Start Your OwnSex Squad

An Artivist How-To Manual

Download PDF Guide
or scroll down



We’re glad you’re joining us!

Welcome to the exciting and empowering world of sexual health arts-activism — artivism! We, the members of the UCLA Sex Squad, are so excited you want to form your own group, make your own art, and co-educate youth with your creations.

You are joining a movement. A movement of laughter, fun, and urgent art-making to change the way our communities think and talk about sexual health. A movement that is growing every day in the midst of a stigmatized world. We challenge judgment and fear in the hopes that we stimulate dialogue around sexual health subjects. Currently, there are Sex Squads, or Sex-Ed Squads at UCLA, Duke University, North Carolina Central University, and multiple high schools in Los Angeles; hopefully, the next Sex Squad is at your school. Thank you for journeying with us in using art to make the world a safer and sexier place!

What you have before you is a manual that tells you everything you need to know in order to create your own Sex Squad, build your own shows, and perform in your community. It tells you how we run our group at UCLA, why we do it that way, and offers ideas for how you can develop your own unique collective.

This manual provides you with an overview, set of principles, description of the process, logistics, warm-ups, exercises, advice from previous Sex Squads, and examples of show structures. With that being said, feel free to make this your own. This manual is not meant to discourage you from adding your own flavor. It is simply an introduction to our process and all that we have learned through it so that you too can learn from our experience and take what you will.

Get ready for a beautiful experience!

What's a Sex Squad?

Who we are, what we do, why we do it, and why you need to join us!

A Sex Squad (or Sex-Ed Squad) is a group of students who use humor, theater, and storytelling to open up urgent conversations on taboo topics surrounding sex. We aim to creatively and inclusively shift the stigmatized culture around sexual health that exists in our world today.

The first version of the Sex Squad formed in 2009 when South African arts-activist (artivist) Pieter-Dirk Uys brought his bold idea of using humor to fight HIV into a two-week workshop with students at UCLA. The students formed a group called the AIDS Performance Team, and were so inspired by Uys that they continued working on the material after he left, even taking it on tour to Los Angeles high schools.

The following year they kept building. They realized that, in order to have a comprehensive discussion about HIV, they needed to tackle a whole range of issues that affects sexual health: sexism, homophobia, access to care, protection, getting tested, and more. They decided to widen their scope, to address the whole of human sexual health, and the UCLA Sex Squad was born.

Every year at UCLA, a new group of students forms a Sex Squad. As a group, they choose the most significant topics on which to focus their art-making. The Squad spends the fall creating engaging and interactive skits, poems, songs, dances, and any form of performative art you can imagine! Once the show is created, they load up the bus with props and take it on tour to LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District) schools as a part of a multiple component program called AMP! put on by the UCLA Art & Global Health Center in collaboration with LAUSD.

Our Principles

How we do what we do: Fundamental ethics we embody as we operate on a daily basis

We operate on certain principles. Our collective action is guided by these values emphasizing the transformative power of art, humor, openness, collaboration, and inclusivity. Accordingly, we invite you all to channel your inner artivist to embody these principles, as well as add your own, to make the world a safer and sexier place.

Getting Started

A pre-Sex (Ed) Squad list of basic necessities:

Yearly Process

A sample schedule showing the breakdown of a year’s worth of work.

June to September

  1. Get school support
  2. Assemble the Squad
  3. Find a meeting time and space
  4. Hold a visioning meeting
  5. Decide on a group structure
  6. Draft an annual timeline
  7. Design a logo
  8. Hold sexual health trainings
  9. Group talent sharing

October to December

  1. Decide on performance topics
  2. Get costumes/props/supplies
  3. Weekend Intensive
  4. Plan group activities
  5. Workshopping
  6. Scene selections
  7. Connect with local schools
  8. Get feedback/approval
  9. Perform on World AIDS Day

January to March

  1. Coordinate performances
  2. Go on tour with performance

April to June

  1. Further develop performance work
  2. Write letters to next year’s group
  3. Sex Squad graduation
  4. Improve the process for next year

June to September

Use summer to get everything in order for the school year

October to December

Get your group creating a full performance during the fall.

January to March

Finalize plans for your tour and enjoy the ride.

April to June

Reflect on your group’s experience and decide how to move forward.

Lesson Plans

A collection of one to two hour sessions to get your group started.

Every group is different. Some important things to consider are the size and needs of your team and how much time you have to meet, rehearse, and perform. To illustrate how a Sex Squad might start out, we've included the following suggested lesson plans that can be adapted to your specific needs and continually developed over time.

