Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Sex Appeal: More sex please, we're British!

Months ago our ambassador Zoe Margolis had the idea of putting on a comedy night in aid of Brook. On Friday, after months of hard work, favours and commitment from many people that idea became a ‘pinch yourself it's not a dream’ reality at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London. With a stellar line up of guests equal to, and better than, any you would see at Edinburgh Festival ‘Comedy Best of the Fest’, ‘Sex Appeal: More Sex Please, We're British’ was a fantastically funny evening. As one person said on twitter at half time, “at comedy sex, it’s half time and my sides ache already.”

All the comedians gave their time free of charge to challenge through comedy any negative attitudes about sex, sex and relationships education, and to help Brook raise funds to carry out our campaigning work. More information from the evening will be available at http://www.brook.org.uk/ in the coming weeks.

As well as making us laugh throughout the evening, beforehand each of the comedians told Brook why they support our work to make sex and relationships education relevant for the 21st Century (if you haven't signed our petition please do so at http://www.sexpositive.org.uk/).

The host Al Murray, The Pub Landlord, said: “Sex ed is important because it's something that's personal but that can impact on other people as well. The more you know, the better equipped for life you are.”

Helen Arney, a musical comedian said: “Good sex ed is about more than just educating, it's about young people finding out about the difference between truth and fiction. If I had to be young again (a horrible thought) I'd want my first introduction to sex and relationships to be from someone who knows what these things actually are, and not fifth-hand garbled gossip from Stacey whispered under coats at breaktime. Good sex education sticks, but so does all the wrong stuff about sex if it gets there first. If I still believed everything Stacey said, because no-one had told me otherwise, I'd still think the word 'dude' means 'elephant dung'. Which it does. Right Guys?”

David Baddiel, known by many for The Mary Whitehouse Experience, said: “I'm very keen on the idea of sex education for children particularly as it means I don't have to talk about it to my own children. I also think it may have moved on since I was in school where it consisted almost entirely of diagrams that could easily be mistaken for the opening credits of Dad's Army.”

Musical comedian Mitch Benn, hit the nail on the head, “Sex education is important because sex is important and education is important. It's importance squared, if you will. I wish I'd had some, I might be better at it.”

We were warned that it doesn't pay to take offence at comedy by San Franciscan actor and comedian Scott Capurro. About sex education he believes, “More should be taught. I received a scattered rather toothy blowjob in Rome and the scabs are still healing.”

Richard Herring warned of setting traditions in relationships if they cannot be future proofed and told us, “Sex is important and education is important, so sex education is doubly important. No one worries that if we teach children history that they will go out and start wars – we hope that given the facts they might learn to behave more responsibly. So let's give them the facts about this vital and joyful part of being alive, because most problems regarding sex grow out of ignorance and secrecy.”

Robin Ince took many on a trip down sex education memory lane with his reading of the Giant Crabs, “The vast majority of evidence I have seen makes it clear that educating young people does not turn them into crazed sex devils rutting in alleyways but actually cuts down on behaviour that enrages the censorious. Of course it does, once young people find out how disgusting and pointless sex is they can get back to reading books in the library.”

About sex education Shappi Khorsandi told us, “We need to allow young people to be more open and honest about their thoughts and feelings about sex. Early sex education keeps dialogue open and information flowing so young people can make mature, informed decisions.”

Mathematician and comedian Matt Parker left a few of us at Brook red faced when he pointed out early in his show that Brook had some of our Maths wrong but we remain together on sex ed, “Just telling young people what they should and shouldn't do is counterproductive. They need to make up their own minds and the skills to rationally analyse new information as they stumble across it on the internet. This is what good sex education should provide.”

Jay Rayner, son of the leading sex educator, Claire Rayner told us, “I was raised in a household where sex education was the family business; was taught from a very early age that sex only becomes a problem when people don't talk about it. And that's a lesson every generation has to learn. Good sex education isn't a luxury. It isn't a privilege. It's a basic human right.”

Kate Smurthwaite, political comedian and feminist activist said, “Understanding how our bodies work is a fundamental human right. For our young people to grow into sensible adults who can make wise decisions about their sex lives they must first understand what is there and how it works, in terms of reproduction, in terms of risk and in terms of pleasure. These should be non-negotiable components of the National Curriculum, taught without fuss or debate as soon as children are old enough to understand them – and well before they begin puberty.”

Writer and comedian Catie Wilkins was clear, “I think sex ed is important for young people so that they can make balanced and informed decisions about one of the most crucial areas of life. Forewarned is for-armed'.”

As well as being the first big laugh of 2012, the event had a serious point to make – we fail young people if we do not provide them with high quality, evidence based and accurate sex and relationships education – and some serious funds to raise to help Brook with our continued campaign to ensure we have sex and relationships education fit for the 21st Century.

I owe enormous thanks to everyone who made the evening happen, and who gave up their time and skills freely to do so – first off Zoe Margolis for having the idea and vision and turning it into reality with her friends and colleagues who helped with the website www.comedysex.org (Ian Dickerson), with stage management (Kirsty Chestnutt and James Knight) and with promotions, also thanks to photographer Elliott Franks. Thanks to Al Murray for hosting the evening and to all the comedians for giving their time and for making us laugh. Thank you.

Thank you to our sponsors and supporters; PSUK, Mates SKYN, Sh! Women's Erotic Emporium, MOO.COM, Chinawhite, CM Print and Sparkloop.

And finally thank you to all the Brook staff who volunteered to help; Joy, Natalie, Sian, Lisa, Rachael, Josina, Mariana, Daniel and Glen. Particular thanks to those who worked so hard they didn't even get to see the show. Photos of the evening can be found here and you can also follow the conversation on Twitter using #comedysex.

Follow Brook on twitter @brookcharity; @besexpositive or follow me @simonablake