Interesting, educational, and candid conversations about sex don’t happen nearly as often as they should, but you might not even realize this until you have had the opportunity to engage on the subject with a cadre of intelligent yet varied individuals; including, among others, an affiliate from the Roman Catholic Church, a Métis public health worker, two historians, a madam, two sexual health educators, and a few staff members from Options for Sexual Health.
It was my role as producer of the “Listening In” stations for the Sex Talk in the City exhibition that brought me to the table and the conversation helped shape the content for three recorded dialogues I was to produce. The Listening In station will invite visitors to pick up the phone and take a listen to three (simulated) conversations between callers and a respondent at the Sex-Sense phone line. Sex-Sense is a confidential sexual health referral and information service provided by Options for Sexual Health for people living all across BC.
Check out the sound bites! Below, I describe the process of creating the three calls.
First stop: the Options for Sexual Health offices.
I learned that on average, Options for Sexual Health (OPT) receives about 9,500 calls and 2,000 emails each year. The majority of calls are about contraception, STIs, sexual health concerns, and emergency contraception. There are also many calls about abortion, pregnancy, and pleasure. Male-identified callers have increased recently as have questions regarding male sexual health. In terms of age groups, the numbers vary with those between 17–19 representing 17% of the calls; ages 20–24 representing 19%; and youth aged 16 or less being 15%.
Together, a staff person and I came up with three potential scenarios that would best represent the phone calls fielded by staff.
Little tidbits of the conversation stuck with me for days afterward. Apparently, there are over 8,000 nerve endings on the clitoris, which is also the only part of the body, male or female, whose only biological role is to produce pleasure.
Check out this link for more: http://blog.museumofsex.com/the-internal-clitoris/
OPT staff wrote three scripts (Herpes, Pleasure, Contraception) true to discussions they had with callers. Scripts were then reviewed by curator Viviane Gosselin, rewritten by me, reviewed by OPT staff, and rewritten once again. Professional actors were secured by one of the staff at OPT and asked to ad-lib during the recording.
The mock phone calls were recorded in the basement of the MOV using a digital recorder called a Zoom H4, along with two shot gun microphones plugged through a mixing board and recorded as two separate channels. The actors, all highly talented individuals, spoke to each other on their cell phones. Each of the actors revealed a vulnerable and inquisitive side to their character — all through voice. We did each conversation in two takes. This meant that the “staff” actor did six (well-done) takes in a row. Then I took the raw audio and posted it to a Sound Cloud for the advisory committee to review.
Initially (keeping in mind that visitors tend to move fast in exhibitions) Viviane and I had thought that the conversations should be about three minutes in length. However, after listening to the tape it was apparent that not all the stories would work that way. The call about contraception was easily shortened but leaves out (sigh) 10 steps detailing how to put a condom on correctly. The call about herpes and the other about pleasure were left such that each has a natural arc but retains valuable and interesting information.
All editing took place in Pro Tools. Once done I used the 7-band equalizer in Pro Tools to make the recordings sound as though they were recorded over a phone line. I basically followed these instructions: http://www.protoolsproduction.com/telephoneeffect/
The Phone Sound Effects (Phone Hang Up, Phone Calling Tone, Phone Hang Up), were found here: http://www.soundjay.com/phone-sounds-2.html
Teresa Goff is an independent radio journalist based in Toronto