Last Thursday, over 200 students came to the Kulas Auditorium to watch “Sex Signals,” a performance brought to campus to raise awareness and inspire audiences to create social change in the fight against domestic violence. The performance involved two actors, Deanna Myers and Chris Sanders, and used improvisation and audience interaction as a means of showing the underlying issues of domestic violence, particularly in dating.
Three seniors in the Arrupe Scholars Program were asked last fall to choose a social issue for their culminating senior project and devise a plan to create a policy change involving the issue. Seniors Sean Whalen, Lisa Reichert and Samantha Hoch were inspired to work with domestic violence. After Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority successfully fundraised to bring “Sex Signals” to campus last year, the students decided to do the same.
“It took months to plan for ‘Sex Signals’ to come to campus. We spent all class time working on how we would fundraise the money and get support from the JCU community to come to the performance,” he said. “In class, we learned how to effectively plan for an advocacy project such as this. Learning how to fight for a change in a social policy ultimately helped us bring ‘Sex Signals’ to JCU.”
As “Sex Signals” cost $4,200, the Arrupe students fundraised to pay for the group. “With the gracious help from all the departments that sponsored us, we were able to raise just enough for them to come,” Whalen explained. The Arrupe Scholars Program, Program of Applied Ethics, the University Counseling Center and the Office of Student Activities all donated money as sponsors of the event.
As an interactive approach to discussing domestic violence, “Sex Signals” used humor as a technique. Sanders said, “Humor builds equity and puts people at ease, especially when talking about such difficult topics as sexual violence.”
Myers agreed. “Humor is such a great way to break down those barriers that people often put up and get them to talk,” she said.
While there was an entertainment side to their performance, Sanders and Myers both understand acting with sensitivity is a key element to their performance.
“It is important to note that the humor used in ‘Sex Signals’ is never at the expense of survivors or the issue at large. Humor is used strategically to emphasize important points,” Sanders said.
Among the students in the audience was junior James Kertcher. He said, “I really enjoyed the performance. The message I got from Deanna and Chris’s performance was that consent is very loosely defined, and that is why it is so important to ask and make sure both parties are willing. They gave a clear message while keeping it fun and interactive the whole time.”
Junior Mary Gleason, another member of the audience, agreed and said she learned a lot. “You need to be mindful of the other person and what they’re thinking in a situation, because everybody can get different signals from different things,” she said.