Caleb Oswell photo editor
The Office of Wellness Education brings the show ‘Sex Signals’ to campus to discuss issues of sexual violence and rape culture.
Megan Johnson, program coordinator of advocacy services and wellness education, organized ‘Sex Signals’ as her first major program in her new position. Jason Kegler, associate vice president of student life, had seen the performance a few years ago and recommended to bring it to campus. The performance was led by actors Tori Wynn and Javier Ferreira with Catharsis Production operating out of Chicago. Catharsis Productions has been performing ‘Sex Signals’ for about twenty years as their flagship program. The actors described the program as a facilitated show. The performance blends performance, facilitation, and improvisation to break down and discuss issues surrounding sexual violence and rape culture.
“So really our goal is to kind of breakdown a lot of those stereotypes; talk a little bit on things like consent, alcohol, sort of other major elements of this conversation around sexual violence; to, you know, get folks to sort of to see that intervening and destigmatizing these conversations around sex and consent is really possible,” Ferreira said. “The idea is that we’re trying to change the culture from sort of the ground up and humor is sort of the secret weapon to get folks to kind of let their guard down a little bit.”
The show involved audience members by asking for lines or helping to create the characters that would be involved in the scenes. Students made up lines such as “Are you my homework? Because I want to slam you on the table and do you all night long” and created characters with traits such “douchebag,” “entitled,” and “aggressive.” During and after the scenes, Wynn and Ferreira would open discussion to challenge cultural norms and stereotypes.
“Be open to having new opinions about things,” Wynn said. “What you thought about something up until this point is not necessarily the opinion that you have to hold for the rest of your life. It’s ok to have been wrong about things. I think college is a great space to realize that when you’re raised in one place or raised in sort of one community then you come to a place like this and you get to have your mind open and that’s a privilege, that’s a benefit, that’s a cool thing and just be ok with getting new information and not seeing that as a challenge, but as a privilege and a gift.”
The program became a part of new member orientations for fraternities and sororities. Jessica Jones, junior in therapeutic recreation, brought new members of sorority Sigma Sigma Sigma to the event.
“As the older member who kind of brought the freshmen here, I thought it was very good for them to know,” Jones said. “Because I’ve kind of been like preaching to them about like staying close to somebody, going with people, not kind of doing that thing.”
Billy Buck, junior in construction engineering, brought members of Sigma Chi to the performance. Members of the fraternity said the last scene to play out between a student journalist and a fraternity member who was an accessory to rape struck out to them.
“I thought it was good, I think especially for us. We do some membership training, so we kind of talked about especially bystander intervention,” Buck said. “You know, because Greek life does have that negative kind of connotation associated with it. So, I think it’s good to see or these guys to see what we’ve been talking about on a larger scale like have more people involved and have a good conversation about it.”
Johnson said the performance could be funded and brought back in the future with more students if it is well received.
“Issues of sexual assault and consent are pressing on college campuses and reaching students in a way that they will find engaging that will be relatable is going to be the most effective… when we can reach students in a variety of different ways. Learning happens with repetition, so hearing the message one time isn’t going to do it. Having this just this wouldn’t do it. We need a combination of different education and outreach resources for students to really drive these lessons home,” Johnson said.