This One-Woman Comedy Show Examines Culture’s Obsession With Shaming Female Sexuality

Clitoris. Vagina. Orgasm. These are some of the most shocking and divisive words in our culture, even in 2017. No, we’re not kidding. Despite being in the 4th wave of the feminist movement and the many decades of fighting for women’s rights on a number of fronts, the idea of a woman wholly owning and embracing her sexuality and body is still seen as a major taboo. Why is this? And what will it take for our culture to stop looking at a woman’s body through a patriarchal gaze?

That is what comedian, actress, writer and producer Ava Bogle, based in Los Angeles, is aiming to examine in her one-woman show ‘The Pleasure Project’. Described as “The love child of ‘The Vagina Monologues’ and ‘Mars Attacks!’”, ‘The Pleasure Project’ follows five aliens preparing to leave earth in light of an impending nuclear war who pose the question, can the clitoris save humanity?

‘The Pleasure Project’ seeks to raise awareness for and work to combat a culture that shames women for their sexual and reproductive choices. The aliens in the show celebrate female sexual empowerment as something not only positive for women, but that could literally save the world.

It seems that over the past few years our news headlines have been dominated with some major stories about men who have abused their position of power to assault and harass women sexually (Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, ROger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Kevin Spacey, etc…) so it’s about damn time we took a long hard look at how this structure of power has become a form of currency we just accept as normal in society.

Ava first launched her show at the Hollywood Fringe Festival mid-2017 and is now raising money through a Kickstarter campaign to take ‘The Pleasure Project’ on the road, globally. You can donate to her mission of spreading sex positivity and an empowering message about women’s bodies while the campaign is still running, and get to know more about her motivation in the interview below.

Can you give a brief overview of some of the characters and what type of messages about sex we will specifically see in their respective scenarios?

The characters in ‘The Pleasure Project’ are all aliens, so they approach the subject of sex from a different place than humans would—because they didn’t grow up in our sex-shaming, Puritan-founded culture—but they’re not perfect. They still have their own complicated feelings around the subject.

Jean is the most gender-non conforming of the aliens and I would say she feels slightly uncomfortable having found herself in a female human body. When her best friend Sally—an elderly woman whose never looked at her own vagina—dies, Jean takes a mirror and looks at herself, and realizes that the vagina is “actually kinda beautiful.” I use this character to think about the kind of body shame a lot of women feel, even so far as being afraid of their own vaginas.

Shell is like a very sensual yogi goddess. She loves giving women oral sex and making them come. She loves humans and prides herself on being a very good teacher—she wants to teach the world how to be a better lover of women. Audiences love Shell.

Claire is a kindergarten teacher and she thinks it’s idiotic that parents insist on giving their children’s vaginas and penises “cutesy nicknames.” In the show, she retells the story of Adam and Eve using Barbies and a troll to highlight how absurd it is that this ridiculous and sexist story is the foundation myth of mankind.

Paula believes the clitoris has the power to save humanity. She is very sexy and loves her human body. She represents a woman who is totally comfortable in her skin and proud of her sexuality, shame-free and empowered. She loves sex and she loves men.

And Froot Loop represents childlike innocence and curiosity. She is like an overgrown little girl who loves donuts and twerking. She goes to the beat of her own drum, that’s for sure.

What motivated you to create a show about sex positivity?

I grew up in a pretty unique way in what I would call a shame-free household. My mom is a sex-positive feminist who taught me from a young age that female bodies are beautiful and natural, that there’s nothing shameful about your vagina, and that sex is for your pleasure. I think she was reacting against her own Catholic upbringing, and was very specific about the kinds of messages she gave me.

Then several years ago, I started writing my sex blog ‘Diary of a Slutty Feminist’ and was surprised that my readers thought I was brave for writing so shamelessly and honestly about my experiences. And that surprised me, I guess, because it never occurred to me to feel ashamed. So I started talking to women about sex, and was shocked that the common denominator for most was shame.

I think that female sexual empowerment is a piece of the puzzle that is often left out of the feminist conversation, and to me it’s vitally important. So I wanted to be part of the change, and for me what I could do was create a sex-positive show.

How do you think the message of The Pleasure Project will relate to audiences (male and female) especially during our political times?

The whole setup for the show is that President Pussygrabber has gotten us into nuclear war with North Korea, and the aliens are getting ready to abandon earth, when Paula announces that she believes the clitoris can save humanity. The response to the show so far has been amazing. We premiered at the Hollywood Fringe Festival and I was pleasantly surprised that everyone really seemed to love it, men and women alike.

One woman said, “I felt so empowered by it, I walked home by myself.” Several men said they learned something, and were surprised by how much they actually enjoyed the show. I think it’s a very joyful show, it’s very inviting. The aliens have more patience with humans than I do, so they don’t scold. They invite the humans in and encourage them to learn a lesson through what I think is a very pleasurable experience.

Why do you think society is still so against women owning their own sexuality?

I think the patriarchy is afraid of female sexuality, and afraid of the power women would find in themselves if they didn’t have a lid clamped down on them constantly. Why else are they constantly trying to control what we do with our bodies? They hide behind religion as men have done for centuries. But it’s not about what “God wants,” it’s about control. That’s what this whole show is about.

Paula says it best: “I hope you females know you’re sitting on a fucking volcano that could erupt at a moment’s notice.” I really do believe that. Women are powerful, and our sexuality is powerful. It’s time for us to use our sexuality to empower ourselves rather than keeping us indentured to the patriarchy. I know that sounds radical, but it’s honestly what I believe.

Given the many revelations about sexual assault in Hollywood and news media by the hands of some very powerful men, how can more messages about power, control and sex be important for women today?

I think women need to take our power back. We’ve given too much of it away. I just wrote about this in my latest blog post, my experience with “My Harvey”. I’m not blaming the victim. Women have been victimized. But I think it’s also about changing the culture and what’s considered powerful. The only God we actually worship in this country is money. Money buys power.

The only reason Harvey Weinstein was even able to get access to those rooms and those women was because he’s rich and successful and therefore powerful. Brit Marling talks about this in her piece on “Harvey Weinstein and the Economics of Consent.” She says, “consent is a function of power. You have to have a modicum of power to give it.”

So I think it’s complicated. I think it’s complicated by the fact that sex education in this country is abysmal, kids are learning about sex from porn which is a performance of sex designed for men’s pleasure. Sex ed rarely includes much if any mention of the clitoris. Girls are taught that their virginity is something they lose, that sex is something they give to boys. We internalize these messages, and they’re all wrong.

There’s a lot of work to be done. But I think if women could start reclaiming some sexual agency, to view sex as something that is also for them, that is supposed to be pleasurable for them, then what women want becomes part of the conversation. Because I think it’s hard to talk about consent in a culture that doesn’t care whether or not women enjoy sex.

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You can donate to ‘The Pleasure Project’ Kickstarter campaign here, and learn more about the show on the website.

 

 

 

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