Week 0: Info Session

Estimated time required: ~60 minutes

  1. Intro and Name Rhythm Game (5 minutes)
  2. Warm-Up Game: Pass The Clap (10 minutes)
  3. Yell the most uncomfortable word you’ve heard about sex (1 minute)
  4. Watch videos (10 minutes)
  5. Discussion about Sex (Ed) Squad (10 minutes)
  6. Sexophonic Choir (15 minutes)
  7. Check-out: Fluid Cheer (5 minutes)

Week 1: Jump In and Get to Know Your Squad!

Estimated time required: ~90 minutes

  1. Check-in (5 minutes)
  2. Warm-Up Game (10 minutes)
    • Secret Handshake OR
    • Name and Gesture Game OR
    • People, Cabana, Storm!
  3. Intro to Image Theater (15 minutes)
  4. Sex Squad Principles (25 minutes)
  5. “I am” Poems (10 minutes)
  6. Urgent Topics List (15 minutes)
  7. Check-out: Homework and Fluid Cheer (5 minutes)

Week 2: Sexual Health 101

Estimated time required: ~130 minutes

  1. Check-in (5 minutes)
  2. Warm-Up Game: Zip, Zap, Zop (10 minutes)
  3. Share interview findings and make new list of Urgent Topics (15 minutes)
  4. Sexophonic Choir (6 fluids) (15 minutes)
  5. Sexual Health 101 (60 minutes)
  6. Sexual Health Rewrites (20 minutes)
  7. Check-out: Homework and Fluid Cheer (5 minutes)

Week 3: Let's Make Some Art!

Estimated time required: ~80 minutes

  1. Check-in (5 minutes)
  2. Warm-Up Game: This Is Not A... (10 minutes)
  3. Revisit Urgent Topics (5 minutes)
  4. Story Modes (10 minutes)
  5. Work on Story Modes (30 minutes)
  6. Perform Story Modes (10 minutes)
  7. Closing Game: Zip, Zap, Zop (5 minutes)
  8. Check-out: Homework and Fluid Cheer (5 minutes)

Week 4: Positively Speaking (visit with an HIV-positive speaker)

Estimated time required: ~100 minutes

  1. Check-in (5 minutes)
  2. Warm-Up Game: Change The Action (10 minutes)
  3. Funnel Poems (10 minutes)
  4. Share Funnel Poems (5 minutes)
  5. Story Sharing by Speaker (20 minutes)
  6. Q&A with Speaker (10 minutes)
  7. Art Making Activity: Group Image Theater (30 minutes)
  8. Response and Feedback from Speaker (5 minutes)
  9. Check-out: Homework and Fluid Cheer (5 minutes)

Week 5: Let’s Make Some Art!

Estimated time required: ~100 minutes

  1. Check-in (5 minutes)
  2. Warm-Up Game: Gibberish (10 minutes)
  3. Story Modes Round 2 (25 minutes)
  4. Perform Story Modes (15 minutes)
  5. Art Making and Sharing (30 minutes)
  6. Revise Existing Scenes (20 minutes)
  7. Check-out: Homework and Fluid Cheer (5 minutes)

Week 6: Gender 101

Estimated time required: ~85 minutes

  1. Check-in (5 minutes)
  2. Warm-Up Game: Pass/Change the Energy Ball (10 minutes)
  3. Gender ABC’s Race 2 (10 minutes)
  4. Gender 101 (30 minutes)
  5. Writing Prompt Exercise (20 minutes)
  6. Check-out: Homework and Fluid Cheer (5 minutes)

Week 7: Let’s Make Some Art and Rehearse

Estimated time required: ~120 minutes

  1. Check-in (5 minutes)
  2. Warm-Up Games (10 minutes)
  3. Perform Thumbprint pieces (20 minutes)
  4. Edit and Rehearse Existing Pieces (60 minutes)
  5. Perform work (20 minutes)
  6. Check-out: Homework and Fluid Cheer (5 minutes)

Week 8: "Stumble-Through" Performance

Estimated time required: ~120 minutes

  1. Check-in (5 minutes)
  2. Warm-Up Games (10 minutes)
  3. “Stumble-through” performance for LAUSD HIV/AIDS Prevention Unit and/or important stakeholders (60 minutes)
  4. Get feedback (30 minutes)
  5. Check-out: Homework and Fluid Cheer (5 minutes)

Week 9: Revise and Run-Through

Estimated time required: ~90 minutes

  1. Check-in (5 minutes)
  2. Warm-Up Games (10 minutes)
  3. Notes from stumble-through (10 minutes)
  4. Re-work notes (15 minutes)
  5. Run-through performance of show (50 minutes)
  6. Check-out: Homework and Fluid Cheer (5 minutes)

