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Let’s Talk About Sex

 Thursday, 9th February, 2017

Holly Howe on Aleksandra Karpowicz

We all talk about it in some form or another, but for artist Aleksandra Karpowicz, her interest goes far deeper than asking someone if they got laid last night or if that bloke was a good snog. She invited almost 200 people to take the opportunity to reveal their deepest and darkest sexual fantasies, whether it was a persona that they choose to adopt in their sexual lives or one that they aspired to, for her project Let’s Talk About Sex.

As a journalist, I’m a naturally nosy person. It’s in my nature to ask questions. So when I first met Aleksandra, it was great to chat with someone who also likes asking questions, although the ones she asks her subjects are far more intimate than mine. That’s why I have invited her, along with Dr. Meg-John Barker (a writer, therapist, and activist-academic specialising in sex, gender and relationships) and Justin Hancock (a writer and experienced sex educator), to join me for a panel discussion about her work (more on which below) and sexual fantasies in general.

Barker and Hancock will also be signing copies of their new book Enjoy Sex (How, when, and if you want to). They describe the book as “a truly practical, friendly guide through the confusing, and sometimes alarming, world of sex and sexuality. Its radical approach puts your experience at the heart of the book, and invites you to explore what might be enjoyable to you”, and we’ll be talking more about their experience of writing it together.

Karpowicz’s starting point was the research by Albert Kinsey (who many know from the film Kinsey, starring Liam Neeson) and others, which looked at how people behave sexually and classified the data in relation to biological definitions such as gender, age, and sexual orientation, as well as social aspects, such as upbringing, education, religion, or whether you were raised in the city or a village.

Once she had decided on the brief, the next challenge was finding a broad mix of people who would strip down, mentally and physically, for this controversial project. Karpowicz was keen for the work to feature a mix of ages, ethnicities and genders, but unsurprisingly, London proved to be a great city for finding subjects. “I posted the brief on some websites but I also asked lots of random people I saw on the tube, in the street, at parties, in museums, literally anywhere in London! If I saw someone who looked interesting, I gave them my card and told them about the project and many of them got back in touch with me,” explained Karpowicz.

Almost none of the subjects were professional models, and only four had met Karpowicz before, so participation in the project was a real leap of faith given the subject matter. “Most of the people felt very awkward in the beginning or were stressed, but I think at the end everyone felt really relaxed and were content with being part of the session. I think it’s my strength that I can make people comfortable and a lot of people who came didn’t plan to pose topless, but then did in the end!”

Let’s Talk About Sex takes place at The Hospital Club on Tuesday 21st February. Come along and join in the discussion or message me on Twitter or Instagram @Hollytorious with any questions you would like me to ask on the night. Book your place here.

Written by Holly Howe.

Holly Howe is a strategic communications consultant and freelance journalist with a particular focus on the arts. She also runs the Culture Vultures, a networking group for people in media and the arts.

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