Coming up on The Steam Room: https://youtu.be/LQcCGsMPYnU
GaySA Radio, where you are family. This is The Steam Room, brought to you by the South African National Department of Health’s Phila Project. My name is Max, and tonight we’re exploring the world of mental and sexual health. So first of all, even though it might seem bleedingly obvious, what do men who have sex with other men think those terms mean? How do they relate to them? So we spoke to a few people and here’s what they said:
Hendrik: What is the link between sexual and mental health?
Person A: I think the link between mental health and sexual health is that the better you feel mentally, the better you are going to feel physically, and what I mean with that is if you do perhaps have mental health issues like low self-esteem or even depression, you might seek out sex to make yourself feel better. In many ways I think when it comes to mental health issues and sex, if there is somebody with power issues it can be reflected in sexual issues where a whole dominant roleplay might become involved, or the other way around, where somebody has too much power and they want to kind of experience being submissive, it could play out in sexual health, and that could also then, I think in a big way, especially with self-esteem issues, lead to promiscuity.
Person B: Absolutely, I think there is a link between sexual and mental health. I’ve always thought of sex being very sacred, very beautiful, very satisfying, and with that question I just wonder that if mentally I’m not healthy and mentally, I’m not there then it might not have the desired result afterwards, so I think one needs to be in a really good space mentally and really healthy and stable. For me to go in and have sex and share a part of myself and a part of my soul, and make it a beautiful event for myself, but yeah I think there is definitely, most definitely a link between sexual and mental health.
Person C: What can I say? I think they both are relative, because I think that if you are not okay mentally you cannot have a very, very, very good sexual life, you see? So I think the link is if people wanna have a good sexual life, and I know people want to have a good sexual life, you need to be okay mentally. So the mental is very, very much important for, I think it’s important for all the feel of a human being, all what you do in your life you need to be mentally okay. So the link is very, very, very much present between mental and sex.
Hendrik: Can sex be used to control people?
Person A: Sex can absolutely be used to control people, I’ve seen that around me with people being in certain relationships and one of the partners might manipulate the other one for money, or a car, or for lifts, for booze or whatever. So sex can definitely be used to control people.
Person B: Do I think people can use sex to manipulate or control people? Abso-fucking-lutely! I mean, I remember having who would stick in a really toxic relationship, he would always be depressed, but because the sex was good, well in his words, his dick was bomb, and he really, really enjoyed every piece of him, he had to sneak around and it was really not healthy and ja, I think people can manipulate other people through sex and use other people, and control other people’s lives through sex, just because they are gifted in that sector. But ja, I do believe so, I do believe that people can manipulate and control others using sex.
Person C: Of course! People are doing that every day. (Laugh) People are doing that every day. Of course people are doing that every day. I think it’s even a way for some people to have what they want, like telling someone that maybe if you want to take some money from someone, you think, after having sex with him it will be very, very easy for you to ask him for money you know? But I don’t think it’s a good thing, but people are doing that every day, it’s very much possible.
Hendrik: Now when somebody is in an emotionally unstable state, do they have more or less sex?
Person A: When it comes to being emotionally unstable in an emotionally unstable state, I think this can fall either two ways; if we are once again looking at somebody who, let’s use our example as somebody who’s got low self-esteem. It can lead to multiple sex partners to feel good, to feel better, perhaps to somebody who wants to feel accepted can get involved in sexual activities to be accepted. So there can definitely be an increase in sex. If somebody is on medication however, like anti-depressants or similar medications, it could lead to a decrease of sex life, so that one can fall either two ways of the coin.
Person B: Do I think people have more or less sex if emotionally unstable? Well look, I think it differs from person to person; Me, myself personally, I wouldn’t have sex if I’m emotionally not okay because as I said, I would want the desire, the result of feeling satisfied and feeling happy at the end, but I’m figuring if I’m emotionally not alright, and I go and have sex in hopes that it will change my situation, you know I have more and more sex and still my situation’s not changing, then I’ll just end up feeling worse. No, I think I would have less sex, if any, if I’m emotionally unstable.
Person C: I believe a human being that doesn’t have very good sexual life is not stable, you know? Even in a relationship, I know there’s that thing, yes I love you, but if you keep telling someone I love you after six months and not having sex with the person, the person is going to start looking at you like, mmm, is there something there going wrong? So I think so, yes, I think so.
Hendrik: Does sex fix emotional problems?
Person A: Sex can’t fix emotional problems, I think it is a short-term fix. If you are in it for a longer fix you need to go see a psychologist or a therapist. I mean for that short while you are having sex with somebody you might feel better about yourself, but afterwards I don’t think it works.
Person B: It sure as hell can try. No I’m totally joking, I don’t think so, I don’t think sex can fix problems. I mean, like tequila; you have a shot but the problems still stay the same. During sex, or the climax of sex, you feel perfect, you feel great, you feel like you’re on butt nine, but does the problems go away? I don’t know, I don’t think so, I honestly haven’t experienced it and I don’t think it would, just simply because problems are not rooted by sex, the problems did not start from sex, so why would they end with sex? You know what I’m saying? So no, I don’t think sex can fix certain problems, or any problems.
Person C: No, I’m not okay with that one, but I think it depends on the situation, maybe if you have some problems with your partner, some emotional problems, once you fix it verbally, you also have to fix it sexually.
Person D: Okay, I think I follow you on that one, so you think words need to be followed by actions?
Person C: Yes, you have to! I think it very much depends on the situation but if my mother dies, for example, and I’m crying for my mother, don’t call me and say hey Raphael let’s go have sex so that you can forget your mother is dead, you know? So I think it depends on what you’re going through, like emotional problems, the stress of the work, bad day, things like that. Yes, I think so, it depends on what you are living, what you are going through.
Hendrik: Should you refrain from sex when you’re dealing with issues?
Person A: I definitely refrain from sex when I’m dealing with issues, for the main reason that you become, especially if you have multiple partners or if you are single, you become more vulnerable to the thing and when I’m dealing with issues I’d rather channel that energy into solving the issue than try and go deal with it in another way. Personally, when I go through problems, I refrain from sex, just simply because as I said, I don’t want to have sex for all the wrong reasons and I think sex is really something great that we’re supposed to share with one another, but in all honesty I’m having sex for all the wrong reasons and it’s not only unfair to myself but also to the person I’m having sex with, and me knowing that will make me feel even worse at the end of sex, so I can’t refer to sex when I’m going through a lot of issues. Therefore I totally refrain from sex when I’m going through my personal problems until I’ve sorted them out.
Person C: Personally, no. That’s me now, no. Generally when I have problems, when I have a lot of problems, the first thing I forget about is sex. That is what I was telling you for the first question; that if you are not mentally okay, me, when I’m not mentally okay I forget about sex. For a long time I forget about sex. But some people, yes, they find their comfort when they have problems in sex. I know some people that tell me, you know when I have some problem I need to have sex, and then for a little bit moment I forget all my problems, but me, personally, no. The only way for me to have a good, a really, really great sex session, it’s when I’m okay in my own head.
Hendrik: So there you have it, that’s the word on the street when it comes to mental and sexual health, what it is and how they think on the subject. So now I’m left wondering: What does this topic mean to you? So how about you let me know, just drop me a message on social media with your opinions. You can always search @GaySARadio on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn and get in touch that way.
