Get the signal? CAB puts spotlight on date rape

3 Dec

How well can you read the signals of the opposite sex? This was answered for about 20 students at Sex Signals: Real Life Funny Sort-Of-Improv Show About Sex And Stuff sponsored by Campus Activities Board. The presenters, Sharyon Culberson and Eric “Pogi” Sumangil, set up situations and used audience input to create the scenes. Each audience member was given a slip of paper with big red letters reading “STOP”.

“When you feel uncomfortable, or feel like we’re uncomfortable, I want you to hold up your STOP sign, okay?” said Culberson.

Culberson and Sumangil ran through various party scenarios, varying whether the male or female was the aggressor. In one scene where each played the stereotypical gender role described by the audience, Sumangil continued to hit on Culberson long after every STOP sign in the room was held up high.

“Want to know the truth?” said Sumangil. “We never intended on stopping that scene just because you all were uncomfortable. It’s a scene you see at every party you go to, isn’t it? And how often do you stop it?”

“And none of you all got up and shouted stop,” said Culberson. “None of you interfered in the scene. So how badly could you have wanted it to stop if you stayed silent?”
When the presenters switched roles and Culberson played the aggressively sexual character, only a few of the men, and none of the women, held up their STOP signs. The scene continued as Culberson jumped on Sumangil’s lap, threw her legs around his neck, and shouted about her desire. Finally, they ended the scene amidst audience laughter, and thanked the few men in the audience who were holding up their signs.

The show took a more serious turn as Culberson and Sumangil played out a scenario taking place in a dorm room. Sumangil was the strapping young man with a backpack full of textbooks and a case of beer, going to hang out with the comely Culberson. They studied while drinking and eating pizza, and eventually got to tickling and making out. Culberson said ‘stop’ several times, and each time Sumangil stopped. After a while, she would initiate more contact. Eventually, they had sexual intercourse, where Culberson quietly said “stop” one time, but did not otherwise fight back. Afterward, she called Sumangil a rapist.

The presenters asked the audience who thought it was a rape. Most of the audience said the scenario “definitely” depicted a rape, and the remaining said it was “maybe” a rape. None of the audience said it was not. They asked the audience to question Sumangil’s character about his actions.

“She didn’t seem that drunk, I thought she could still make decisions,” said Sumangil when questioned about Culberson’s ability to consent after drinking.

“Would you have let her drive?” asked Lily Dixon, director of Campus Activities Board.

Sumangil and Culberson said Dixon’s point was on the nose, as someone who is too drunk to drive is also too drunk to consent.

Culberson challenged the audience to get verbal consent before taking any action that would affect another person, for an entire day. Anything from taking a sip of your friend’s water to eating a handful of your roommate’s chips to having sex with your partner would count in the challenge.

“It’s a lot harder than it sounds,” said Culberson. “But if you do it, you know that you’re in the clear every time.”

Students who are or know victims of sexual assault are urged to report the incidents to local authorities, as well as seek counseling from qualified professionals. The campus counseling center offers confidential services for free for any student, and can be reached at counselingappointments@park.edu. Any individual who feels unsafe at any time on campus is encouraged to call Campus Safety at 816-584-6444.

Published in The Stylus Newspaper, 3 December 2010.

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