By Scott Prater
In Sex Signals, an April 14 presentation hosted by the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program, actors Amber Kelley and Chris Byer delivered a comedic, engaging and educational program entitled “Are you getting the signal.”
The actors took audience members through a few scenarios that involved pick-up, dating and sexual situations. Their intent was to not only clarify the definition of rape, but to challenge audience members to think about how they might handle situations and educate Airmen about gaining consent before initiating the sex act.
In the first scenario, Ms. Kelley and Mr. Byer spoke of the different roles people assume, and the expectations presented by society.
He portrayed an aggressive man in a bar pick-up scene. Described as a common stereotype, men are expected to aggressively pursue the women they desire.
The actors then spoke about the preceding scene and asked questions to the audience about how behavior is interpreted.
Men desire women who are sophisticated but sexy, quiet and subservient in social situations. Women are to be virgin-like or they risk being viewed as promiscuous. The main idea here was to indicate how mixed messages are sent during the dating or pick-up act.
Audience members were asked to raise “stop” cards when they felt uncomfortable while watching the scene. Mr. Byer explained that even though some audience members raised their signs, the actors kept going on with the scene. This feature of the presentation was designed to show the audience how the “stop” statement can be easily ignored.
The actors went on to describe how people can interpret signals in varying ways. When the woman asked the man if he had a breath mint, he immediately formed an idea that she wanted to make out with him, whereas her intent was simply to get a breath mint.
Sexual innuendo, dress and attitude can be construed in many different ways by many people, which can lead to more confusion and ambiguity according to the presenters.
The actors spoke about how men and women face conflicting pressures when it comes to sexuality. Women are seen as either prudish or promiscuous based on how they dress and act, and men constantly fight the misconception that they are always looking for sex.
In the next scenario, Mr. Byer portrayed an Airman accused of rape.
When confronted, he vehemently denied raping his date and described the scenario according to his perspective. He elaborated on all of the signals he received, which led him to believe his behavior was justified, and admitted that he did have sex with his accuser.
The conflict in this scenario occurred at different points throughout the event. Alcohol was involved. His date was receptive to his advances, and even made advances of her own. He heard the word “stop” several times, but noticed his date kept reinitiating contact.
The key point of the situation occurred during the sexual act however, and he admitted he heard the word “stop” at that point.
The actors explained that this case did meet the definition of rape: anytime someone’s choice is taken away from them.
The audience then was prompted to deliver suggestions on how to avoid a rape situation.
“Whose job was it to gain consent in this scenario,” Mr. Byer asked. “How do you make sure you gain consent? Can you really gain consent from someone who has consumed alcohol?”
Finally, audience members were informed that most rapes don’t get reported because of the uncomfortable reporting procedures and the stigma attached to the act. They said people also most often think of rape as performed by a masked perpetrator in a dark alley, but that most rapes occur between people who know each other.
The actors explained that even though gaining consent from potential sexual partners can be awkward, destroy the mood or hinder the sexual act, it’s an important step in making sure a rape does not occur.
Mr. Kelley and Mr. Byer wrapped up the presentation by informing attendees about ways they could report sexual assault. Unrestricted reporting locations include the SARC office, the chaplain and medical victim advocates.
The SARC office can be reached by calling 567-7634 (main office) and 567-7272 (24-hour emergency hotline). The chaplain’s office can be reached at 567-3705 or 567-2180(after duty).