This is GaySA Radio, where you are family. This is Max and you’re listening to The Steam Room.
What do you think about the link between mental and sexual health? Listen here: https://youtu.be/T0HZqBKcDi0?list=RDT0HZqBKcDi0
GaySA Radio, where you are family. You’re listening to The Steam Room, brought to you by the South African National Department of Health’s Phila Project. I’m your host Max and tonight we’re road-tripping through the valleys of mental and sexual health. So you may already have your interest peaked by our topic tonight, but if there’s somebody out there who feels that they need a bit more clarity on the subject, we’re pleased that tonight we can say we are joined by someone who knows all about just how important this topic is. Welcome to the show.
Ethan: GaySA Radio, where you are family. My name is Ethan, we’re chatting to Tom Budge about mental and sexual health. Very broad question, is there a link between mental health and sexual health?
Tom: Oh absolutely. I think sexuality is very much a part of who we are as human beings. My metaphor for that is that we’re like a three-legged stool really. We stand on a floor of spirituality, whatever that is in the context of who we are, depending on how we kind of express that, so whichever religious or spiritual belief that we have, that’s the floor on which we stand. The three legs that form the pillars of who we are as human beings are intellect, that would be one leg, our emotions, and our sexuality. And those three need to be in balance if that stool is going to be at all useful. If one leg is broken or missing, if one leg is too long or too short, that stool is just not going to work and so we need to make sure as human beings that intellectually, emotionally and sexually, we find that balance, and that’s the link then, between the mental state, who we are as beings, and the expression of our sexuality.
Ethan: So then, how do mental health issues manifest themselves into sexual issues, and potentially vice versa?
Tom: I suppose there are many levels to this, at some stage we’re talking about chem-sex here, those are external chemicals that we could get addicted to, if there’s any kind of lack of self-worth or low self-esteem, very often people can find attraction and affirmation through a connection with others, especially sexually because somebody else is prepared to see you as an attractive human being and get naked and actually be intimate with you, what finer affirmation can you get about yourself to cover up those self-esteem or emotional inadequacies other than that? That’s one of the biggest affirmations of all. Then it can also play into the internal chemistry because we have our happy, feel-good drugs, the dopamine and the serotonin, and it is those emotional highs that sometimes start to be chased, and if those are the only ways we can feel good about ourselves it can lead to to obsessive sex.
Ethan: So then, how does one go about unpacking and treating these issues with somebody?
Tom: I think it’s about… balance is a horrible word because it becomes a bit of a cliché, I think we neither want to push at our sexuality, to push it away because we want to abstain from it sometimes in religious or spiritual contexts it’s very often seen as the original sin, and it’s a weakness, it’s a flaw in one’s character, which it certainly isn’t, and so very often we are encouraged to push sex away and say it shouldn’t be part of who we are. Obsessive sex on the other hand is a pulling at that sex, it’s a neediness, it’s driven out of neediness. Balance is that sweet spot in the middle, somewhere between neither pushing at it or pulling at it, but just enjoying it for what it is. I think the best word that I can find for that is continence. You know, sometimes in the elderly, bladders and bowels tend to lose continence, and you have no control over them and that’s the key; If one is sexually continent then you are using your sexuality as a part of who you are, that is neither obsessive nor is there any guilt about it.
Ethan: So then if somebody wants to seek help for this kind of stuff, what kind of people should they be talking to?
Tom: It depends on the type of help. Mental health, therapists, a whole range of different therapies, in my practice we use hypnosis quite a lot with a lot of effectiveness, and it’s not about reprogramming a person, it’s about allowing that person to find their character and their nature and the safety zone in which they can be just a human being.
Ethan: So can we quickly chat about the link between age in the LGBTQ community and mental and sexual health?
Tom: Oh it’s very much a bit of a bell-curve I think, when, let’s take a young boy or I suppose girl, anybody for that matter, if you’re a gay man, a gay boy and somewhere around puberty you start to realise that you’re attracted to men, there’s the whole process of coming out. No matter how accepting the world is around you, no matter how great the constitution is, there’s an anxiety about that and it’s something that gets prolonged, gets pushed out, and there’s the anxiety in the youthfulness until such a time as you start to find those connections, those are usually secret connections, and then there’s the self-outings, or someone else will out you and your sexuality becomes public. And after that it’s almost like, well screw it, I am who I am, I’m going to express myself for who I am and I don’t really care what other people think of me. But then the flip side is that as a person starts to age, aging is a very difficult process in the gay community, because very often it’s about either material acquisition, wealth, and ones sophistication and well-being in a material sense, or it’s about how beautiful you are and what you have to offer as a person in terms of physique, but even that is a kind of monetarial thing too. As a man ages, those attributes, wealth might be there but physical attractiveness fizzles, and it’s very easy to end up in the space of being regarded as some dirty old man. Very often I’ll be sitting in a pub somewhere or a club and I’m just watching, I’m an observer, and you see these men sitting, and they may as well have tattooed to their forehead, the word lust. Or need, or desperation, and they try to do whatever they can in order to find a connection but it comes across, that neediness, that desperation comes across and with a little bit of unattractiveness, certainly at a physical level, those elderly men very quickly can become shunned from the community. And then it becomes a very lonely, dark place. I think that there’s a special thing that elderly people of all sexual persuasions need to look out for, and that is grace. It’s not graceful, but its grace. It’s like style, you can’t really define style. What makes a person stylish? It’s hard to say. You can be in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg and you can have all the money in the world, but you can look at a person like that and say ooh that woman really looks kitsch, and she may be the richest woman in the suburb. But there’s no style with it, it’s not about the value of the things that you are wearing, it’s about how you wear it, and that enigmatic word style, which is so hard to quantify is akin to that word grace. I know of elderly people who have grace, they will never age. Their character is amazing character, and regardless of what the body looks like, there is a pull, there is an attractiveness, a magnetism of sorts that keeps people there, and I’ve seen elderly men, maybe they’re not having sex with the boys but there’s a butt of young men around them who just adore that person, they find inspiration from that person, and that takes a lot of hard work. The moment you hang out that little sign of desperation, suddenly it’s a different kettle of fish entirely, and what is also quite sad is that when you get to the point where you can’t really help yourself, where you need assisted living, for heterosexual couples, it’s off to the old age home, there’s the retirement village that’s all geared around couples, or single, bereaved people, widows and widowers, but what happens in a gay person’s life? There’s no old age home for gay people, where they can go and feel comfortable and be in a surrounding of caregivers who understand who they are, so young boys come out of the closet, old men go back in to the closet, which is a terrible thing to do because there’s fear that if the word should get out in one of those retirement villages that this is a gay person who has had sex with another man, that they will be as ridiculed, as taunted as they were when they were younger.
Ethan: Thank you so much for speaking with me today,
Tom: You’re welcome.
Ethan: Tom Budge talking to us about mental health and sexual health.
Thank you for joining us in studio here on The Steam Room, it’s greatly appreciated. So if you just started listening, that was an expert here to talk to us about mental and sexual health. You’re listening to The Steam Room on GaySA Radio, where you are family.
