REVIEW: Mammalian Diving Reflex's 'All the Sex I've Ever Had'

As part of the Contemporary Art Center's This Time Tomorrow performing arts festival, Arts and Culture Editor Mackenzie Manley experienced Mammalian Diving Reflex’s 'All the Sex I’ve Ever Had'

Apr 13, 2019 at 1:34 pm
click to enlarge Mammalian Diving Reflex's 'All the Sex I've Ever Had' - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Mammalian Diving Reflex's 'All the Sex I've Ever Had'

It’s rare to find a show as open and uplifting as Mammalian Diving Reflex’s All the Sex I’ve Ever Had. The performance’s run at Aronoff Center’s 5/3 Bank Theater — as part of the Contemporary Art Center’s This Time Tomorrow performing arts series — featured six Cincinnatians over the age of 65 sharing stories about their sex lives through the decades.

But it goes deeper than that. While the stories begin with sex, they unravel something deeper: an individual's most vulnerable moments.

Before the speakers began, each audience member was asked to “keep our mouths shut” about the stories shared with us. And, as a person in that audience, it was a complete honor to witness the footnotes of each cast member’s life, starting from birth to present-day and then, in the end, looking toward where they hope to be in the future.

When I spoke with Drew Klein — CAC’s performing arts director — about the show, he called it “life-affirming.” And, honestly, that’s the best word for it. As the host calls out a year, the cast members share a brief memory, relayed organically. In the intimate theater, one could easily imagine themselves hearing the same tales on a porch or across a dining room table.

But the piece was also boundary-breaking in that we, as a society, often don’t give elders the space to speak on topics like sex. But we should. Peering at the breadth of their lives — and the love, loss, experimentations, hardships and triumphs in between — a realization of all the life I had left to live emerged. In listening, as a twenty-something, I felt less stuck on the momentary. There will be another year. Another decade. And in that time, there is so much to experience.

A dance party punctuates the turn of each decade. A few times, the cast members also asked the audience to share their own experiences via a raised hand (be warned, you may be called on). Like, “Who has ever had sex in public?” or  “Who has ever been caught in the act of masturbating?”

Each person had completely different experiences, which was compelling in itself. There is no one way to exist: gay or straight; thrice-divorced, widowed or never-married; vanilla or kinky.

Mammalian Diving Reflex’s All the Sex I’ve Ever Had is part of the Contemporary Art Center's inaugural This Time Tomorrow festival. For more info visit For our preview story on the festival, click here