"So, where is the vagina?"
Sitting on the couch of Lux Alptraum, several guests take turns answering this most basic sexual question with a plastic model of the female reproductive system. Some of them, actual adults, fumble.
Nearly two years ago, Alptraum—a writer, comedian, and sex educator—began screening the outdated sex-ed videos she'd collected during her time as an after-school sex educator. Once a month at New York's Union Hall, Alptraum's The Wonderful World of Boning is a little Dr. Ruth and a lot of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Alptraum and comedian friends riff on her ever-expanding collection of awkward short films, which span discussions of HIV in the eighties, and fifties films that address sex in absurdly oblique terms.
"They're these 'Don't have sex!' movies that are these weird little soap operas where nobody mentions sex," Alptraum says, "but girls will talk about, like, 'Oh no, we're going to go too far!'"
At a recent tour stop at Chapel Hill's Local 506, Alptraum screened a few short films, including Disney's The Story of Menstruation and the feature-length PBS production What Kids Want to Know About Sex and Growing Up. Sometimes these movies pack extra surprises, like a sixteen-year-old Dave Chappelle rapping about HIV and AIDS in one short, or a preteen Ashanti wondering, indeed, what kids want to know about sex.
Alptraum enjoys poking fun, but part of The Wonderful World of Boning's mission is reconciling the numberous ways people learned—or more often, didn't learn—about sex in school, from parents, and from peers.
"Even in the best of circumstances, we're still very misguided a lot of times," she says.
Her adult audiences generally arrive too late in life to learn much new stuff, but Alptraum hopes to affect how we approach sex talk among ourselves and with the next generation. The comedic element softens the blow and makes it easier to open up and ask questions—which, in turn, should lead to better sex for everybody. —Allison Hussey