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The Readers Respond...

Rape in Arts


To the Editors of the Crimson:

Recently, a number of events have disturbed me about the representation of women and theor sexuality both on this campus and in our society in general. [Two weekends ago] I saw Sexgod, a show directed by David Gammons '92, which portends to criticize our society's ideas about sexuality and religion. However, I think the production strengthens old images of male-female relations and sexuality. The female lead never speaks as she is given sexually from one man to another ("Go right ahead, she doesn't mind," one man says.) The man who receives her, the Priest in the play, then has sex with her four times, each time with increasing violence. As the violence increases, the woman writhes in apparent ectasy which escalates to laughter. At the end of the play, her "cunt," a voice characterization by another actress, begins to yell at the men, attacking them for their hypocrisy. Though I believe this final twist is meant to justify the previously presented misogynist attitudes and violence, it is not enough to counter the rest of the action of the play. The woman is eventually silenced--killed by a corkscrew.

[Last week was] filled with uproar over remarks made by [Dean of the College L. Fred] Jewett '57 and [Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Education Jeffrey] Wolcowitz about acquaintance rape. In discussions with many women and men, I have become increasingly aware of the disturbing beliefs about and expectations of women and their sexuality. I have heard one junior woman say, "Well, it's a girl's responsibility to not drink with a guy if she doesn't know he's not going to rape her." I have heard that the rugby team sings a song about acquaintance rape to get psyched up for a game. I have heard some men call these issues of sexual violence "non-issues." All this, in addition to recent theatrical representations of "feminist" isssues and women, raises some questions that are important--if not imperative--to discuss. Our society must find adequate answers.

What is the difference between art and the glorification of social myths? What is the difference, in works like Sexgod, between enforcing traditional fallacies about women's enjoyment of rape and merely presenting them? How do we undervalue women's language and ability to communicate, so that as Wolcowitz alleged in the Crimson article of Oct. 26, "in some cases" 'no' actually means 'yes' "in subtle ways"? How much do we actually listen to what women are saying, and how much do we believe? What decides? How much fear are we willing to let wimen experience, and how sexually responsible do we expect men to be?

We should have answers to these questions--those answers are long overdue. It is clear that we need to deeply examine our socialized values, our stereotyping and our inherited myths about women and their sexuality. When presenting these ideas and images in a powerful medium such as David What is the difference between art and the glorification of social myths?Gammaons' impressive direction, we must be aware of our traditional ideas of dominance and sexuality--and our ability to change or reinforce them, Our tradition is a burden we must carry, and women and men share it. And change it together. Gabrielle Burton '93

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