The taste of sex according to Joes + Manon

Design has the power to shape our social interaction. Social designers use creativity to investigate how we react to our environment, but more importantly, to each other. During DDW19, this was reflected in a special way in the project 'Is it normal that? an interactive dinner about sex and taboos, by design duo Joes + Manon.

Joes and Manon used an interactive dinner as a catalyst for a conversation about one of the biggest taboos: sexuality. Through nutrition they tried to remove this intimate subject from the taboo sphere and open the discussion of sex. At the Natlab in Strijp-S, they created a cosy setting with music, video, a greenhouse and a bar. The two designers were able to talk about sexuality casually and the standards and behaviour associated with it. They compiled a programme with, among others, Rutgers, the Dutch authority in the field of research and sexuality, and other designers such as Thieu Custers, Nienke Helder and Circus Engelbregt

The designers used the special way of serving and the dinner’s ingredients to gently initiate the conversation about all aspects of sex

The guests were challenged to actively participate in the conversation and to think about intimacy, gender, love and identity. The guests were not just expected to think about their own gender identity by choosing to be a man, woman or 'them' at the beginning of the evening, but they were also asked to think about the corresponding stereotypes by drinking male ‘On Top’ beer or feminine wine. The dinner was prepared with herbs from the greenhouse, grown on phosphate-free soil. The phosphate, necessary for growth, was extracted from the visitor’s urine.

Other body substances that are normally considered taboo were also part of the dinner. So you could spread your bread with blood, sperm and urine from a set of medical syringes. Although unpleasant at first encounter, the syringes were found to contain saffron broth and beet gazpacho. The designers used the special way of serving and the dinner’s ingredients to gently initiate the conversation about all aspects of sex, from ejaculation to circumcision and pubic lip corrections. A dinner to remember.