Wilby’s The Science of Sex mines its comedy from the seeming absurdity of analysing the intensely personal, emotional and erotic through a clinical, statistical, biomedical lens. Armed with the familiar labcoat-and-flipchart accoutrements, Wilby conducts tongue-in-cheek sex research with the audience. She invites someone to draw a line graph of their relationship’s happiness over time, produces a parody of the ball-and-stick molecule model to illustrate the separation of love and sex, and exhibits a pie chart featuring ‘people I might fancy’ slightly overlapping with ‘people who might fancy me.’

Amongst the jollity, however, Wilby includes actual examples from the canon of sexology; Havelock Ellis, Masters and Johnson, even elucidating the anthropological roots of syncing menses. Though we laugh at Wilby’s graphs, we unwittingly contribute to dialogues on how some fields seek to ‘quantify the unquantifiable’, to clinically observe and explain the functions that feel so removed from the absolute. How do we feel knowing that love, lust, and attachment have purely endocrinal explanations?

Wilby’s piece also raises questions about how we collate data about sex and relationships, offering us a bar chart featuring the average weekly frequency of sex for lesbians, straight men, straight women and gay men. In noting the absence of bisexuality in this 1980s data analysis, we might consider how contemporary sexology can accommodate a growing social movement towards the expansion, fluidity, or even obsolescence of labeled gender and sexuality, whilst it continues to rely on categorised and quantified data for validity. (HM/KB)

THE SCIENCE OF SEX, Rosie Wilby, Sneaky Pete’s, PBH Free Fringe, Aug 11-15, Level Access (one step at venue entrance).

More about Rosie Wilby

The Institute of Sexology, Wellcome Collection:

See also Lois Weaver’s public engagement/research work on sex and ageing, in her show What Tammy Needs to Know About Getting Old and Having Sex

BBC interview with Lois Weaver:

Telegraph on Facebook gender options: