Vintage pornography lines the shelves. Penis and vulva biscuits populate the snack table. Upstairs, one of two tarot card readers offers guests a vision of their future while a compilation of pornographic videos plays on loop a floor below. This event and the series it celebrates are the brainchildren of Eliza Lawrence, a British-born writer and actress currently based in Berlin.
Five years ago, Lawrence launched WASITGOODFORYOU, a website and corresponding Instagram page centred around breaking the taboos of sex. Over time, the site and page have developed a loyal fanbase, with people from around the world submitting their sex stories, poetry, art, and more in an attempt to broaden the conversation around sex. Today, Lawrence is launching her first book with the project, a sort of organised chaos celebrating the beauty, pain, awkwardness, and joy brought about by sex.
The book’s launch event seems to perfectly encapsulate the site’s broad appeal and DIY spirit. Masked viewers crowd into an unfinished basement to hear readings of poetry and erotica. Lawrence laughs as she introduces one of the presenters as a “former lover” — a small detail, but one that speaks to the project’s goal of encouraging people to grow more comfortable with sex and how it interweaves with the rest of our lives.
WASITGOODFORYOU, the official print debut of Lawrence’s project, takes this ethos and expands it in beautiful form. Each page is elegantly and meticulously designed, pairing original poetry and stories from a range of writers with photography, paintings, prints, and more. The book is a labour of love in every sense of the phrase, and as she speaks about the work, Lawrence’s voice rings with proud exhaustion. Her first book may be complete, but to hear her tell it, bigger, grander visions for the project are still in store. Schön! spoke with Lawrence about the book and how sexual taboos have changed since the project’s inception.
You said you started this project to break down the taboos surrounding sex. How have you seen the public conversation around sex taboos change since you started four years ago?
It’s a hard one to answer, this question, because we go through ups and downs of breaking taboos, and then those very taboos you thought had broken begin to become issues again. A particular taboo can be broken down with your age, your education and who you surround yourself with. These things change. For instance, the culture of sex is much stiffer in London as it is in Berlin. In London, we see sex as something we should keep indoors. Which has its own beauty. But since coming to Berlin I have seen that sex is so much more than that thing you do in bed. In Berlin, it morphs into a multicoloured and proud banner that people hold up proudly. So taking WASITGOODFORYOU with me to Berlin has meant I have met artists that are much more open to talking about sex!
How did you find and coordinate the 45 artists you feature in this book? What direction did you give them, or if none, what were you looking for from each artist?
I actually counted again and it’s a total of 49 artists. I have found them in my creative way. I have lived in creative circles and am really happy to talk about what I do in a way that entices people to want to submit their specific art pieces. WASITGOODFORYOU started as a website, and I would ask people via word of mouth, the website itself, and my Instagram platform to submit their poetry, art, illustration, photography, and anything else that fell under the huge umbrella of ‘SEX’. I would then talk to them about their specific art pieces they have used to express their opinion or experience of sex. There is the choice to be anonymous or not, but I encourage them to stand by their work as the more we show ourselves next to our work, [the more] we can expel the taboo that sex is dirty!
What are you hoping to accomplish with this book?
I am hoping that it can access people who wouldn’t be able to access the online realm. I want people to see how beautiful and multilayered sex can be through the colourful design and stylish format. Normally anything to do with sex is pretty penetrating (if want for a better word!), and this book aims to not be scary to pick up because it’s too sexy or too dirty. I want people to proudly use it in any way they want. To educate maybe, to read on the loo, or to use as a springboard for creating more art!
How do you hope to grow WASITGOODFORYOU in the future?
The book itself only aims to get better and better. Making a book is really expensive, and I have spent a few years saving up to buy this initial batch. But the more I make, the more I intend to spend on this book. One day hopefully I will make it hardback or get a publisher involved as it’s hard to do it all alone! In terms of other missions, WASITGOODFORYOU is beginning its own podcast where we will discuss sex in all its formulations and ask guests on it that specialise in these areas. Then I would love to begin a kind of poetry club or some kind of educational monthly event where we discuss sex through our arts. A more live event, so WASITGOODFORYOU becomes 3D!
WASITGOODFORYOU (35€) is available for pre-order here.
words. Braden Bjella