Listen to Tom Budge’s interview here: https://youtu.be/59eWPeJYuVY?list=RDT0HZqBKcDi0
SFX: MOODY POP MUSIC
The Steam Room presents “HOMECOMING”
Elliot – Short description
SFX: THREE SETS OF FOOTSTEPS TREAD UP STAIRS AND A DOOR CLOSES BEHIND THEM
ELLIOT: Sorry I made you guys sit through that. They can be a lot.
STEPH: No problem, Elliot. I can’t speak for Ed, but I love dinner having dinner with your family.
ED: Nah Steph, I do too. Your mom’s funny as shit. And I get to look at George, so it’s not all bad.
ELLIOT: Ed, If you could stop perving on my brother that’d be great. But, I guess some things never change, hey.
ED: It’s not like you’ve been gone for ages. It was just three months – and in my experience a nice toned specimen like your brother takes a lot more time to wane than that.
ELLIOT: Oh my gosh, shut up Ed. I can’t with that.
ED: Sorry bout it. No apologies. (beat) But, maybe I’ll keep it on the DL. I’ll whisper in Steph’s ear. Can’t be so blatant about it anymore now that you’re back. (beat, jovially) Now that the triumphant sire has returned!
STEPH: Oh my god…
ED: (talking over her) To ease his loyal subjects from a lifetime of perpetual boredom and misery!
ELLIOT: Stephanie, why is he speaking in tongues?
STEPH: God, it’s him being himself. There’s a new play running down at the Masque and he can’t stop speaking like it. We’ll take you.
STEPH: I reckon we have to . Seeing as we missed your 18th. Tell me your birthday at least fell on pizza day!
ELLIOT: How do you know about pizza day?
STEPH: Some things about the clinic never change. It’s an institution.
ELLIOT: Wait, so I’m gussing that means you know about Jackie?
STEPH: Jackie with the hair?
ELLIOT: (humorously corroborating) Ja! God, i’ve just never seen a woman with a combover before.
STEPH: I know, right! It’s… it’s…
ELLIOT: Something else…
(The laugh heartily)
STEPH: Elliot. If we havn’t said it yet, welcome back. We missed you.
ED: Yes, welcome back, squire! And in one piece, no less. Not to be scoffed at!
STEPH: You look good.
ELLIOT: I feel good. Been better, though. But, you know, considering…
ED: Yeah. But, one piece. (beat) Squire.
STEPH: Oh god. It’s not going to end!
STEPH: Ed, you’re hogging the bed. I wanna lay down. Ellie, come over here.
ELLIOT: In a sec. Do you guys wanna listen to some music?
SFX: SOFT ROCK STARTS PLAYING
ED: So, what’s the deal with school?
ELLIOT: Going back after June break is over.
STEPH: When’s that?
ELLIOT: On Wednesday. (beat) Don’t look so worried. I feel ready. It was my choice. I have to get matric out of the way at some point.
STEPH: Elliot, are you sure, though? I’m sure your parents wouldn’t mind if…
ELLIOT: (cutting her off) I’m sure. The clinic teaches you what you can and can’t handle, I guess.
STEPH: (beat) Okay.
ELLIOT: It’s okay. (beat) Anyway, how’s university going?
STEPH: Yeah, nah, it’s all good.
ED: Can’t complain. Though it’s definitely the buffet they warn you about.
ELLIOT: Buffet of…?
STEPH: It is. But, luckily we’re there for each other. To keep things in check.
ELLIOT: I see.
ED: Have you seen any of your school friends yet?
ELLIOT: None. You’re the first ones I’ve seen since I’ve been back.
ED: Don’t worry too much about that. Some people get that way when…
ELLIOT: When one of their friends slits their wrists.
ED: Yeah. When something like that happens. But, it’s your job to show them that…
STEPH: (cutting him off) That you can handle it. That you came back stronger.
ELLIOT: I’m not entirely sure I have.
STEPH: You’re Elliot Roberts. You couldn’t have come back anything else.
GEORGE: Good morning. Geez, you’re ready to go already.
ELLIOT: Yeah, I woke up a little early. Just having a snack first.
GEORGE: Yum. My favourite kind of breakfast. Pills.
ELLIOT: I know right. Though the prozacs a bit spicy. Hence the milky cereal.
GEORGE: Ooh. Be careful. You’ll stack on the kilos if you keep overeating like this.
GEORGE: You’re sorted for lunch and all that?
ELLIOT: Ja. Maria packed me one. Like it’s my first day.
GEORGE: Kinda is. (beat) Slacker. (beat) Still putting me to shame, though. I still have a few things to get done. Mind waiting a little longer?
ELLIOT: School starts soon though, hey.
GEORGE: I’ll be quick. Just gotta whip some kinda breakfast together.
ELLIOT: You know, you don’t have to drop me off at school. I can take the bus the way I usually do.
GEORGE: There’s no need for that.
GEORGE: No, really. I have plans in the city with Mel later anyway.
ELLIOT: Oh, yes. The new girlfriend. I still have to meet her.
GEORGE: She can’t wait to meet you.
ELLIOT: Uhm…not to ruin the mood but, does she know about…?
GEORGE: About what?
ELLIOT: You know… me.. the clinic and all that stuff. I mean, I understand if you haven’t wanted to tell her.
ELLIOT: No, I get it. It’s a lot to take in. You don’t want to scare her off, now do you.
(ELLIOT chuckles falsely)
GEORGE: Don’t think of yourself like that. You’re not a liability. What happened, happened. I’m your brother. I’m not ashamed of it.
ELLIOT: I know. I just…
GEORGE: You need to trust that I’m gonna be your brother through all this shit. I’m not going anywhere. I told her. And she’s really cool with it. I mean, not cool with it. She understands it. I mean, if she didn’t I wouldn’t still be dating her.
ELLIOT: Okay. Thanks. (beat) Thanks for that.
GEORGE: No problem. Just like it’s not a problem to drop you off today. Might as well make it as comfortable as possible. The bus is a drag.
ELLIOT: That it is.
GEORGE: But, Ellie. Speaking of… I heard what time you got back last night. Again.
ELLIOT: Oh, fuck. I’m sorry. Did..?
GEORGE: No. Chill out. Mom and Dad didn’t hear anything. I’m just worried is all. Where did you go?
ELLIOT: Just… for a walk.
GEORGE: At 3am, Ellie?
ELLIOT: I just needed some air. (beat) I’m sorry if I woke you.
GEORGE: No, It’s okay. I was up. Just wanted to make sure that everything’s fine.
ELLIOT: Ja, no. It is. Don’t stress. Guess I just needed it. Today’s a big day. First day back at the big dollhouse.
GEORGE: Yeah. It is. And you’re doing great.
GEORGE: Okay. Let’s hit the road.
SFX: CAR PULLS UP INTO A PARKING SPACE
GEORGE: Shit, I think I got you here a bit late. Sorry.
ELLIOT: Yeah. No one’s in the quad.
GEORGE: Traffic. Sorry dude.
GEORGE: Why are you looking at me like that?
GEORGE: Okay. So maybe I thought you could do without the crowd.
ELLIOT: I’m okay, George. I promise.(beat) But, thanks.
GEORGE: No problem.
(ELLIOT audibly breathes in and out)
GEORGE: All good?
ELLIOT: Ja. Just (beat) gathering myself.
GEORGE; Take your time.
(ELLIOT audibly breathes in and out)
GEORGE: You’ll be okay.
