How can performance prevent rape?

On-stage performance can help us reimagine what we take for granted. This blog looks at how performance can explore different ways to be a woman or a man, and negotiate relationships that are flexible, fun, and freeing.

I suggest that performance can be used as a tool in rape prevention. I look at how performative methods of rape prevention may build upon and develop other forms of social education that work to end rape, creating possibilites for different ways to engage in intimate relationships.

This blog is a personal, theoretical, and performative exploration of how performance can be used in rape prevention.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Frighten Rape Culture to Death

It seems there's no way out of rape, that it's just part of our lives. When I look to law reform, it doesn't seem to have made any difference to rape convictions nor to the actual occurance of rape. As a woman, I am just supposed to be afraid, to learn to live with the fear, or with the lack of freedom that fear imposes upon my life. I don't want to live with that. I wanna frighten rape culture to death.

Here's some theory that I've been looking at that may offer another way to look at rape, and be used in a politics of prevention.

Sharon Marcus writes of rape as a 'script'
Analyzing rape as a script, rather than a determining reality of women’s lives, allows for it to be thwarted. Sharon Marcus writes that rape is not an individual act, but instead a process, a social script.

In this script, one person takes the role of perpetrator and moves another into the complimentary role of victim. The rendering of women’s body as victim is not permanent nor inherent, but instead a process that can be studied and averted. Within the dominanat framework, women's bodies are constructed as vulnerable, passive, and receptive. Men, on the other hand, are considered to be active instigators. The rape script relies upon these characterisations. Rape is then a ‘series of signals and steps that both maintains, and is maintained by social configurations of gender' (Marcus 1992:395).

Rape must NOT be seen as an invasion of a precious, interior space

A politics of rape prevention redefines rape as something other than an invasion of precious interior space. Marcus writes that: ‘Rape engenders a sexualised female body defined as a wound’ (Marcus 1992:397). Women are constructed as a wound made real through rape. So, Marcus asserts that rape is neither a taking of oneself, nor an indelible act of violence. Women's bodies must be reconsidered so that rape does not steal a precious, interior sexuality, an object of mystery and fragility. So that women's bodies are not constructed as 'rapable', and men's bodies as able to rape.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Australian Women's and Gender Studies Conference

It's day 1 of the Australian Women's and Gender Studies conference in Adelaide.
And no, I haven't actually finished my presentation yet...... (giving it well, tomorrow).

This uni (UniSA) is so swish, built all in circles, that I've spent half the day trying to make it back to the refreshments (I did)....

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Is it possible to end rape?

Rape is just part of life huh? All animals do it. All cultures, all communities. Men and women rape. Gay and straight people rape. Priests rape. Shit - even kids rape!

So why would I waste my time researching, and writing about possibilities for rape prevention. Cos it ain't gonna happen!

Some people reckon that rape is a biological drive. Maybe its a really bad biological drive, but a biological drive nonetheless, and therefore, something we will never stop. These science-y types cite that men have learnt to rape as a way to enable their mighty sperm to live on. They say that rape is distressing because it disturbs an individual's control over reproduction.

Then there are other people, most notably Susan Brownmiller, who have claimed that rape is not biological, but social. Instead of a sexual act, determined by men's excessive horniness, and their desire to have many offspring, rape is conceived as an act of violence.

Basically, in this argument, men rape because they can. It's an act of power, a way for men to keep control over ALL women. Brownmiller says that our bodies are actually made for rape in her 1975 text, Against Our Will:
'Had it not been for this accident of biology, an accomodation requiring the locking together of two seperate parts, penis into vagina, their would be no copulation or rape as we know it'

Within these frameworks, I do not see a way out of rape. It looks like individual women can escape or thwart rape attempts, and individual men can choose not to rape, but it's always gonna be around the corner, a constant in our societies.
Here are some reasons why I disagree with both this biological view and Brownmiller's hypothesis:
1. Rape is not man's biological drive because women rape too
2. Not all men rape
3. Those who can't have babies are raped (ie babies, old people, animals)
4. People are raped orally and anally, and not just with a penis
5. Some communities DO NOT rape (like the Gerai, in Indonesia)
Instead, maybe rape is enabled by cultures which normalise the act with crazy arguments that men are biologically primed to rape.

Yeh, and I'm biologcally primed to cook. And sew.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Can stripping be a sacred act?

Feminist performance art controversy? As if!

Alizee Sery, a French tourist, has just been asked to leave Australia by Indigenous people in the Northern territory. As a tribute to Aboriginal people, and their history of living naked, Sery climbed the famous Uluru (Ayers Rock) and stripped down to a white bikini. A professional stripper, Sery tells that stripping is an act that embodies 'total harmony with the land and with myself'.

