True Story: I Was In A Date Rape Play

True Story: I Was In A Date Rape Play

It’s freshman year of college, and Janie and Dave are best friends. They do everything together – hang out in their dorm rooms, go to the dining hall, walk around campus. Their friendship is great, until one night, they decide to head to a “fraternity party.”

At the party, Janie and Dave drink alcohol. When they decide to leave, Dave walks Janie back to her dorm room – to be sure she gets there ok, of course. Once inside, Dave confesses that he loves Janie. He starts to kiss her and gets on top of her. Janie is confused, saying that she’s not sure about this…

I’m sure you can fill in the rest.

This is the plot of a play in which I once starred, called quite aptly “The Date Rape Play.” It was the summer before my junior year of college. I was cast in the play — and, crucially, paid $200 — in order to perform it for groups of incoming freshman, who Needed to Know About Date Rape. The play was written by an adult trying desperately to be “down” with the way the kids talked and acted. Sample lines included: “Have you heard about the date rape drug, Rohypnol?,” “I don’t know, I’m worried people will be drinking alcohol there,” and “You got the look girl, work it!” My fellow theater kid friends and I thought it was the best thing we’d ever seen.

The weeks of preparation for the play flew by in a whirlwind of daily line-memorizing sessions and laughter-filled rehearsals. The only glitch was that the dude playing my rapist was a total weirdo -= he was at least 30 years old and the kind of guy who tells you that he “DJs sometimes.” But other than that it was a blast, and soon it was opening night.

“Opening night” might be an overstatement, since the performance took place in the afternoon, and we were only doing it twice, for two unlucky orientation groups. But it still felt like kind of a big deal; I remember that I was nervous, and that I borrowed my roommate’s Forever 21 tank top to use as my costume. From behind the curtain, I peeked out to see hordes of barely-18-year-olds waiting to watch me have a fictional sexual nightmare. And then it began.

It went off without a hitch, with the exception of one crucial scene: the rape. My (fake) rapist, who, as I’ve said before, was 30 and really weird, picked up on the fact that most of the freshmen were taking this entirely as a joke. He seemed to want to get in on it, and so he played the rape for laughs, gyrating much more than necessary and generally mugging. I felt somewhat violated as I did my best “I’m being raped” impression.

When it was over, we had a party. We called it the “Date Rape Party,” but not because it included actual date rape — just because that’s what it was, the party after the Date Rape Play. I think there may even be a Facebook album with that very name. I wore a strapless dress over jeans, because that was my signature look at the time. It was a great party.

After that we mostly forgot about it, except to occasionally call out a line to each other. I didn’t think much about the impact the play may have had (or more likely NOT had) on the freshmen who saw it. But I’ve thought about it recently, especially in light of the #JadaPose incident, and I’m wondering what the fuck was really going on there.

The play was written by a professor’s wife, and performed every August; I remember seeing it myself when I was a freshman. As far as I can remember, it was the only discussion of sexual assault that took place during those orientation sessions. It was relatively easy to produce — just call up the unemployed theater majors and offer them money — and required almost no delving into uncomfortable topics. The plot was mostly just this questionable, not overtly violent rape which then leads to the male student being expelled. There’s also a scene with a Health Center Counselor (named Windy — seriously), so that the freshman know about the Health Center. And that’s mostly it.

Obviously, sexual assault on college campuses is a huge problem, and one that is largely ignored. According to a recent article in Time magazine, 41 percent of schools that receive public funding for Title IX had not conducted a single sexual assault investigation in the last five years. Essentially, those schools are saying that there have not been any instances of sexual assault on their campuses — and that seems highly unlikely. Impossible even.

I don’t know the stats for sexual assault at my alma mater, nor do I know if they are still performing that damn play. But I do think that it was a piss-poor excuse for education about sexual assault. As horrifying incidents pile up, it’s time to address the way we talk about them with students. It really can’t be a laughing matter, nor is it helpful to speak about it in such bland terms. Don’t get me wrong, I had an amazing time performing “The Date Rape Play.” It’s one of my top 10 stories to tell at parties (I’m really fun at a party, guys). But when I review the experience as a 28-year-old woman with knowledge about the scary state of sexual assault in this country, it seems a little less like the best joke I’ve ever gotten to tell and a little more like a giant problem.

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