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The Comedy of Sex

Live performance erotica is here to stay, and it’s changing the way people think about sex.

In a dimly lit hall at Makati’s Green Sun Hotel, Deus Sex Machina is about to start again after a fifteen-minute break.

The show’s concept is simple enough: a group of writers create erotic scripts and have performers read them onstage. But the stories themselves are hardly that straightforward. Each script can range from the domestic to the fantastic, and sometimes fall somewhere between both.

Tonight is Virgins’ Night, and what that means is that the show is mostly made up of people who’ve never done this sort of thing. Nothing to do with whether or not they’ve actually had sex before. And that hardly matters here, anyway. Because this is one place where sex (and who you have it with) has no stigma at all.

Across the space, you see artists, writers, a few spectators from different countries. Performers with their scripts on hand, getting ready to take to the stage.

Then, the speakers go live and the stories begin.

A tribal council of cavemen creating the first taboos of society. A pair of vegetarian manananggals on a cheat day. The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin in an erotic wrestling match.

You’d never have seen it coming. Only, you do. The performers come—sensually, loudly, graphically. They scream and moan. They twitch and shudder and make overtly suggestive gestures. They bring the stories to life with acting and accents.

Listen to ‘Ladies of the Night,’ a story of manananggals going vegetarian

This is the sort of thing Deus Sex Machina has come to be known for over the past four years. It’s a celebration of sexuality, of relationships, and of fiction, and it’s meant to be performed onstage.

Most of it is done for the laughs, to see the what-ifs, but each piece is also meant to be a commentary on society. The caveman piece explores the concept of societal norms, the manananggal story is about repressed desires, and the wrestling script is a discussion on homoeroticism and masculinity in contact sports.

Deus Sex Machina is part of a movement that’s been slowly taking root in the Philippines. A kind of collective sexual awakening expressed through art. You see women telling stories through burlesque and even a Kink Carnival that brings fetishes out of the bedroom and onto the stage.

Listen to some cavemen arguing in ‘The Invention of Prudishness’.

“The original idea behind Deus Sex Machina was it was really a joke between four friends.” That’s what Marco Sumayao, one of its co-founders, says.

But you know how it goes with jokes: sometimes half-meant, sometimes meant completely with intention.

“Before anyone could even say no,” Marco says, “he already booked a venue.”

And that was how Marco became a co-founder. Not that he’s complaining now.

The first show, held in Uno Morato, attracted quite a following.

“We had to turn people at the door because the venue was so full.”

But the people, it seemed, didn’t want to pass it up, even without seats. So, they stayed, watching through the windows.

“So, we realized that this was a thing people were apparently interested in. From there we just kept going.”

Today, four years after that first show, Deus Sex Machina stages musicals and rap battles alongside their fiction. Basically, anything that involves sex and can be performed live. One musical, Marco explains, is an emotionally compelling tale about a talking, severed penis.

“It was a very heartwarming piece… a nice allegory for toxic masculinity.”

Given the reception we’re seeing in this hall—there isn’t an empty seat anywhere—it’s almost certain that many hearts were warmed.

It seems that the enthusiasm from the first show still hasn’t waned. It might even be getting more intense. Green Sun’s hall is a large space, but it’s hard enough to move around, and a few people are still standing outside, looking in through the panoramic windows.

So, what does this all mean? And where is it all headed?

“There’s so much libido waiting to be expressed,” Marco says. “Honestly we really just want to open up conversations. The more people are talking about sex in healthy, positive ways, the more people educating people about how to avoid negative behavior and negative attitudes, all the better.”

Still, it’s mostly for the laughs. But if you’re going to laugh anyway, you might as well pick something up from it. And who better to teach you about sex positivity than someone’s talking, singing, disembodied junk.