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Cancel culture? My play was shut down by right-wing activists even before it opened Josie Dale-Jones


I. I am the producer and creator of a play that was canceled before it was seen. It started like this: a group of people on the internet started calling for the show to close. This gained some weight and led to a petition on the platform Citizen Go, who is believed to have links to extremist brutally right-wing Christian groups in the United States. My company, as well as the staff of the theater venues where we were to perform, faced threats of violence and abuse against employees.

The show is called “Family Sex Show”. Its purpose is to rethink the way we think and talk about relationships and sex. It was a process of collaborating with a different group of people who have different life experiences. The show is a fun and playful performance consisting of songs, dances and personal stories. We are talking about bodies and how society treats them. It also explores topics including gender, sexuality, pleasure and boundaries. But in fact, it is a show of care and mutual respect – and it exists in the hope that it may be part of the destruction of some of the systems of oppression that live today.

Whether you agree with the goals of the show or not, it has not yet been seen publicly. However, the internet group felt it was not even worth seeing to be able to judge fairly.

A family sex show is a play for everyone. We suggest that this may include children over the age of five; and we ask that everyone under the age of 16 be accompanied by a guardian. Children are naturally curious about themselves and other people. Toronto public health The department believes that a sense of identity, which includes attitudes toward one’s own body and genitals, in children begins to form before the age of four. They also understand the expected behavior for different sexes before this age. The The NSPCC also suggests that children under the age of five show curiosity about the naked body.

This is a show for adults as well. We have something to learn from each other, regardless of our age. No one is an expert in anything other than themselves.

The participants of the campaign stated that the show “takes care” of children, inviting them to the theater, where part of the content of the show will include naked bodies. To be clear, this nudity is limited to one scene and is not sexualized. Bodies lie on the stage and no one touches either themselves or each other. The reason for the inclusion of nudity is to represent bodies as soon as they are bodies. The conflict and the questions that arise around us are natural. As adults, we are confronted with our own conscious and unconscious expectations and superstitions.

Resonances on social networks and the subsequent petition used words and ideologies rooted in quirphobia, racism, photophobia, ableism, misogyny and transphobia.

In fact the world, especially the digital one, in which we live means that we cannot control what we or our children see. We have a responsibility to provide children and young people with the tools to understand, challenge and contextualize certain situations and media that they may face. Not to mention the problems associated with relationships and sex, we put them in a position of vulnerability, increasing the potential for harm.

As a performance, the Family Sex Show is an invitation to experience something together as a family (whatever family means to you), to encourage questioning and to show places so that the audience finds the answers themselves. As a caregiver, the show is designed to help open up conversations with your child about relationships and sex. I believe that honesty builds trust. Where transparent conversations are possible, children and young people can involve carers in their ongoing decision-making processes – and this is certainly great.

The team behind the family sex show is committed to human rights-based relationships and sex education. One of their goals is to help protect children, young people and vulnerable adults from abuse and harm. This is done with the understanding that informing young people about consent, their rights and bodies is a key aspect of their protection.

We need to destroy a culture in which children and young people are taught shame and fear, in which sexual violence is normalized.

We believe that the cancellation of the show reflects this shame and fear, structural and social attitudes towards relationships and sex education. Removing works that glorify freedom of expression cannot be the answer.

Simply put, the Family Sex Show is a proposition. If you have privileges that allow you to go to the theater, you choose whether to buy a ticket or not. Except that this opportunity – to participate in this show and the topics it touches on – was taken away.

A relatively small storm in the media closed the show, which no one was watching. Apart from art and culture, what does this show about the health and sustainability of our public conversation? How does this event speak to power in the UK? Who has it and how will they use it? Who can decide that on behalf of other people? I think what happened is much scarier than the performance.

We are still hoping to find a home for this show. And now I remain in a position to think: where are we from here?

Do you have an opinion on the issues raised in this article? If you would like to send a letter of up to 300 words to be considered for publication, write to us at guardian.letters@theguardian.com

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