You can see her do it on this accompanying video .

Sery claims that after her climb up the rock, she wanted to 'sing, dance - and strip', such was her jubilation and sense of celebration and connection to the earth.

Although it cannot be ignored that even climbing Uluru is considered to be a deeply offensive and dangerous act by the Anungu, traditional owners of the land and the rock, I'm interested in Sery's claim that stripping is a tribute and celebration, rather than an act indulged in by big-breasted young women for the pleasure and financial reward from dirty old (or just dirty) men. Perhaps Sery's performance can be looked as contemporary feminist performance art?

Here is what I LOVE about Sery's performance:

1. She shows that women's bodies can be either Madonna or whore and not both
Have you read the bible? Mary, the virgin, never even had sex. But she still managed to birth a demi-god (good girl). Mary, the prostitute slut, knew she was shit so washed Jesus' feet with her hair (gross!).
The message is simple - a woman who gets naked for profit or pleasure can only be sexual or beg for forgiveness through (more) derogatory acts. The woman who has worth is a virginal mother who winds up in poverty and living with a donkey.
Sery cannot strip as a sacred act. Sacredness is a denial, not an embrace, of the flesh.

2. She thinks its fun and beautiful to strip
Sery relates her desire to strip as an act of jubilation. Like a three year old, taking your clothes off is a good way to cool down, and makes it way more fun to dance. Quite simply, she says that people used to live naked, and she wants to (un)dress like them to commemorate their lives.
When I was at school, we had to dress up in period costume to commemorate the first white Australians. We didn't get asked to dress like the early black Australians. Perhaps it's different in France?

3. She did what she wanted to
Sery said she's always wanted to climb the rock and then strip - two things that make her very happy. And she did it. what's the point in having a dream if you don't perform it? At least she did something interesting, gave her dreams a go.

Here is what I HATE about Sery's performance:

1. The white bikini
A white bikini is not naked. Why talk about 'getting close to the earth' with a couple of strings sticking between your butt crack? Go all the way Sery! If you wanna show that your strip is different to your work as an exotic nightclub dancer, then don't just whack on an Akubra.
Get it all off, let your pubes grow long, show us your tan lines and dirty feet.
A white bikini is tame, cutesy, and last season. This season is yellow.

2. That NT News love it
Have you read the NT news? Don't. Although a lot is politically interesting the Territory, the local newspaper prefers to keep its residents dumb so they won't see the disgusting levels of disadvantage faced by Aboriginal people in the bush.

3. That she climbed the rock
That's just rude. It's only ever tourists who do it, Aussies should know better. It's a sacred site dickhead. Get off!

Bed Art

Sharing a bed is so intimate. Tracey Emin did her bed as art.

Some people have been concerned about me doing a performance in a bed. they say it is too sexually suggestive, too potentially erotic. But I think so many things can and do happen in bed, not just the erotic.
People look so lovely in bed, so cherubic, so relaxed. I love watching people in bed.
Marina Abromovic did some photos of kids in bed. She usually makes risky live performances, like Rhythm O, in which she invited audience members to do whatever they wished to her passive body with a set of given objects. After several hours the performance had to be stopped as the audience ended up forcing Abromovic to hold a loaded gun to her own forehead.
Here's Abromovic's photo of kids in bed

beds and art can be dangerous too

Friday, June 25, 2010

Perform in bed

Lots of people perform in bed, not just me! Perhaps you do too?

John and Yoko started something.......

What intimacies can we allow in bed, that the footpath, the boardroom, the office, the dinner table doesn't allow?

Have you seen Annie Spinkle, and her partner Elizabeth Stevens perform in a big bed? They invite people into their bed for a sandwich cuddle.

What are your happiest, saddest, most unusual bed moments? (I'm having a bed-moment now, it's raining, well, it was).

Pillow talk

Perhaps, at the conference I'm speaking at on Thursday July 1st, I'll speak about my new show Chat Room?

Chat Room will take place around Adelaide. I'll be placed on a large bed in my nightie, in very public environments, like Rundle Mall for example. I'll invite people to join me on the bed, and we'll role play intimate relationships and conversations.

It's like street pillow talk.
It's revealing untrue secrets.

Or lying so intimately

It's an antidote to souless cyber connections.

People sharing in the same space, rather than virtual space.

Lying together and lying together.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Getting on

Well today I have finally started a blog! I have started this in order to talk about, and hopefully discuss my research with my peers.

And I'm presenting at a conference in 7 days and I hoped this blog would get me going on what I want to say....

My research is on sex. Interested? Then come back.