Talking about teen sex

by Esther Emery

We had a marketing meeting this weekend. Here’s Delicia in her most productive couch slump.


And the babies playing at her feet.


We’re talking about how to talk about teen sex. It might as well have been a gathering of parents of teens, even though none of our kids are out of grade school…yet.  We did drop topic long enough to spread a safety net for August, Delicia’s oldest.  She has offered the MOXIE babes as trustworthy sources of information regarding sex, just in case he doesn’t want to talk about things like that with Mom. I kind of hope he asks somebody else instead of me.

Back on topic, we’re determined not to let a play that touches on “issues” become an “issue play.” Jen may have already told you this, but as far as I know, since The Sugar Syndrome was short listed for the Susan Blackburn Prize in 2004, it has received only two full productions in the entire United States. The winning play, Clean House, was produced six times in just one month.

Okay, so Sarah Ruhl is American and Lucy Prebble is a Brit. And what’s not to like about Clean House? I love that play. And I love Sarah Ruhl. But I don’t love a national theatre community that flocks en masse to the easier play and skips out on the challenge. Sugar Syndrome is funny. And honest. What is it that is so scary about talking about teenagers and sex? And if we aren’t talking about it…who is?

Maybe it isn’t Dani’s budding sexuality that scares away the potential producers. Maybe it’s her bulimia. I don’t know, I can’t throw a diet book without hitting an eating disorder survivor, and anorexia and bulimia are near the top of Esther’s List of Things We Ought to be Talking About. But that’s just me.

Incidentally, we’re planning community outreach nights on several of our previews, and I’m organizing Eating Disorder Survivor night. If you want to be involved, drop me a line.

And then there’s the pederast. 

Did you flinch? Sorry. I didn’t mean to take you by surprise. It’s a particularly American problem, to be tongue tied by the subject of child sex abuse. What an awful crime. What an awful, awful, problem in America, which isn’t getting better. 

The pederast isn’t the main character in The Sugar Syndrome, but he is a character.  He’s three-dimensional, human, sometimes funny, and played by an actor, who has to find a way to respect the character he inhabits.  It’s impossible to honestly play someone you hate.

What if we didn’t have a blanket, flinch-inducing hatred for the race of pederasts? Would the moral fiber of the country start to erode? What if we were open to talking about it…before it happens? Would it endanger our children further? Would it make us all into child abusers by extension? Or would it give us a chance to save some struggling souls? I don’t know. That’s scary stuff. I don’t have any answers, but I’m proud to have the courage to ask the question. 

I’m glad we have enough MOXIE.