Week 10: Perform and Reflect

Estimated time required: ~120 minutes

  1. Check-in (5 minutes)
  2. Warm-Up Games (10 minutes)
  3. Performance (50 minutes)
  4. Debrief: How did that feel? (15 minutes)
  5. Culminating Exercise (20 minutes)
  6. Final check-out: Fluid Cheer (5 minutes)

Week 11: Celebration (Suggested)

This is a tradition that the UCLA Sex Squad does at the end of every quarter to celebrate the work that has been made and the space that has been established. This is a suggested week but is not necessary. You can choose to celebrate your own way, as this is YOUR Sex (Ed) Squad.


Suggested pre-workshop warm-up activities/fun energizers to get the group moving and ready to create

The idea behind warm-ups is to break away from the automatic nature of the body and mind, and to incite spontaneity and freedom of expression. In addition, warm-ups promote the concept of a safe space, in which a group may play and work comfortably together while openly sharing their feelings. Warm-ups also act to increase the amount of focused energy in the safe space.

Warm-ups are only one part in the creation of the safe space. It is important for all members of the group to discuss guidelines for behavior and other aspects they wish their safe space to embody.

The ideal physical space in which to engage in these warm-ups is an open area, such as an empty classroom or studio, in which the group can feel free to strive for the goals of the warm-ups without feeling cramped.

Getting To Know You

Energizer Games

Focus Games

Performance Enhancing Games

Art & Theatre-Making Exercises

Suggested activities to create activist art for your show.

These exercises are supposed to be fun and creative! You don’t have to follow our suggestions to a tee. People should be encouraged but not pressured to participate, or push people into participating. The participants do not need to know that these activities will lead to the creation of a performance.

Start of Process

These activities might work best for your group in the first couple weeks of meeting.

Middle of Process

End of Process


Suggested group rituals for various purposes.

To set the ‘Sex (Ed) Squad space’ apart from the rest of our day and get everybody on the same page, we open meetings and workshops with the same series of exercises. We have similar rituals to bring together new groups, prepare for performances, close workshops, and bring the year to a celebratory end.


Beginning of Process


Late in Process

Example Show Structures

Ways we’ve performed and how we’ve pulled it off.

Feel free to make Sex (Ed) Squad YOUR OWN. These examples of show structures from the 2013 UCLA Sex Squad tour are not meant to discourage you from adding your own flavor. They are simply a guide to show you the different acts that we have and how the show can be structured. Everything is open to change, so once again, make it YOUR Sex (Ed) Squad.

Sex Squad Tour

During each winter quarter at UCLA, the UCLA Sex Squad brings a full-length performance about sexual health to high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District. The performance showcases original material, including songs, skits, dances, poetry, and visual art. Students get to see a variety of performances pieces inspired by the personal experiences of Sex Squad members and the interviews they conduct with youth, health practitioners, and others.

There were some key things we took into consideration while on tour. First, how many performers were available for any given performance? Second, how much time were we given to perform and lead a post-performance discussion or Q&A? If our performance cast was particularly small or we were allotted a limited amount of time, we had to shorten the length of our performance in order to fit the circumstances.

An Entire Show

Below we have included our complete list of performance pieces from the 2013 UCLA Sex Squad tour followed by a brief description of each piece.

Time: 1 hour for performance; 8–10 minutes for post- performance discussion or Q&A

Number of Cast Members: Entire UCLA Sex Squad

Show Order

  1. Introduction: The opening act features the entire cast and explodes onto the stage with a live cover of Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop,” freestyle dancing, and condoms being tossed in the air.

  2. Perfect Pornos: Cleverly crafted, a handful of performers recite monologues of their ideal pornographies, accompanied by appropriately suggestive acting and 70’s-era disco music.

  3. The Masturbation Song: This original song features the story of a couple who struggle to mutually stimulate each other and find fulfillment in self-pleasure.

  4. So We Talked About Sex: Six performers share their challenging, humorous, and brave experiences talking with others about sex.

  5. Sexophonic Choir: The only act involving audience participation, Sexophonic Choir demonstrates the five fluids* of HIV transmission through visual art, image theater, and dancing. In this piece, the Sex Squad members hold up five signs that read “blood,” “vaginal fluid,” “breast milk,” “pre-cum,” and “semen”. In this piece, the conductor assigns sections of the audience to the fluid groups on stage and asks them to participate by screaming out the fluid with the Squad members on stage.
  1. Expectations: Expectations is a moving spoken word duet that addresses the questions and concerns of two young women waiting to have sex.

