Usually, candid discussions about sex are saved for private times between friends. A revolutionary program called "Sex Signals" wants to change the taboo nature of sexual discussion and use that new found comfort to combat acquaintance rape.
On March 11, the "Sex Signals" players from Catharsis Productions visited Camp Victory to discuss dating, sex and acquaintance rape with servicemembers. The program entwines humor with education to effectively communicate with younger crowds. According to Catharsis' Web site, "the two-person show explores how mixed messages, gender role stereotypes and unrealistic fantasies contribute to misunderstanding between the sexes." These misunderstandings, such as assuming something about someone based on how they dress, can be key contributors in sexual assault.
"Sex Signals" was started in 2000 by Gail Stern and Christian Murphy, who brought the show to colleges across the United States. After seeing the positive effects the performances had at various military installations, the Army contracted Catharsis Productions for 400 performances to educate and entertain personnel.
In this performance, servicemembers viewed and interacted with improvisational scenarios that illustrated how perception can alter how males and females interact with one another. Servicemembers got to dictate the scene and they also had the opportunity to stop the scene when a character crossed the line in to disrespect or assault. They were also given scenarios that could happen to anyone in the audience and encouraged to openly discuss what is or isn't sexual assault.
The audience participation helps people get more comfortable with discussing sensitive topics, said Kyle Terry, actor, "Sex Signals." The program's aim is to open up the dialogue between servicemembers to help them communicate with each other and possibly their sexual partners regarding sex and rape, Terry explained. It also helps the person learn how to clearly articulate what they want and don't want in a relationship and improves their listening skills, he added.
While many people's vision of rape involves a masked stranger in a dark alley, most rapes in the 18-24 age group are committed by someone known to the victim. One class participant, Spc. Lela Lottermoser from 520th Air Supply Medical Company, said learning about acquaintance rape was valuable for her because she normally only considered stranger rape a danger.
Also addressed heavily was the subject of consent. The actors depicted scenarios where consent was questionable and encouraged group discussion on whether consent was or was not given. The final verdict was if consent isn't clearly verbally stated, then it doesn't count. "It was really important to learn about verbal consent instead of just assuming [it's ok]," said Pfc. Andrew R. Smith, 520th ASMC.
The main purpose of this valuable and innovative training was to give troops the tools they need to prevent and avoid sexual assault situations. "We're giving people the vocabulary to have these conversations," said Amber Kelly, actor, "Sex Signals." And this vocabulary can help people better understand each other and possibly curtail sexual assault, for good. "Ultimately, we want to prevent rape from happening," Terry said.