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‘Sex Signals’ discusses importance of consent

| Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Issues of consent and sexual violence — and what these mean for dating culture — can be difficult to talk about. On Tuesday, the Gender Relations Center (GRC) sponsored  Sex Signals, an improvisational performance presented by Catharsis Productions of Chicago, with the hope of making the conversation a little easier.

“It really looks at what it means by consent, the different ways you can have and understand content, how you can do it in ways that aren’t awkward, just how to have those conversations with one another and, most importantly, bystander intervention,” director of the GRC Christine Caron Gebhardt said.

Two of Catharsis Productions’ actors and educators, Paula Ramirez and David Seeber, combined scripted material and audience-driven improv to encourage participants to consider what exactly is meant by consent. Ramirez said consent cannot rely on body language, which can be misinterpreted, and must be “verbal, active and ongoing.”

The performance, sponsored by Keenan Hall, Pasquerilla West Hall and Naval ROTC, in conjunction with the GRC, included several improvised scenes, followed by reflective comments from the audience.

“[Sex Signals is] meant to be a mirror of different conversations in our culture to provide commentary about which parts are helpful to us and which are harmful,” Gebhardt said. “We want you to help us figure out how we can best address [sexual misconduct] on campus and we hope that Sex Signals is one of many ways that we can talk about this issue here at Notre Dame.”

Ramirez and Seeber also addressed objectification, gender expectations, alcohol as a drug and preconceptions people have about what rape is in their performance. Ramirez said “sex by any means necessary looks a lot like rape.”

Rape is not about “raw sexual desire,” but about power and dominance, Seeber said.

Sex Signals is one of several programs offered by Catharsis Productions, founded by alum Christian Murphy and his partner Gail Stern, that focuses on having a conversation about sexual violence, Gebhardt said.

“Tonight is one of many we hope to offer this year,” she said. “We want to keep the conversation going after this event.”

One way the GRC is focusing on keeping up the conversation is through GreeNDot, a violence prevention program in its second year on campus with the motto “No one has to do everything but everyone has to do something.”

“As you know, many campuses across our country struggle with sexual misconduct, sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and we’re not immune to that, unfortunately,” Gebhardt said. “However, we have the benefit of talking about it and having conversations about how we can best take care of each other, to be each other’s brothers and sisters.

“Consent isn’t a policy so much as it is something that every day we have to work with and we have to utilize in order to help each other.”

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About Megan Valley

Megan Valley is one of the Associate News Editors for The Observer. A junior majoring in English and the Program of Liberal Studies, she hails from Flushing, MI and lives in Flaherty Hall.

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