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.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Why performance as rape prevention?

Well I gave my talk at the AGWSA conference on Emerging Spaces: New Possibilities in These Critical Times. I spoke about performance as rape prevention. Why do I think that performance can be used in rape prevention? Why not good ol' fashioned self-defense? Or law reform? Or street protests? Well, I reckon we've tried those things, and so far, they're not working.

In fact, rape convictions have been falling since second-wave feminism begun a concerted campaign against rape. Last year, only 1% of all rape reports lead to a conviction. Less than 1 in 7 incidents of sexual violence are actually reported to police. If you're Indigenous, have a disability, or are young, then you're at greater risk of rape. the Australian component of the International Violence Against Women survey found that 10% of women had experienced physical and/or sexual violence in the past 12 months.

So, I reckon it's worth looking for some more ways to prevent rape. This is some of what I said at AGWSA on looking to performance as a tool in rape prevention.

Why performance?
Performance may not simply ‘envision a new future, but also perform this future’ (Nicola Gavey 2005). As Augusto Boal puts it, performance can offer opportunities for the make-believe to ‘make-belief’ (Augusto Boal 1995).

Performance may be an emerging space in the field of rape prevention due to its potential for transformation. As a space distinct from everyday social realities, performance may be able to deconstruct, re-imagine, and embody alternatives to the rape script. In occupying this in-between space performance may be an innovative tool in rape prevention.

Performance may be uniquely positioned to transform the rape script, with its opportunity for the theoretical to become embodied consciousness, witnessed in a social arena. On the stage, different subjectivities can be located and played with, creating slippages within the script of rape. Performance may not only critically assess social realities, but also invent and embody new ways of being within these.

The stage can offer people a place to create, and enact alternative scripts that construct gender and relationships differently to those imposed by the rape script. Performance can be ‘a ‘safe space’ of fiction….[to] not only find, but also use a voice to effect change’ (Prentki 1998:419). On the stage, people are offered opportunities to literally let their selves go.

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