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Do the topics of sex and gender make you uncomfortable? Thinking beyond dirty jokes and getting laid, do you delve into the actual issues surrounding sex, ranging from rape and harassment to empowerment and feminism? An all-women troop of University of Colorado students will be tackling these complicated, multi-faceted and often problematic issues in their performance of “The Vagina Monologues” on Friday, Feb. 19, and Saturday, Feb. 20.
All of the proceeds, save for the costs of production, will go to iEmpathize, a non-profit organization working to eradicate child exploitation and trafficking in order to empower youth.
Written by Eve Ensler, “The Vagina Monologues” share diverse stories of real women and their female perspectives and experiences. Some subjects are humorous, lamenting the everyday difficulties of body hair and bras, while other matters slap the audience in the face with solemn accounts of rape and sexual assault. To some, these stories may be unpleasantly shocking, but that’s part of the purpose of the show.
As performer Christine Johnson explains, “It’s a good form to get people talking and get people to be aware of the kind of issues women have to face every single day. Just in my personal life, it’s something I am constantly thinking about.”
The women find that once people stop being uncomfortable, they start being more open and attentive. The hope is to create a ripple effect of conversation on topics often seen as inconsequential or inappropriate, bringing them out into the open to not only understand and relate to, but to change the horrible realities women sometimes face.
Men also stand to gain insight if they come to the show with open ears and minds.
“This is a show for everybody,” says performer Nieve Heskin. “And until we can be having conversations that are starting with this show in public spheres, you know in classrooms, in your home, in your work environment, in frat houses, until these conversations can be had elsewhere, this show is so important. It serves as a safe arena to open up conversations and create a space to raise awareness without being lectured at.”
Though “vagina” is in the title, male students at CU are welcome and encouraged to come. In fact, all of the cast members agree that they want to see more men in the crowd so that they can share in this awareness.
A Conversation of Change
Sexual assault and harassment persists on campus despite the university’s efforts to inform students about consent and safe sex at freshman orientation. CU recently conducted its yearly sexual misconduct survey and released the results. There was a 41 percent response rate, and 28 percent of the women who responded to the survey had experienced sexual assault.
“That is a disgusting figure,” Nieve says as she shakes her head. But she’s hopeful that the show will raise awareness and encourage people to have conversations about consent and what sexual assault is, in addition to how it affects people’s lives.
“If you can’t have a conversation about consent with someone you’re about to have sex with, you’re not mature enough to be having sex,” Nieve says.
Although CU provides resources for reporting sexual assault and getting help, 45 percent of the women surveyed know where to go to make a report.
“When that survey came out last week, all of us as a cast were truly outraged,” director Emily Goodman said. “I don’t think CU does enough, unfortunately. I think that in our society, a lot of people try to brush it under the rug, because it’s not a pretty thing to deal with.”
It all comes down to the conversation around sexual assault, and “The Vagina Monologues” aims to bust it wide open. The problem persists, and talking about it is the first step.
“The Vagina Monologues” will be showing at Old Main on Feb. 19 and 20 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are sold out.