As musicians Zoe and Marina were setting up the equipment last week we realized that the plain black wall on one side of the room is designed as a chalk board; moments later we set about covering it with graffiti, trying to come up with a symbol or image to represent our ‘sex and songs’ group.
Quarter of an hour later we started, a large group of 11 women passing round a microphone that amplified, recorded and looped our voices. For me its strange how intimidating it can be to speak or sing into the microphone – I would happily stand up and present or lecture to hundreds of people, but I find it hard to think of a sound, note or word to say in that small, safe space. Maybe it’s because I know what’s expected of me when I stand up in a lecture theatre, but not in the unfamiliar territory of the sex and songs group. I wonder if the young women feel the same because despite several of them being confident enough to stand on a stage and belt out a song beautifully, most of them pass the microphone or mutter the odd word.
This week we divided into three groups: those who wanted to sing, those who wanted to write and those who wanted to learn instruments. I was with the song-writers – to young women interested in writing poetry and / or songs. It felt more manageable in such a small group – earlier the group had felt unwieldy – hard to contain and keep focused in one space. The door kept opening and shutting and the phones kept coming out as some of the women disengaged.
In our mini-group of three we WROTE OUR FIRST SONG!! Not only that, but it was a song about sex, based on research, using a method that researchers might describe as ‘reanimating data’. It went like this:
The three of us each took a print out of survey data from a survey I conducted in 2010 with young people aged 16-25. For one month I visited colleges, sexual health clinics, youth clubs and universities and asked young people to fill in my questionnaire. The first section asked young people about themselves (age, gender, have you ever had sex etc) and the second asked about their sexual values and attitudes. They were asked to complete the statement: ‘good sex is….’ Filling in the blank with their own view of what sex is, or should be like. I received over 200 responses to this question and printed each of them out: a list of words, phrases and exclamations.
The three of us read through the list highlighting words that we particularly liked, phrases that jumped out at us. Then we threw down our favourites – Jamie Oliver style – on to some flipchart and a song began to take place….‘Fun fun fun, wild but tamed.’ One of the young women was quick to hear the song in her head, describing it as sounding like The Runways, Cheery Bomb. She played around with some guitar chords and a melody, her co-writer produced another verse and in the same room Marina taught another young women how to accompany her on the guitar.
One of us pulled up dumbot.com on the laptop to get a drum beat going and 10 minutes later we had a short, punky song. Wild but tamed. A series of short, punchy verses about ‘good sex’. Upstairs we performed to the rest of the group. There was still some shyness about using our voices and singing into the microphone but the girls thrashed it out….. ‘Fun, fun, fun. Wild but tamed.’