ELLIOT: I will.
GEORGE: If you need me to pick you up later again I will. It’s no problem.
ELLIOT: That’s okay. I’ll handle getting home.
SFX: A CAR DOOR OPENS AND CLOSES.
GEORGE: Go show them what you’re made of.
SFX: FOOTSTEPS AS ELLIOT WALKS AWAY.
THE CAR STARTS AND GEORGE DRIVES OFF
That was “HOMECOMING”, written by Arlin Bantam.
This play was produced as part of the Steam Room, which is brought to you by the National Department of Health’s Phila Project. GaySA Radio – where you are family.
Stay tuned. “The Steam Room” will be right back.
Listen to this steamy radio play here, only on GaySA Radio, where you are family: https://youtu.be/KyCbAuHuOSI?list=RDT0HZqBKcDi0
My name is Max and you’re listening to GaySA Radio, where you are family. You’re listening to The Steam Room, brought to you by the South African National Department of Health’s Phila Project. So, seeing as tonight we are talking about mental and sexual health, I thought we should take to the streets to find out what men who deal with these issues have to say…
Max: Do you use sex to feel better about yourself?
Person A: I can’t use sex to feel better about myself, I don’t use sex to feel better about myself, but back then I used to. I used to use sex, trying to feel better about myself because just those temporary pleasures made me believe that it is, my problems are gone but then growing up I realised that the only thing that can remove my problems is internally and it was not okay, I just ended up feeling worse than I did.
Person B: I’ve never used sex to feel better about myself, not that I can remember.
Max: Have you ever had sex and felt bad afterwards?
Person A: Yeah, I think it was when I realised for the first time that sex does not actually fix problems and I felt really, really terrible, because it was building up, I was going and having sex, I was really young so it was building up towards a point where after this one incident when I was done having sex, I really felt terrible. I had like a shut-down and I was referred to therapy and only afterwards did I realise what I was doing to myself and to the persons that I was having sex with that it was really not cool and yeah I really felt bad and terrible inside, and yeah, that was my experience of when I felt bad after having sex.
Person B: I had occasions where I had sex with people and felt bad afterwards, especially when I was younger. I mean when you are in your early twenties or late teens you do tend to grab an opportunity when it presents itself, and no one really wants to be branded as a slut. So I think if you do feel like a slut afterwards, you do sometimes have to deal with guilty feelings there, and I’ve gone through that and I think that quite a way along the line I’ve dealt with it and not anymore.
Max: Have you used sex to escape the present?
Person A: I think I’ve shared a lot about my history and when I did not know better and that I thought sex would fix everything and that was only simply because I was going through the most and I didn’t have anyone telling me, hey listen, this is not the way to go but instead it would be, hey let’s go for drinks, and you’d meet guys at the bar and the guys will invite you over and you’d say my life generally right now is such crap, let me just go ahead and have sex with this guy, maybe things will be hunky-dory? And temporarily it would be, I mean like I said, those temporary pleasures and those temporary moments when you climax and you feel like everything is perfect, but I think after I realised that that’s the case, no, no I don’t use sex anymore to escape my current situations, instead I’d rather talk to someone, so ja.
Person B: I’ve never used sex to escape the present; I think rather, in that moment embrace the moment, don’t try and escape it. I’ve never used it as an escape tool.
Max: does sex have an emotional bearing for you?
Person A: Does sex have any emotional bearing? Yeah, like good bearing now, especially if it’s with someone you are totally into and you’re in a good place in your life and your heart is just beaming with love, and afterwards you’re just like you know what, I can’t wait to do that again with that person just because you really, really feel great about yourself and you know that you are not going into it with baggage and you are mentally just sound and saint. So yeah, I think I can safely, confidently say that sex has an amazing, great bearing over me emotionally.
Person B: Sex doesn’t really have an emotional bearing over me. Or once again, I think you need to look at a balance there. It took me a very long time to have a balance between sex and making love and I am in a stable relationship with somebody, I love him very much, so I think there’s a big balance there, so no.
Max: Can we find a balance between sexual and mental health?
Person A: Basically it’s making sure that you are not having sex for the wrong reasons, and making sure that mentally you are sound. And if you are not then it does not mean it’s the end of the world, find help. Go online, speak to professionals, seek help. Listen to GaySA Radio! You know what I’m saying? And just see how you can sort things out for yourself before going out and having sex with someone else. So I think there is great solutions into finding balance between mental and sexual health.
Person B: You can find a balance between mental and sexual health, and that journey is going to vary from person to person. I don’t think anybody’s journey to get to that point would be the same, but there definitely is a balance and I think in my relationship I have achieved that, and it’s hard work that needs to be tended to, otherwise I think that balance can very easily tip out of balance.
It’s always great to hear straight from the horse’s mouth don’t you think? I mean, one thing that really surprises me is just how often I can relate to the answers here. If that’s the case for you, I hope you’re starting to feel like family. If not, well then keep listening, getting all this nitty-gritty to you is what GaySA Radio is here for.
Listen to what these guys have to say about mental and sexual health here: https://youtu.be/g8fh4kub1MI?list=RDT0HZqBKcDi0
It’s always good to know exactly where you’re at with your sexual health and how to keep yourself in the clear. To help make that process a whole lot easier, GaySA Radio is here to lend a helping hand. So in the studio with us we have a professional to answer a few questions. Welcome to The Steam Room.
Rey: GaySA Radio, where you are family. This is Rey and today we are joined by Pierre Brouard from the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender to chat to us about mental and sexual health. Do you think there is a link between mental and sexual health?
Pierre: Definitely. I mean, I think first of all, anybody who grew up as gay or lesbian or trans for example, would likely have experienced some form of discrimination and negative attitudes towards their sexual orientation or gender identity, and that can definitely contribute to long-standing low self-esteem, feelings of isolation, alienation, and can contribute to depression and anxiety. So anybody who is suffering from depression and anxiety can in fact end up having a problematic sex life. So if you are depressed for example, you may not be able to function well sexually, you may feel undesirable, you may be less likely to protect yourself in a sexual encounter because you have a low sense of self-worth and an anxious person might struggle to perform sexually. But I also think there’s this kind of reverse relationship because if you’re having a really good sex life, which is affirming and mutual and satisfying, that in itself contributes to mental well-being, so there’s a very powerful link I would say, between mental and sexual health.
Rey: And also, how does one go about treating these mental or sexual issues?
Pierre: Well, there isn’t a simple and neat answer to that question because you can imagine that you’re a forty year old gay man and for most of your life you have been told that you are unworthy or a second-class citizen. To undo those years of negative conditioning is not a simple process. I would say, first of all, individual psychotherapy is one way in which someone can start to unpack all those negative messaging that one’s received and to do something about it. Support groups, or I suppose medication is a factor, if you’ve had severe forms of depression and anxiety, then seeing a psychiatrist or a GP who is understanding of mental health issues can be helpful, but I also think if you have positive and affirming relationships, I don’t necessarily mean only sexual relationships but that’s important, but if you have friends, a family, a sense of community where you feel connected, where you feel affirmed, where you feel people like you and accept you for who you are, in a sense that’s a form of treatment, to be surrounded by people, to be appreciated, valued for who you are unconditionally, I think those are some of the immediate suggestions I would make to somebody. It’s not easy, you know, we live in a fast-paced world and I think the social media space can be quite negative and even if you think about people who use dating or hook-up apps, those can be quite brutal at times. If you’re finding that something is having a negative impact on your life, I would look for other ways to find forms of affirmation.