  2. Popcorn Poem–Getting Tested: Getting Tested highlights the experiences of several performers getting tested for STDs/STIs for the first time.

  3. Sweet like Summer: A spoken word poem that captures the firsthand experience of a young woman about being in and healing from an abusive relationship.

  4. The Double Standard: A spoken word poem about unfair sexual standards for women in the Latinx community and double standards in our patriarchal society.

  5. Time Travelers: This humorous skit tells the story of an unconfident young man who receives a surprise visit from his girlfriend in the future and learns to believe in himself.

  6. Day in the Life:: Day in the Life takes the audience through the day of a “closeted” young man, who is the target of homophobic remarks, gender stereotypes, and miseducation.

  7. Popcorn Poem – Bullying: Bullying highlights the experiences of several performers who have been targets of, witnessed, or helped reduce bullying.

  8. Most Interesting Man in the World: Based off of a popular advertising campaign, this act cleverly subverts expectations about gender norms and male chauvinism.

  9. Questioning: Accompanied by recorded text, this dance solo addresses the questions and concerns of a young man questioning his sexual orientation.

  10. The Condom Song: This original song highlights the importance of using a condom and is accompanied by visual art and image theater.

Condensed Shows

The show order and structure may differ depending on a few factors. Things to consider are: size of your cast for any given performance, how much time do you have to perform and lead a post-performance discussion or Q&A, and technical needs of your performance space. To better illustrate how different a Sex Squad tour performance can look, we have included two examples below:

Example #1

Time: 20 minutes for performance; 5 minutes for Q&A

Number of Cast Members: 7

Show Order:

  1. Introduction
  2. The Masturbation Song
  3. So We Talked About Sex
  4. Sexophonic Choir
  5. Time Travelers
  6. Most Interesting Man in the World 7. The Condom Song

Example #2

Time: 30 minutes for performance; 10 minutes for Q&A

Number of Cast Members: 12

Show Order:

  1. Introduction
  2. Perfect Pornos
  3. The Masturbation Song
  4. So We Talked About Sex
  5. Expectations
  6. Sweet like Summer
  7. Time Travelers
  8. A Day In The Life
  9. Popcorn - Bullying
  10. Asking Questions
  11. The Condom Song

Additional Performance Opportunities

48 Hours to Action

Over a period of just forty-eight hours, a Sex Squad develops an outline for a performance about sexual health (historically premiered on World AIDS Day, December 1st.) Aptly titled “48 Hours to Action,” the performance showcases a variety of skits, songs, and dances.


Performing at the AIDS Walk is a great way to gain performance experience in a non- traditional setting. Since the crowd is constantly moving forward, it requires you to present artwork that is transportable, quick, efficient, and doesn’t exhaust you. During our performances, we’ve presented image theater, short dance routines, and visual art.

Further Resources & Tips

Advice from past members, current educators, and helping-hands.

Post-Performance Discussion

Leading a post-performance discussion or Q&A is a great opportunity to engage the audience in an open dialogue about the show. Some questions you can begin with include: “What stood out to you during the performance? What sorts of problems do students face at your school? If you were to create your own Sex Squad show, what would you put in it?”

Technical Needs

While on tour, we often had to take care of our own technical needs. Typically, this would mean designating certain Sex Squad members to bring portable speakers or an amplifier, laptop, and microphone. We would also need to set up the equipment before the show and take it down afterwards. As you can imagine, this resulted in a pretty tired Sex Squad at the end of each performance!

Suggested Readings

Member Q&A

What do you want future Sex (Ed) Squad members to know?

What was the most challenging part of the experience?

What were some surprises?

Helpful Hints

A list of useful tips for a new Joker of a Sex Squad


Because we can't do what we do alone.

We would like to thank all of the collaborators, artivists, magic-makers, and visionaries who have made our work possible, and who believe in the dream of creating a safer and sexier world through radically hilarious and honest art-making.

Generous funding by:

The David and Linda Shaheen Foundation
The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation
The Ford Foundation
The Los Angeles Unified School District HIV/AIDS Prevention Unit
The University of California, Los Angeles Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance
The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Department of Communications Studies
The Duke University Dance Program
The North Carolina Central University Project Safe Program


Isaiah Baiseri
Gabrielle Bonder
David Gere
Kelly Gluckman
Bobby Gordon
Susana Hernandez
Lakhiyia Hicks
Claire Hoch-Frohman
Sebastian Milla
Veline Mojarro
Elisabeth Nails
Members of the 2012-13 UCLA Sex Squad