complete strangers sounded like a scary prospect, but as I’ve gotten to know my fellow cast-mates, that fear has been replaced by excitement to learn and push boundaries! I’ve never felt more welcome and loved by a group of people I’ve only known for a few short weeks. Everyone approaches this project with such kindness and compassion towards each other—it’s so inspiring!

Jennie Runk. Makeup by Assistant Director Isabel Quinzaños Alonso, photo by Andria May-Corsini.

Every story we bring to the process is totally unique, but at the same time, universally relatable. We’ve all dealt with insecurities and worried from time to time what it means to be “normal.” By working with and learning from my cast-mates, I’ve realized that “normal” is a subjective idea; it has no single concrete meaning. There is no one way to be “normal” but instead, normalcy is about embracing who you are. Recognizing, appreciating and supporting everyone for their differences is the key to friendship, ally-ship and unity.

I’m beyond excited to share this learning experience with our audience come performance time. The idea that “normal” is anything other than a socially constructed notion must be dismantled. Those of us involved in The Sex Myth have the opportunity to start doing so. It can be hard to break down societal norms, but if we talk about these issues and celebrate differences, we can build a world where everyone feels included.

On our own, my fellow cast members and I are eight totally unique individuals, who couldn’t be more different. Together, we are a unified group connected by our human experience and our goal to celebrate love, diversity, and the new “normal.”

My Sex Myth Story: Michael

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Several years ago, I began talking with people for my book The Sex Myth: The Gap Between Our Fantasies and Reality, interviewing more than two hundred people across the United States, Canada, Australia, and the UK.

As The Sex Myth moves from book to play, I decided to touch base with some of the people that started it all. I wanted to find out what, if anything, had changed in their attitudes as well as their lives and relationships, as well as which sex myths they still wish they could break with the snap of a finger.

As readers of this series will see, identifying the myths that harm society and ourselves as individuals is often the first step toward freedom from them. Thanks to all of the original interviewees and the ones who were willing to follow up with me for helping us to break #thesexmyth.

This week, I follow up with Michael:

“Michael identifies as straight but has kissed guys and watched gay porn. His father is a cross-dresser. Now thirty-two, he has been married for four years to a woman with whom he has been in a relationship since he was twenty-five. It is not technically “open,” but they have flirted with the idea of hooking up with other people. Once, on a drunken night not long after they married, his wife and one of her friends teased him with the possibility of a threesome—a promise Michael was only too keen to take them up on. “It ended up with us just talking,” he admits sheepishly. So it is no surprise, then, that I receive a quizzical look when I ask him what’s considered “normal” these days when it comes to sex. “Nothing,” he says. “It all depends on what is normal to you.” –The Sex Myth, pages 55-56

 

What made you reach out to me to be interviewed for The Sex Myth?

A photographer that I was following at the time re-posted a tweet I believe it was and I thought it would be a fun thing to be part of. I’ve always had a quite open view on sex as it is, so to be able to share that view with others would be a cool thing to do.

How have your beliefs and attitudes when it comes to sex evolved since you spoke to me in 2012?

You could say so, about a year after I spoke to you (long story short) I finally gave into a friend who kept telling me to joined Fetlife.com. I finally joined and I haven’t looked back since. I started going out on the fetish & BDSM scene in Jan 2013. Since then, I have made a whole new group of friends, I run my own monthly event, I help run another and work at more and I’ve never been happier.

And how has your sex and relationships life changed, if at all?

I split from my wife of seven years (we were together for a total of around ten years). We tried to have an open relationship for around ten months, but once I met someone and started to see them, my wife couldn’t deal with it and she asked me to leave and I did so.

I then embarked on the first new relationship in over ten years, my first BDSM relationship and I fell incredibly hard for her, but as she is a student from the US, she left the country and our relationship quickly went downhill and even our friendship suffered for it. Since then, I have been able to pick myself back up and now I have three partners who I see regularly and am possibly starting something with someone else. There have been other people that I play with (which can include sex, but not always) – often friends who are male, female, non binary, gender fluid and such. All sex and any kind of relationship I have includes BDSM to some degree and I can’t ever see myself ever going back to just “vanilla” sex and relationships.

If there was one sex myth [ie, toxic sexual stigma or stereotype] you could break today, what would it be?

The idea that you need to have a spouse, 2.4 children, and a house is a poisonous myth that will have more of a negative effect if it’s not something you really wants. My best friend who has had certain values drilled into him by his family and I know that these are not the values he feels are right for him, but I don’t know if he has the strength to go against them and live his life the way he would like to.

A Producer Is a Champion

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Back when we were raising money for The Sex Myth on StartSomeGood, I did an interview with women’s literary website The Riveter, who asked me what exactly being a producer involved.

“That’s a good question,” I said – code for “that’s a question I am flummoxed by” – “I want to say everything.”

And it’s true. Back in March, my main role as Executive Producer of The Sex Myth: A Devised Play was raising the money to put on the show in NYC – sending endless emails, doing phone calls with possible supporters, setting up giveaways and events and mini-campaigns to boost the project.

Over the last week, my role has included creating gift packs to go out to a handful of carefully selected press and influencers for when tickets go on sale July 19 (they involve limited edition Sex Myth cookies), liaising with our designer to get our marketing materials done, hiring a videographer to video the show for our SSG backers (we’re planning something MUCH better than your standard, poorly-lit theater vid), emailing with box office about ticket sales and merch, reaching out to cool people working in gender and sexuality to host our post-show talkbacks, securing a venue for our opening night after party, and of course, managing our team.

Executive Producer Rachel Hills (right) with Director Hanne Larsen

And that’s only the half of it.

The real role of a producer, though, is to be a champion. Not in the sense of being an undefeated winner, but in being the chief advocate and supporter of the project you’re working on.

My job as EP of The Sex Myth is to love the show and believe in its value, both as an artistic piece of work and as a vehicle of social change – and if I’m doing my job right, to get other people, be they funders, press, audience members, or industry influencers, to care about it as much as I do.

It’s to do everything I can to make the play as impactful as possible. To help it start conversations and put it in the best place possible to spread, across the US and around the globe.

Achieving those outcomes is the most challenging part of the job, but the act of working to make them happen is the most fun thing I do, and the one that comes to me most easily. Being a champion for The Sex Myth: A Devised Play is the reason I’m here.