Rey: All right, and I think from everything you just unpacked for us in terms of mental or sexual health, can you confidently say that people can actually find a good balance between mental and sexual health?
Pierre: Well I think balance is always going to be dependent on what’s going on in your life at the moment. I don’t think anybody can say, I know I can’t, that I’ve achieved a perfect balance in all aspects of my life, confidently going forward that I’m never going to be unsettled about something. You n happen in your life where you have, you know a relationship could break down, or somebody that you’re very close to passes away, or you find that you’re not happy in your job, or you get a physical illness. All of those can affect your wellness and your well-being, and so it’s not only about balance, which I think is achievable from time to time, but also whether you’ve got resilience in being able to rise up from adversity and getting help from people that care about you, and support you to get you through a particular moment of crisis, and then you might find that you’re feeling good and balanced for a while, but then a new crisis can emerge, so I think balance is an ongoing life strategy.
Rey: Thank you so much Pierre that was of course, Pierre Brouard from Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender chatting to us about mental and sexual health. My name is Rey and this is GaySA Radio, where you are family.
Now that was an insider’s info on how to keep yourself safe and anxiety-free. I’m Max and you’re listening to The Steam Room here on GaySA Radio, where you are family.
Listen to what Pierre Brouard has to say: https://youtu.be/cyA3IPT2sso?list=RDT0HZqBKcDi0
My name is Max, and this is The Steam room on GaySA Radio. So tonight we’re talking mental and sexual health in the world of men who have sex with men, and I’ve invited an expert to quickly tell us about alternative mental health therapy.
Rey: GaySA Radio, where you are family. This is Rey and today we chat to Peter Furstenberg about Lego’s Serious Play methodology as well as Playful Men. Welcome Peter, what is Playful Men all about?
Peter: Alright, so Playful Men is a workshop which has been using the Lego Serious Play methodology, before minds go all over the place. You know we really reel it back so it sort of plays with the fun concept of getting back to childhood and just playing with Lego and just playing with, having a bit of fun with whatever the topics are. So we tackle quite serious topics within the workshop, and just get a broad sense of what everybody’s opinions are about those topics, so I would pose a question to the group, they would go back and build what they think their idea is, and then we would discuss those ideas and we would see what we have in common, what’s the differences and you really get a sense you know, that all men are the same, all men think the same, all have exactly the same mindset at the end of the day, and I think this highlights it in such a phenomenal way where you can visually see, you know, what the similarities are and you can visually see what the differences are and what makes us unique ultimately.
Rey: And why did you feel the need to have something that caters only for men instead of women too?
Peter: This could just as easily be moved into the female realm, there’s certainly no one stopping you doing that, we might actually do that in the long run, but men specifically, through another series of workshops that I’ve been involved in over the years, one of the big issues that come to the forefront is that men don’t talk. Men just don’t talk about their issues, they don’t talk about their problems, they don’t talk about anything, you know? They just keep everything so deep inside that they don’t share. So the whole reason for the workshop is to get men to just talk and share and realise hang on, we’re all in this together. We’ve got some real issues that we need to face and solve, and by just talking about it is the first starting point to getting it resolved after all.
Rey: Yeah, and would you consider this therapy method unconventional? And if you do, if you could just delve a little bit into how and why you would say that?
Peter: This is probably just a little bit unconventional, it really taps into the playful nature of people, the fact that we love playing, we love having fun, and through harnessing that power of fun, you can turn it into personal play that would then make it, you can bring what’s in the mind in this very tangible 3D way, you can see it in real life. You can touch it, you can feel it, you can talk about it. You can point to things, so it makes concepts that are a lot of times difficult to express, it makes it easy to express and it puts it on the table and gives you a point of reference, which is amazing. And in terms of the application for this sort of stuff, there’s a lot of companies that use this. I mean all the big boys have used this at some stage, I mean Lego themselves used it, that’s the whole way it was born in the first place. They had this belief that you don’t need this external, you don’t need someone from externally to actually come and tell you what the problems within the company is, you can do it from within. You can harness the power of the company themselves, and build and leverage that. If you give it a voice then you can actually talk about it. You can come up with amazing solutions from within an organisation, from within yourself. And that’s the real power of this, the fact that we all have an answer, we all have our own opinions and we can all bring it to life by simply just airing it and giving it a voice. So ja, many big companies have used this to solve very complicated problems.
Rey: Is there a secret, what it does differently as opposed to sitting down, and what is that secret and the success of Lego Serious Play methodology?
Peter: The secret? I don’t think there is a real secret, I think that if you have to attach a secret to it I think it’s the whole idea of bringing play back, is getting back to basic human nature where we all want to play, we all want to have fun, and by simply doing that you start unlocking so much ideas and potential, because if you’re in that state of flow where you’re having fun, you can bring magic to the foreground. You can really solve big issues if you put it into practice.
Rey: All right, and before I let you go, is there anything else about your workshops or the therapy method that you would like us to chat about or you would like to share with us that we haven’t touched on?
Peter: In terms of the workshops, we don’t do many of them. There’s only four of them remaining this year, so the groups aren’t very big. If you’re interested get in touch, we can certainly point you in the right direction, and then ja, sign up, come have a day of fun and just see what you can discover.
Rey: And for more of that information and the dates of the four remaining on the workshops and where people can contact you, how can they go about finding this?
Peter: All right, we do have a website, it’s called playfulmen.co.za, so if you go onto the website you’ll find all the information about the workshops and you can also find all of the dates the various workshops will take place.
Rey: All right, thank you so much, this is Rey and I was chatting to Peter Furstenberg about Lego Serious Play methodology as well as Playful Men. Thank you so much for joining me.
Peter: It’s a pleasure, thank you.
So there you have it, remember if you need more information go check out the GaySA Radio website, gaysaradio.co.za and if you want to chat with me you can always send me an email. You can send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. This is The Steam Room with Max and you’re listening to GaySA Radio, where you are family.
Learn more about Playful Men by listening to GaySA Radio, where you are family: https://youtu.be/XLbzC6hqU6c?list=RDT0HZqBKcDi0
This is GaySA Radio, where you are family. I’m Max and this is The Steam Room, and on today’s show we are chatting about mental and sexual health, and up next is quite an in-depth interview on the matter.
Riaan: Please be advised that this content contains explicit descriptions of rape and violence. Sensitive listeners are advised to use their discretion.
Riaan: GaySA Radio, where you are family. I’m Riaan and I’m talking to Garrick about a life-shattering event that happened to him about six years ago in Cape Town. What was meant to be a fun night out turned into anyone’s worst nightmare. While visiting a gay club in the city someone spiked his drink, a violent gang rape followed. Sharp objects were inserted into his rectum and he was left naked on the streets for dead. He was also diagnosed with HIV after the incident. Coming to terms with what happened, Garrick shared some of his stories with us:
Riaan: Mentally and psychologically, how did you get through this? I mean it’s obviously been a very dark and difficult time and from getting out of the hospital and hearing you are HIV-positive and going into this absolute self-destruct mode, up to where you are now, how did you manage, how did you cope?
