200 Days in the Life of the College

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hormones 101: Please discuss

By Allison Eck ’12

Let’s talk about sex — “the good, the bad and the ugly,” as John Mallory and Annie Rix put it at the start of Sex Signals, an improvisational audience-interaction program dealing with sexuality on campus. The 90-minute two-person play, a creation of Catharsis Productions, is a staple of Hamilton’s first-year orientation program and addresses sexual tension in ways that are anything but modest. “They don’t pull any punches with the language,” notes Rob Evans ’14. “I like that they respect us enough to expect a mature reaction.”

From the awkward pick-up line to the unwelcome full-body attack (“an ‘Animal Planet’ gone wrong”), Sex Signals exposes students to common scenarios and stereotypes regarding sexuality. It’s candid and witty. The presenters use such euphemisms as “screw,” “nail” and “pound” without hesitation. But they do so only to illuminate the many misconceptions about sex and relationships that abound on college campuses.

And if students begin to feel uneasy with where the skit is headed, they may hold up “STOP” signs that have been placed beneath their seats.

But the tendency to avoid talking out loud about sex may be part of the problem. “Why don’t we always ask for consent?” ask Mallory and Rix. “It’s awkward. It’s assumed. And condoms are not the sexiest thing there is.” But if students talk about these issues, they learn to confront them. They can better pick up on social cues and reduce the risk of rape. There are many kinds of relationships, the program demonstrates, and not everyone is having sex all the time.

“A lot of talks like these tend to demonize the man,” Evans says. “But this program was really original.” Gradually, the audience begins to acknowledge that sex is surrounded by complexity. And a mature sexual attitude, Mallory and Rix say, is ultimately all about communication.