Sidewalk Sex Clinic - Norway
Our “Free Sidewalk Sex Clinic” in Stavanger, Norway turned out to be the Love Art Lab’s most challenging and inadvertently provocative project to date. Commissioned by the art organization Tao Scene, it went down on June 14, 2008. [read more below]
Our plan was to have five sex educators generously offer the public free expert sex advice on Pedersgata Street for four hours. Turns out that we landed smack dab in the middle of a heated anti-porn battle being waged by a small but very vocal group of local “feminists.” Even though our event was not porn related the press did numerous headline stories about us which were ridiculously sensational and extremely erroneous. For example they said we were “offering free sex” leaving off the word “advice.” True, we were scheduled to hold our Clinic in front of the “Love Shop,” the city’s only adult film and sex toy shop, run by a very sweet, rather shy guy and his girlfriend for over twenty years. The anti-porn feminists (OTTAR) said they were opposed to the art organization funding our project, which they felt gave cultural credibility to the Love Shop. They claimed the Love Shop “sells porn that exploits and victimizes women.”
A day before our scheduled Clinic, we met with the leaders of OTTAR and a concerned local church clergyman. They begged us to cancel it or at least move it away from the Love Shop. We thought long and hard about how to move our Clinic without it seeming like we were caving in to the pressures of OTTAR, whose political approach we simply do not agree with. We created a perfect solution, we moved our Clinic to the old location of the Love Shop, a roomy store front a block up the street.
After all the crazy press, and the threats of protest, we couldn’t find a single Stavanger sex educator to sit with us at our Clinic. This has never happened before. So we flew in our friend, sexpert and artist, Tom Garrettson from Oslo. Just as we opened our Clinic thirty or so “feminists” marched up the street carrying picket signs and screaming into bull horns. Nonetheless some brave souls came inside to get some much needed sex advice and information throughout the day. Some folks also stopped by just to lend us support, and others wanted talk about the controversy.
After about a half hour, we decided to try an art/life experiment. The three of us, Beth, Annie and Tom, decided to join the group of angry “feminists” while wearing our white lab coats and holding little flowers. This totally confused everyone, and while it was really exciting it was also nerve-wracking! The OTTAR group didn't know what to do after we joined them so they left.
We never expected what happened next. A tall man wearing a scary ski-mask walked up to our windows and spay painted a Star of David and “JUDE” (jew) in blood red spray pain. Somehow he must have known that Annie is Jewish by birth. This was Beth’s first personal encounter with Neo-Nazi hatred and it happened fast and was very upsetting. Some people were stunned and others seemed to pay it no mind. The only person who really did anything was a beautiful young Italian architect Simona Ferrari who ran down the street after the guy, then called the police. The police said they were too busy to come. Simona's partner and fellow artist, Trond Kasper Mikkelsen, was kind enough to scrape the evil graffiti from the window. After this, we half expected other extremist groups to attack at any moment.
In the end, we created a dialog that hopefully will continue long after we are gone.
Copyright © 2007 by Love Art Lab, Annie Sprinkle and Elizabeth Stephens.