Garrick: Do they know about Dicks Incorporated?
Garrick: Because that is a very large part of me being where I am today.
Riaan: So just for people who have missed what Dicks Incorporated is, it’s a Whatsapp group which a whole bunch of us belong to, and it’s more of a support kind of system than anything else at the end of the day.
Garrick: Ja, it’s not really a hook-up group at all, it’s a big gay family and we really, really are like that. Anyway, how I coped, actually how I coped to get through this was by telling as many people that were willing to listen about what happened.
Riaan: This is on Dicks Incorporated as well?
Garrick: Ja, on Dicks Incorporated as well. There is a level of shit that comes with that too, because you’re, by telling people this you’re automatically asking people to judge you, and I’m not fazed by that, that’s another coping mechanism that I’ve found is as soon as I was off the drugs and had cleared my mind, I found a way to forgive myself. I forgave myself first. I will never forgive those people, I don’t know who they are but you have to forgive yourself, it’s the first step actually, in fixing all of this, and then speak about it. Don’t keep it in because then you will destroy yourself, you’ll totally destroy yourself, and that is the only way I’ve coped, by telling my story to anybody that would listen and ja, then I got introduced to this group, Dicks Incorporated, and everybody on that group just accepted and understood, and loved me for who I am, not for what happened to me, and if anybody can find that in a situation like this, I think you’re going to be okay.
Riaan: You mentioned that people judge scenarios like this, why is it a natural human thing, why do you think and how did you handle that?
Garrick: From people very close to me and people that are not close to me, I’ve had many people say but this is on you, you went to the gay club. And in a way ja, it is that kind of judgement. Why did you destroy yourself with drugs like this? That kind of judgement. I think what people don’t understand, they judge on, and we’re all like that, everyone, I’m sorry I’m like that. Someone tells me a story, and I don’t know much about it I’m going to think, you know? So anyway, this group of people, and my family, I’ve got a very supportive family. I’ve actually had a very supportive family through all of this, I mean from coming out of the closet, I was very lucky like that. I wish everybody had the family that I had, not just in this situation, in all situations. That helped me cope.
Riaan: I think rape in general is a very difficult thing to cope with for anybody. Do you think it’s more difficult for men, if you as a male got raped; do you think it’s more difficult for a man to deal with that?
Garrick: Absolutely. Across the board, across all sexualities, I think it’s very difficult because it’s within us to feel like we are men and we can defend ourselves and “rape doesn’t happen to men”. I’m saying this in air-quotes, “men don’t get raped” and ja, it’s very difficult to deal with because you feel that your masculinity was taken away from you, your defences were taken away from you and society dictates that we can’t speak, we can’t say that this has happened to us, and I think only recently has rape been classed as a criminal offense towards a man because before that it was indecent assault, so we were also shut up about it basically, so ja, it’s very difficult to deal with.
Riaan: If you could say anything to the people who did that, what would you say to them?
Garrick: It’s probably the wrong time to ask me that but, I would say look what you did, look what you did, and you didn’t need to do that. I would like to say to them I forgive you but I won’t be able to get to that point, and I would like to say please don’t do it to anybody else.
Riaan: If you could give advice to anybody to get through a similar situation?
Garrick: Across the board I would say at the very beginning, when you realise something’s happening with you, find somebody and cling onto that person, someone that can just make sure that you are going to be okay. Getting through it, talk about it. Go to counselling, go to therapy, but talk about it, get it off your chest, off your shoulders, and if you develop a relationship with somebody you can talk to, you can also speak to them about wanting to self-destruct when that feeling comes, because that feeling will come, and they can get you away from that. And don’t feel that this was on you, that is the biggest advice that I can give you, this is not your fault, it’s not your fault. Somebody else exercised power over you, you didn’t ask for it. That’s my advice.
Riaan: GaySA Radio, where you are family. I’m Riaan and that was Garrick.
Wow that was indeed an eye-opening chat, thank you so much for joining us. You’re listening to GaySA Radio, where you are family.
Learn how to look after yourself from Riaan by listening to his interview about his harrowing experience here: https://youtu.be/aHpoaqBcz-I?list=RDT0HZqBKcDi0
This is The Steam Room on GaySA Radio, where you are family. In today’s show we are diving into the topic of mental and sexual health, and as promised in the studio with us we are joined by yet another expert in the matter. Join me in welcoming an expert who is no stranger to The Steam Room. Thanks Bruce for letting us hang out once again.
Rey: This is GaySA Radio, where you are family. I go by the name of Rey and today chat to Bruce Little from Unova Health Institute chatting to us about mental and sexual health. Do you think that there is a link between mental and sexual health?
Bruce: I personally believe that there is a link between mental and sexual health. I’m not a psychologist, I’m not a doctor, I’m not an expert in the field but from my personal experience I believe that mental health is connected to a good sense of self, feelings of self-worth, a feeling of connectedness to other people, to your community, to your friends and your family, and if there isn’t a good connection between yourself and your community, if there’s a feeling of isolation or alienation, then that results in a possible connection to mental issues, you know? So things like trauma caused by maybe being thrown out of the house because you’re gay by your family, or maybe being cut off from the church or community you live in because they have an issue with your homosexuality or being queer or whatever your identity may be that they consider to be other, all of those things are quite traumatising. They can leave you feeling depressed, feeling isolated maybe alienated, and those things can have long-term effects. What happens is when somebody feels, in my experience, my observation, I’ve noticed that when there is a feeling of alienation and isolation, then it can cause a desire, it can also result in desperation, and that desperation and that depression makes an individual more likely to engage in risky sexual acts, and statistically it has been proven that men who are depressed, men who have feelings of self-worth and who do feel isolated and alienated, there has been a correlation with risky behaviour, they are less inclined to use condoms during sex, they are less inclined to make healthy sexual decisions, you know? They are more inclined to make use of substance abuse, so heavy use of alcohol, drug abuse and drug use, and those are also linked to risky sexual behaviour, so when you drink too much, to excess, or you’re engaging in the use of drugs, your inhibitions are severely compromised and as a result you are, you just don’t care, you’re like I don’t care about tomorrow, I don’t care about myself, I don’t care about this person, so who cares if I use a condom or not? Like it doesn’t matter. And that’s the problem, you’re less likely to take care of yourself and that’s a problem.
Rey: I think you have just shared with us how mental health issues can manifest as sexual intimacy issues too, but how does one go about treating these mental or sexual issues?
