Don’t get your ‘Sex Signals’ mixed up

Danny Montesdeoca, Production Staff

People tend to avoid mixing comedy and rape culture in the same pot, – especially when trying to combat it – but that is exactly what Catharsis Productions aims to do with their improv show, “Sex Signals.”

Catharsis Productions was founded in 2000 by Dr. Gail Stern and Christian Murphy, who seek “to change the world by producing innovative, accessible and research-supported programming that challenges oppressive attitudes and shifts behavior,” according to their website.

Anne Dufault and Anthony Dinicola, two educators with Catharsis Productions, brought the companies unorthodox approach in addressing sexual assault to NEIU in what was a hilarious, punny, engaging and informative improv show called “Sex Signals.”

“I have a passion for combating rape culture, promoting consent and community-building,” Dinicola said.

Dufault’s approach to her work is to inspire everyone to be a part of social change.

The two educators/actors got right to it in a scenario where Dinicola played a college upperclassmen, and Dufault a college freshman at the first big party of the semester. They let the audience control the personas of their characters. The audience decided Dinicola’s character should go the nice guy route when he was to approach Dufault’s nerdy character. The pick-up line that Dinicola’s character used was eagerly provided by the audience, “How do you like your eggs in the morning? Fertilized?”

The next sketch encouraged even more engagement from the audience. Apart from another pick-up line, they also had the audience hold up a piece of paper that had “Stop” written on it in bold letters. The audience held up the sign whenever they felt that Dinicola’s character was being creepy, rude, pushy or any combination of the three. The sketch began, and immediately a couple of people in the audience raised their signs. By the end of the sketch, nearly the entire audience had their signs high in the air.

The sketches were hilarious with brilliant references to pop culture like, “These are not the vaginas you are looking for,” “Let’s go to my bedroom so The Force can awaken,” and “I may be Gryffindor, but I like to Slytherin.”

After the laughs, the mood became serious.

Dufault and Dinicola addressed the horrible realities of rape culture and sexual assault. The duo challenged the audience to carefully consider the sketches and how disturbing the scenarios actually were, even though they were situations that the entire audience agreed happen on a daily basis.

According to a 2013 report by the American College Health Association, 5 percent of women on college campuses experience rape or attempted rape every year and 25 percent of college women have been sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Catharsis Productions and their team seek to empower people through knowledge and to promote consent by challenging their audience into tackling rape culture head on.

As Dinicola said: “Consent is a win-win! If you ask, and she says yes, then yay! You’re having sex tonight! If you ask, and she says no, then yay! You’re not a rapist!”