On October 24th, 2018, I had the pleasure of experiencing the premiere of Ejaculation: Discussions About Female Sexuality at the Finnish National Theatre’s Willensauna. The day after I had a discussion with the director Essi Rossi, performer Julia Rosa Peer and sound designer Sarah Kivi. This text is thus based on experiencing the premiere, the discussion I had with the core working group and also on experiencing Ejaculation again after our discussion.
Described as a solo performance yet on my opinion more akin to a good and proper documentary theatre piece, Ejaculation was promoted with the following explanation of the name:
In English, the word “ejaculation” reflects two different meanings. There is its contemporary connection with sexual climax, but there is also its original association: a sudden verbal exclamation, an emotional outburst of words, the desire to be heard. Ejaculation combines both meanings in an honest dialogue, presenting an unflinching examination of the mystery of female ejaculation trough a diverse tapestry of female voices, based on interviews with women from various backgrounds and countries.
Dramaturgically, Ejaculation builds through questions. I consider this as a reflection of the state of sexuality in our culture(s) – there are areas of sexuality which our culture(s) provide no answers for or worse yet, reduce legit questions into fetishized niches. Especially when it comes to female sexuality, the narrative of it being a mystery is still arguably strong. All in all, our relationship with our bodies is bundled with narratives of biological reductions, conditioned social constructions and feelings of shame and confusion.
In the very beginning of Ejaculation, Peer descended from the stage and addressed audience members with personal questions relating to sexuality. From there on, the questions that first engaged the audience built into a personal narrative – Peer told us of her travels through various countries, during which she was able to have the discussions that are now part of the body of this work. In a sense, she is our protagonist who through her own research into the topic of female sexuality discovered her ejaculating body.
I, too, have an ejaculating female body even though I don’t identify as a woman. Coming from a non-binary perspective, I found it quite cathartic that somehow Ejaculation enabled me to, in a sense, segregate my gender experience from the biological sphere of my body through a discourse much devoid of the weight of identity. That is not to say identity and its politics do not shine through the individual experiences shared by Peer and the people who we hear from tape, but rather to express a sense of weightlessness that carries the work through. I guess this might be due to the magic of immersion, or, sensuality that the theatre as such can offer.
Peer put this idea to words well during our discussion the day after the premiere; “Empathy and connection are the most crucial things we are about to lose at the moment, if we don’t do anything against it. I became an actor slash performer because I think I can help facilitate experience and connection, not to impress or entertain somebody. […] I also do a lot of film and I think the reason for me to come back to theatre and also create my own shows was that I wanted to experience the closeness and intimacy with the people and having them be a part of it. It’s like a ritual. From my perspective that’s the only thing I am really interested in theatre, because entertainment and portraying reality is covered by film and new media. Theatre has to take a stance of what it’s in this new era, and I think it’s sensuality – that’s what new media cannot do.”
During the premiere, I had taken a seat a bit to the right from the stage, maybe on the fifth row, and even though the theatre was nearly full there was one empty seat to my left. We had not talked or met before, so it was both a coincidence and improvisation that at one point Peer came to take the seat next to me, offered her hand, and we held hands for a while. It was maybe midway into Ejaculation and I had already been immersed into gratitude for Peer’s courage and the unraveling beauty of the work, and so I balanced myself and reflected all the strength and support I could through my energy and the hand held.
In the sphere of the personal, the more closer we get to our core and the more public we are in the revelation of it, the more we experience this humbling, trembling strength. Letting it show and be experienced by others is where I have often found the ritualistic strength that our culture(s) of fragmented and fluid traditions often lack or at best are expressed as an imitation, a tongue-in-cheek, ironic yet wretched state of pseudo-communion. Ejaculation, for me, succeeded in delivering and presenting this strength in relatable way. During our discussion the day after the premiere, Kivi and Peer opened up the dynamic between Kivi’s improvisation in creating the soundscape – through sound and song, she builds and releases momentums that support and give strength to Peer. In my experience, the dynamic created by Kivi’s music was an essential gateway into relating, being in the space together with the strength Peer brought to the stage.
The stage design was very simple – a canvas of a pink body hung from the ceiling, its arms stretched onto the stage and at times holding Peer as she played the interview tapes from her laptop or, as I would describe it, was as a body on stage. There was a kind of a homely atmosphere in Peer’s presence on stage, especially in the way she used her laptop casually as a tool, an extension of reality in a sense. Also Kivi was on stage throughout with her laptop, playing the soundscapes, improvising and also performing a song from where she was sitting. Her nonchalant presence fed into a sense of us being there as a community – we were there learning, humbled by the mystery that maybe should’ve angered us instead.
Angered? There are several fights to be fought on the many fronts of feminism, and the angry feminist in me is angry for having to sit here and write about everybody ejaculating. Why is female ejaculation rather an object of porn than that of sex education – why is something that is at its core a thing of general knowledge a fringe topic shrouded in mystery? I blame culture(s), of course, and as such theatre is a potentially juicy frontline to fight these battles on.
What I really liked about Ejaculation was that the angriness mentioned shone in its absence, even though the questions I pose above were taken into serious scrutiny. “We chose to follow the trail of positivity and especially sex positivity. There has been several great performances I have seen and also been part of making, that are focused on the pain, the trauma and the rape – these structures are dominating [in theatre]. How to break out of them and allow space for everyone to exist?” Rossi asked during our discussion.
In my experience, Ejaculation managed to follow the trails of pleasure and positivity. The general aura of it was that of gentle, almost cute curiosity and humble humor which rose to ejaculation of pleasure of the empowering force of open discourse and the sharing of knowledge. Or as Rossi put it, dramaturgically the work traverses through foreplay to the act itself, finding its way to climax beyond the probable horizon of expectation – to the ejaculation of the sentence, a wish and a goal to strive for; Totally free life for men, women and everyone in between.
Text: Jenna Jauhiainen
Photos: Kastehelmi Korpijaakko
Ejaculation: Discussions About Female Sexuality is an ongoing project which will premiere at the Freis Theater Innsbruck on 30th of November, 2018.
Concept and dramaturgy by Essi Rossi and Julia Rosa Peer
Directed by Essi Rossi
Performed by Julia Rosa Peer
Music and sound design by Sarah Kivi
Photography and video art by Kastehelmi Korpijaakko