Bruce: It’s a very difficult question to answer because at the end of the day the individual has to take responsibility for their own well-being. You can’t just roam the streets, pluck people off the streets and force them to engage in certain projects or therapies that are going to help them with their mental health. So the first thing that needs to happen is that individuals have to acknowledge to themselves that things are not right, that they don’t feel good about themselves. So I as an individual have to take responsibility for my own mental health. I have to take care of myself, I have to recognise the fact that I feel isolated, that my behaviour, that I have my own best interests at heart, and then I need to take the necessary action, so I need to reach out, and that has many different phases, so what I can do is I can phone the toll-free number for the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, SADAG. I can find other ways, I can join associations like the mankind project and form connections with other men that will help me to be a better man, better brother, father, lover, and then also to just reach out to my community and say to friends and family, if you need help, say here I am, I need help, I need to connect, and try and think in the long term. The problem is we live in a society nowadays where the focus is on instant gratification, so I’m feeling lonely now, I’m going to find somebody now and have sex with them now, and that’s a short-term solution to a long-term problem, and the thing is you might find somebody in the next fifteen to twenty minutes to have sex with, but that’s not a long-term solution for the loneliness and the emptiness which you feel. An I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with meeting somebody and having sex, sex is awesome and a fantastic way to engage with other human beings, but what I am saying is if you’re using sex as a crutch, if you find that the way you’re engaging with other people sexually is not healthy for you, if you have sex like this and you don’t end up feeling good about yourself afterwards then there’s something wrong. Then you’re not using it correctly, and then it just ties into things like sexual addiction, substance abuse, all of these things that are detrimental to your health long-term. The sex that you are having should reinforce the good things you feel about you, the way you feel about yourself. The intimacy that you have with others should be reinforcing the good things that you believe about yourself. You know, if you find yourself feeling really crap about the sex that you’re having or the things that you are doing, then you’re on the road to struggling with your own mental health. Whereas if you are doing things today that are gonna improve your tomorrow, you are going down a road to mental well-being.
Rey: Alright Bruce, now about everything you’ve just touched on and also after an individual makes that decision for themselves, would you confidently say that people can find a good balance with their mental and sexual health?
Bruce: I think it’s up to the individual but it also depends on what that individual is struggling with. Mental health is a challenging concept because there is mental illness as well, so certain individuals are suffering from mental illness and they haven’t been diagnosed, they haven’t sought medical attention, and for some people, this is not the case for everyone, but some people do need to seek medical attention or see a psychiatrist, see a therapist, and some people do need to be on medication to help them maintain a good mental lifestyle. So it’s complex, but if you haven’t been diagnosed as having clinical depression or bipolar disorder or schizophrenia or whatever the case may be, then there are basic steps you can take; Just make sure that you do things that are going to look after you in the long term. Avoid toxic relationships, avoid toxic relationships with substances, you know, if you find that every weekend you’re going out, you’re drinking to excess, you’re taking drugs, you’re having sex with people that you don’t really connect with, you’re having sex but you’re not finding any intimacy or connection with other people, then it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that in the long term you’re not going to be feeling very good about yourself. So we are a collection of the choices we make every day, and if you’re choosing every day to do things that are not going to look after you or make you feel good, then the end result is you’re not going to feel good, you’re not going to be mentally healthy. So choose every day to do things that are for your own best interest and then you’ll reap the benefits of feeling good about yourself.
Rey: Thank you Bruce. That was Bruce Little from Unova Health Institute, chatting to us about mental and sexual health. I am Rey and this is GaySA Radio, where you are family.
Well, I hope you found that segment informative and helpful as a life vest to keep your head above water. Thank you again for joining us. This is The Steam Room on GaySA Radio, where you are family.
Bruce Little has some great advice: https://youtu.be/T0L6sgnHHtI?list=RDT0HZqBKcDi0
Now after a show like today’s one, a rather important one I might add, you might be left wondering where to finally get the help that you might need. If that’s the case our next segment here is sure to help you do just that and get on the right track.
Rey: GaySA Radio, where you are family. I am Rey and today I’m happy to be joined by Pierre Brouard from Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender to tell us where you can get help. Please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about everything you do.
Pierre: Thank you, so yes, I’m the deputy director of the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender at the University of Pretoria and I’m a clinical psychologist by training and mostly over the last thirty years or so I’ve worked in the HIV field, which of course means that I’ve been doing work around sex and sexualities as well.
Rey: Okay, and please tell us more about Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender and the history of the organisation?
Pierre: Okay, so the centre’s been going for about twenty years or so, and we see our main role as helping the University of Pretoria to manage and understand HIV as it relates to the university as an employer, but also as an institution shaping the lives of young people, so we’re interested in academic work, theory and research-making, teaching, but also engaging with what it means for real people’s lives on the ground. Probably one of the most exciting and interesting things that we’ve done over the years is to offer a student leadership training program, where we engage them with lessons and discussions around sexualities, AIDS and gender, and then encourage them to take up activities to mobilise change. Part of that is just having more open-minded conversations about sex, about gender, gender identity, gender relations, and to be more free, I suppose, to talk about things that really matter to young people.
Rey: Who is the centre open to? Is it open to everybody, the public, or just the university?
Pierre: Right, so most of our workers are trained at the university, as I said we do a lot of work with students, with staff, and then we do advocacy work on the campus as well, trying to make it more inclusive for I suppose all kinds of people; People with HIV, people with disabilities, but also for queer persons. So our main focus is the university community but we have also engaged in community projects and some of our youth-work links us to the universities in the Southern African region, so our brief extends our work beyond our borders as well. We’re not generally open to the public for walk-in service, we do HIV testing for example, for students, but because of our funding, our limited funding resources, we do focus our energy in that regard on the student and university community.
Rey: Okay, and have you partnered with anyone else to strengthen your objective of Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender?
Pierre: We definitely have worked with multiple partners over the years, that sounds a bit dodgy doesn’t it, speaking about sexuality? But multiple partners in our sense is, first of all, we have partners on the university campus, so the Centre for Human Rights is an obvious partner. With them we’ve run a number of HIV projects over the years and with them we do quite a bit of work around sexualities and gender because they have a unit looking at the rights of LGBTI people, but we also work with other NGO’s in the field, we’ve worked with government, with UN agencies and international donors as well, so we definitely see our work as collaborative.
Rey: Okay, and I’ve heard you mention one of the innovations that you have launched, please tell us about the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender, is there any other innovations that you have implemented to further help people?
Pierre: Ja, well look, beyond our student leadership program, which I think has been incredibly successful in developing a generation of young people committed to social justice. We’ve also started a small project, but I think it’s quite exciting; we’re calling it the Queer Space Collective. It’s an initiative to promote inclusivity of queer persons and bodies and expressions at the University of Pretoria. We’re hoping to have in early 2019, a Pride Literary festival for example, so we see that as an initiative which is opening up the university to other voices, other expressions, and challenging hetero-normativity and dominant ways of being.
Rey: Ja, alright. And for people who wish to contact the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender, how can they go about doing this?
Pierre: Well they could contact us by telephone, by calling 012 420 4391, and then we also have a website, which is www.csagup.org
Rey: Thank you so much for sharing with us where people can get help. That of course was Pierre Brouard from Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender. I am Rey and this is GaySA Radio, where you are family.
This is The Steam Room on GaySA Radio, where you are family. Brought to you by the South African National Department of Health’s Phila Project.
Listen to more of what Pierre has to say here: https://youtu.be/apzQtMTqDQE?list=RDT0HZqBKcDi0
So if you’re looking to get out and about and shake off those blues, here’s one event surely to knock your socks off.
Annemarie: I’m Annemarie and this is GaySA Radio, where you are family. Plumtree, the story of a boy’s journey, lost innocence, betrayal, violation and the transformation of these adversities into growth, empowerment and riches I had the honour to speak to Jan Groenewald, author and actor in this spectacular performance. Jan Groenewald, you are currently performing, please tell us about this production, I’ve been reading about it but I’m not going to take your punch line. It sounds absolutely incredible. Please tell us about your production.
