I saw a play last night.
A really important, difficult, bold, amazing show at the Geffen Playhouse.
It is called “Actually,” written by Anna Ziegler.
It deals with the issue of consent, date rape, drinking, and sexual conduct on campuses in the United States. It touches what people call the gray areas that lie in between all of the above.
The actors, the director, the dramaturge, all made extremely courageous choices. The bar was pushed very, very high.
I have to say, as the mother of three girls, this play made me uncomfortable, even nauseous, and just underlined what is crystal clear to me, that actually, there are absolutely no gray areas.
If someone does not want you to do something, if they pull away, if they are hesitant, if they aren’t sure, then that is, no.
The word “no” does not need to be said.
It is enough that it is in the air.
Many will disagree with me.
Many will say it's complicated. It's unclear.
They will say men are sexually driven.
I will answer with conviction, then we must teach our boys to control their sex drive.
We must teach our boys that they can control themselves, and that their sex drive is not what should be driving them. Rather their head, their heart and their soul.
It is our job to teach, preach, and demand our boys learn how to do that.
My dear friend who is the dramaturge of this play made a comment in the post show discussion, that there is a lack of words to describe when bad things happen to women.
All, or most misconduct of the sexual kind is supposed to come under the umbrella of rape.
Rape is a big hard word.
As I sit today thinking about what she said, I think about the fact that when someone does something to you that you don't want him or her to do, it is hard.
It is big deal.
Rape has the connotation of terrible brutal violence.
Being pulled in the bushes and beaten up, that isn’t always the case.
The stories I have heard behind the walls of the juvenile detention facilities are of girls who are raped of their rights, girls who are raped of an education, girls who are raped on so many different levels, that I don't even know where to start. It is subtle, sometimes small but never the less, a violation.
After a Relationships 101 class where we talked about choices and consequences, a young girl in Juvie looked at me with big, green eyes.
“I never wanted to go into that store. I never wanted to hold the gun.
He made me. He said that I have to.”
I try desperately to teach these girls that they have a choice that they need to speak up. They need to say no.
They need to carve their own destiny.
But could she really say no?
Some say it's not rape, if the girl didn't say no.
People will say (about this girl) that it is absolutely her fault if she went into the store and committed the crime.
A young African-American man portrays the predator in the play I saw.
I have no mercy for him, although he is charming.
My heart felt for him as his story unfolded, and I had empathy for him.
I was also very worried for him.
But still, he committed a crime.
We need to teach our boys better.
“He made me do it,” the girl in Juvie said.
I want to say nobody makes you do anything, but I don't.
I listen instead.
“He told me that if I don't do it, he’d never talk to me again.
He said he’d leave me there. I was wasted, Ms. Really wasted.”
I'm trying to wrap my head around what I'm supposed to say.
She talks about being wasted. In the play that takes place in an ivy league school alcohol is key to what happened the eve of the rape.
The gang rapes the girls I work with, not sexually but in a million other ways.
They pressure them to stay in the gang.
They make them do things that they don't want to do.
They threaten them and they threaten their family.
I'm outraged when a woman in the audience last night tells the actor playing the female victim, “Well, you said yes and yes and yes and only after that you said no.”
As if after you say yes you are not allowed to change your mind.
In her tone you could hear “Well, you kind of asked for it.”
I wanted to get up from my seat and knock some sense into this woman.
So what if she said no, after she said yes.
Once she said no, it does not matter what happened or what she said before.
I look at this girl sitting in front of me incarcerated in the LA Probation lock-up facility for a crime she says her boyfriend made her do.
I ask her, “What would've happened if you had not gone into that store with him?” I ask.
“I wouldn't be here (detained) today,” she laughs.
I ask again. “No, I'm serious. I want to understand what he would have done to you, what would have happened to you if you said no to him.”
“Well,” she takes a long pause.
“Number one,” she says, “He would've beaten the crap out of me.
Number two, he had a gun. He might've shot me.
Number three, he would've left me there.
I had no idea where we were. I was very high and I would have never found my way home.”
In both stories being wasted was key to the progression of events.
I am quiet.
What do I say to this? Could she have said no?
Would he have killed her?
Do I dare say anything? I wasn't there.
I have no right to even suggest what her behavior might have been.
And then she looks at me.
“You know, Ms., I was so afraid I couldn't think straight. You feel me?”
“Yes, I do,” I say.
“But now, here in camp,” she continues,
“I have a lot of time to think and every night I lie in bed and I think what could I have done? I could have taken my high ass and run the fuck away.
I could have figured out how to get home.
When he gave me the gun?
I should have put a fucking bullet through his nuts…”
I laugh out loud.
“Seriously,” she says to me.
“Okay, but you didn't do any of that,” I say.
“You can’t waist time on what you should have done you need to think about…”
She interrupts me.
“Well that’s God’s lesson to me. Ms.
I should have just let him kick my ass he did it anyway later.
I should not have gone into that store, not because I give a shit about the store, that dude was an ass and he deserved to have his money taken.”
I use all of my inner strength to stay quiet and not comment on that.
“I should have said no, ‘cause, like you said in class today Ms., I gave him (the boyfriend) the power and he ain’t worth my power.”
“I heard you, Ms.
I want you to know I heard you.
I am gonna keep my power!”
I pray that the message of this play is heard.
That even if a girl is quirky and a little annoying, she needs to be respected.
She is innocent.
Even if the young man is charming and this might ruin his entire future, he is guilty.
We need to teach our children to keep their power and protect it, but more important we must teach that you may never take someone else’s power, ever.
And Actually, I will say what is old news, but for some crazy reason still necessary to say loud and clear –
You do not need to say the word NO for it to be called rape.