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Loyal Daughters’ part of solution

Staff Editorial | Friday, November 17, 2006

It drew fewer critics, featured far fewer vaginas and probably went unnoticed by many on campus.

But while in the past there was no avoiding the “Monologues” – a play with material explicit enough to rock a Catholic campus into debate – for those who attended one of this week’s productions of “Loyal Daughters,” the message was inescapable.

Sexual assault is a problem at Notre Dame. And so is Notre Dame’s culture.

When a girl tells the story of how she was raped not once, but twice at a party off campus – and then found herself locked into a torturously silent semester abroad with the first rapist – it’s clear that there’s a problem.

When two guys sit in front of an audience, ridiculing a girl for “crying rape to ResLife” as they play video games, it’s clear that there’s a problem.

And when 25 men and women get up on stage and explain, one by one, how they were abused or assaulted on Notre Dame’s campus or during breaks from school, it’s painfully clear that there’s a problem.

“Loyal Daughters” does a far better job than “The Vagina Monologues” at making its point and pertaining to the University community. It includes males, and it does that in several important contexts: as the wrongdoer and the wronged, as straight and homosexual, as an adult both aware and confused. “Loyal Daughters” also focuses on the role alcohol plays in sexual violence – a point that is essential to the play’s goals, since alcohol abuse is all too frequently a disastrous factor in incidents of sexual assault.

It’s impossible to undermine the real stories of real Notre Dame students. And it includes extra material that – while maybe not directly related to sexual assault – points at what several professors and students have referred to as a pervading “culture of silence.” It’s not easy to talk about sex and sexuality in a Catholic context – and that’s why it’s necessary to do so.

While the “Monologues” may have enjoyed more visibility, the play generated attention for the wrong reasons. Controversy over whether a skit glorifies lesbian rape or a dominatrix’s relationship toward her clients doesn’t contribute to the overall goal of rape prevention. Discussion about potential problems within the Notre Dame culture does.

That’s exactly what “Loyal Daughters” contributes to this campus – and exactly why it should contribute in the future. A student-written production based on extensive interviews won’t breed as much irrelevant controversy.

This isn’t an issue that pertains to a small group of people. Sexuality – and the ability to freely address it – concerns every person on this campus. A play that attempts to involve as many of those people as possible is an effort that should be praised, promoted and, above all, continued.