If you've been out of college for a while, you're probably unfamiliar with the phrase "rape culture." It's a feminist term, circa 1975, which classifies entire regions as supportive of sexual violence. Such a culture considers women public sexual utilities, then blames victims of whatever abuse is inevitably suffered. In such a culture, for example, it might be acceptable to refer to a woman who wants birth control included in her health plan as a "slut" or "prostitute." Thankfully, that could never happen here.
"Dare to peek at your culture," advises Ariana Throne, whose one-woman "dance drama" Collision looks at rape culture in American college life. She herself was involved in two such collisions, and much of her performance is uncomfortably autobiographical. She says one in eight college women will be raped, a statistic that originated in a 1985 study for Ms. magazine. The veracity of that fraction depends largely on one's definition of rape, in that it includes women who did not self-identify as raped but who had sex while severely intoxicated. In Throne's view, that's the whole point: it's our prevailing culture which makes such incidents happen, and their psychological fallout is largely the same. It's food for thought.
Throne uses a variety of performance skills to examine our views about rape - and to tell her own story - from multiple angles. I caught a dress rehearsal and, while this isn't a review, I can tell you she brings much to the table: self-penned guitar ballads, a black-light dance routine, tongue-in-cheek vignettes. Then, just when I thought she was getting a bit preachy to the choir, Throne introduced a character named Magda, who represents traditional "wisdom" about human sexuality. The sketch is a hoot and makes an important point: Everything you know about sexuality might be wrong. We've thought some pretty dumb stuff over the years.
"Don't worry, this is a fun show," Throne promises. "Not all of it is dark and creepy."
In fact, creepy isn't a word I'd use to describe Collision at all. Thought-provoking? Yes, as it should be.
[The Evergreen State College - SEM II E1105, Collision, 7:30 p.m., Saturday, March 10-Sunday, March 11, free, 7:30 p.m., 2700 Evergreen Parkway NW, Olympia, 360.867.6000]