Jan: Well it was an Afrikaans production that I had at the festival, so it was called Pruimboom and then it was translated in English and I took it to the Attenborough festival last year and I got amazing, you know, the people thought it was great, and now I’m doing the same play with this wonderful, international harp player, and he’s absolutely fantastic. So I’m telling the story and he’s talking, the harp is actually talking, so it’s quite an amazing experience, you know?
Annemarie: Is it autobiographical? The story?
Jan: Yes, I’ll tell you very quickly when I was sick with cancer and I was actually sort of dying, then something happened when I was very young and I had to, you know, in the coma I heard voices clearly, and I decided if I wake from this coma I’m going to write this play, and I did. And it was something I needed to tell, so it is quite an interesting story and so I’m doing it now, I’m going to travel through the world with it. We’ve got invitations to a lot of countries, to New York, to Chicago, to Philadelphia, to the university down there, to London, so it’s quite an interesting experience that I have, specifically with Chris Van Der West, who is the harpist.
Annemarie: So it’s just the two of you involved with this?
Jan: Just the two of us, involved in this play you know? So, and it’s a universal theme, and the other thing you might find quite interesting, Prince William and Prince Harry have an organisation called Heads Together, and because it’s all to do with well-being, they were keen to endorse this whole thing you see, so it’s supported by the two princes, and that makes it quite nice as well, you know?
Annemarie: Well that’s amazing, did you actually meet them?
Annemarie: Are you going to meet them?
Jan: When it goes to London, ja then I will meet them, ja.
Annemarie: That is beautiful. So this is an incredibly, intensely personal experience for you to do, this production?
Jan: Yes! As a matter of fact this happened just lately because I wanted to give it up at this stage because I’ve been doing more than eighty of these performances, and I also had a radio interview right now, and the guy said to me, what about the harpist with you? And he came on Monday morning and I worked with him and I couldn’t believe the synergy that actually took place. I never thought, I’m a full director and an actor and I never thought that a harp could tell a story. So I’m talking to the harp and it is just something so incredible with music because he’s absolutely talented, this young man, so I love working with him. So every performance is a total experience.
Annemarie: You are actually having a performance tonight, aren’t you?
Jan: I’ve got a performance tonight, 8 o’ clock at the Foxwood theatre.
Annemarie: Alright, so if people want to see this production, please give us a little more information, where can they see it? Where can they get a hold of you, can they follow you on Facebook, are you on social media, how is it working?
Jan: Ja, they can follow it on Facebook, they can. Jan Groenewald is on all social media, and I’ll give you a telephone number where they can get hold of us right now, it’s 011 486 0935, and they can also phone this number, 082 557 0629 as well you know, and there are seats available tonight, and it’s a beautiful little theatre in Houghton, a five-star boutique hotel, in the garden, it’s really a lovely theatre.
Annemarie: Where exactly is that theatre?
Jan: It’s very close to the Khulani shopping centre, it’s in fifth street, in Houghton in Johannesburg.
Annemarie: Thank you, Houghton, Johannesburg, okay. Why do you think it’s important for people to see this production? What are they going to take from it?
Jan: I’ll tell you, because it’s the story of a young boy, thirteen years old that was molested by this old man and this boy, he never became a victim, you know what I mean? He had a strange revenge, and his revenge was unthinkable, and it’s a fascinating thing, how the young boy, what he did to get his revenge, and so people is absolutely quiet in the theatre because there’s a lot of action in the production you know? It’s almost physical theatre, as I said. So a lot of people see it, and as you see it on all the reviews, specifically at Attenborough, the Augustine Church said it’s a must, people, it’s a play of hope. The BBC also had a big thing about the play, so the play did very well.
Annemarie: South-African born pianist Chris Van Der West has had a burning passion for music since an early age. Chris Van Der West and I had a discussion about his part in Plumtree the production, where he plays not a piano, but a harp. Please tell me about your involvement, how did you get to this production?
Chris: I met Jan through a friend of mine, at the Edinburg festival; someone told Jan he should have a musician with him, with the play. And then a friend of his and mine, we’ve got a mutual friend, suggested that I meet him and just see if we can do something together, and he had a show on a Wednesday and I went in the Monday morning, and I just improvised with the music and Ja, we got along and it works quite well, so yes.
Annemarie: It’s wonderful when you’re at the right place at the right time.
Chris: Yes totally, totally.
Annemarie: When things work like that. So apart from the fact that you’re playing tonight and you’re playing next Friday night, what are your plans for this production, how far are you taking it?
Chris: We are probably doing quite a few overseas tours next year, so I’ll do all of that with Jan if I can.
Annemarie: That’s so lovely that it’s only two people, so the two of you and the stage manager, that’s it?
Chris: Yes that’s it, so it’s very easy.
Annemarie: That’s nice, oh that’s lovely. No big kombis filled with actors, wonderful, wonderful. Are you excited about this?
Chris: Yes, it’s absolutely a brilliant play; it’s actually different for me to do a play like this, because usually I’m a pianist, so I usually accompany singers, jazz singers overseas and so on, and this is the first time that I do something like this. And on the harp as well, so it is quite new for me too.
Annemarie: I love the harp, I absolutely love the harp. I can just imagine, I’d love to see this production. What do you take out of this production, what does it mean to you? Because it seems like quite a personal journey.
Chris: Well to Jan it’s a personal journey. It’s based on real events. With me it’s like a bit different, I don’t have any of that happen to me before or, but a lot of friends close to me have been through that so I do understand the feeling, but it’s very interesting and very gripping, and it’s very emotional as well. But I mean I’m enjoying it.
Annemarie: I’m sure you’re enjoying it, it sounds absolutely wonderful and the dialog that happens between the harp and the actor. Is this evolving or have you set it? Or does it depend on where it’s going for that night, because this kind of thing can sort of lend itself to that, do you think?
Chris: Yes, yes totally, I mean the first few times we performed it, it’s a monologue essentially, and it goes for an hour, and I play non-stop so at first, you’ve got to get to know the story and run it a few times. It is different every night, I do improvise differently, but there’s some scenes that I keep the same, that I try to play like the rest of it. So it’s kind of, the more we do it the more it’s set up, but I do still change it, it’s not the same every time.
Annemarie: Given the subject matter, a child that was molested, a man that has a near-death experience and has this bargain, and this deal that he’s going to do this, does it leave you easily or do you take it home with you, as an actress I know sometimes you just can’t switch off, is it affecting you?
Chris: Oh definitely, you take it home, you ponder on it a few days, I mean, as an audience member and for me, I mean every time I do it there’s new things I hear, it’s definitely gripping, it makes you think, it definitely does make you ponder about it. Especially there’s quite some interesting changes to the story at the end, I can’t say what it is now, you have to come see it, but it does leave you wondering, hmmm, I wonder did this happen? How did it happen, and so on, and so forth.
Annemarie: Plumtree the production on 27 July at 8 PM. Tickets are R150, or R130 for pensioners and students, and R110 for groups. Bookings at live.skybookings.net. Contact Theresa Du Preez at Foxwood.co.za. Go to the Foxwood theatre and see this production.
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Find out more about this production here: https://youtu.be/glkBwcXAM2s?list=RDT0HZqBKcDi0