Sex-assault seminar takes humor angle
Stars and Stripes March 9, 2008
Pacific edition, Sunday, March 9, 2008
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — The airmen couldn’t stop laughing during the sexual-assault lecture.
But that was the point.
Normally the idea of a mandatory sexual-assault lecture, especially on an afternoon heading into the weekend, is not anyone’s idea of fun. But Friday’s presentation of Catharsis Productions’ “Sex Signals” both entertained and informed the audience of Yokota airmen.
Part improv comedy, part scripted performance, “Sex Signals” addresses dating, sex, gender roles and non-stranger rape in an interactive presentation aimed specifically at a younger audience.
“It’s easy to dismiss messages about topics like sexual assault when it isn’t targeted specifically at you,” said “Sex Signals” co-founder Christian Murphy, explaining why the program has become popular at colleges and military installations around the world.
The presentation — mandatory for all Yokota enlisted personnel age 25 and younger — kicked off with several comedic skits about dating, communication and miscommunication between the sexes. Along the way, airmen in the audience were asked to guide the actors through the scene, providing pickup lines and guidance on how the characters should carry out the scene.
During one scene involving an overzealous man, played by Murphy, attempting to “hook up” with a less-than-eager young woman, played by co-founder Gail Stern, the audience was asked to hold up red “stop” signs whenever they felt the characters in the scene went too far.
At first, only a few signs went up as Murphy’s character attempted to seduce Stern’s character. But as the scene continued, and his actions became pushier, more and more signs began to fill the air.
One of the goals of the scene was to show the role of bystanders in potential date rape scenarios.
“Most men won’t be rapists,” Murphy said. “But they do have the potential to be a bystander.”
People who witness these types of situations often don’t step in because they think it’s none of their business.
Stern explained during the presentation that the reality of rape does not involve a dark alley and a stranger in a ski mask. In fact, most rapes are committed by someone the victim knows, he said.
This fact was addressed in a later scenario in which Murphy, playing an airman living in the dorms, began the scene with a simple statement:
“I really didn’t rape that girl.”
As a hush fell over the audience, Stern and Murphy went through the details of how the airman ended up being accused of date rape.
“I wasn’t expecting it to be this good. They broke it down and made it real,” said Staff Sgt. Tiffany Pacheco, of the 374th Services Division. “Some of the scenarios were very realistic.”
Part of keeping the presentation authentic to the audience meant a lot of research by the “Sex Signals” presenters, Stern said.
“When we started doing different military bases, we needed to develop different scripts for each of the different services,” she said, and they requested information from Yokota officials to localize their script to the base.
“I think the interactive nature of the briefing is the way to go with our young airmen,” said Chief Master Sgt. Craig K. Deatherage, the command chief master sergeant for U.S. Forces Japan and 5th Air Force, who sat in on one of the three presentations Friday.
“I thought it was really good, and very different from most other briefings,” said Airman Travis Thomas. “They should do more briefings like this.”
For more information about the “Sex Signals” program go to www.catharsisproductions.com/index.html.