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Presenters Kyle Terry and Sharyon Culberson demonstrate an exaggeration of gender expectations as part of SexSignals informative comedy, April 17. The SexSignals class allows Marines to learn about sexual assault prevention in a more open forum than the rigid structure Marine Corps classes follow.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Sarah Cherry

Sex Signals teaches prevention through comedy

30 Apr 2013 | Lance Cpl. Sarah Cherry

Marines gathered for an interactive comedy on sexual assault called Sex Signals put on by per­formers with the Chicago-based Catharsis Produc­tions at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort’s movie theater, April 17.

So how did sexual as­sault and comedy get thrown together?

“The two owners [of Ca­tharsis Production], Gail Stern and Christian Mur­phy, wrote the program a while back based off an interaction they had in a comedy competition,” said Kyle Terry, one of the two presenters for the show. “He was an actor, and she was training po­lice officers on respect.”

They thought it would be beneficial to write a show that spoke on the male perspective and the female perspective of sexual assault, explained Terry. They performed at a couple schools, and grew in numbers to a total of over 30 in the produc­tion today.

The growing production travels to colleges and mil­itary installations, teach­ing about sexual assault, harassment, intervening in sketchy situations, and all the gray areas. Instead of struggling against heavy eyelids through slide after slide, the audi­ence engaged openly with the actors.

“Most of the time that we get classes, it’s very regimented,” said Staff Sgt. Dexter C. Williford. “The Marine Corps policy constitutes that we teach in a certain fashion.

“These people have a little bit more freedom. They joke, they play, and they engage the audience. It lowers their guard so Marines can participate more and be more candid than if they were talking to a Marine Corps repre­sentative.”

During the production the two actors asked the audience what they thought of when they heard the terms “lady-like” and “manly,” and then acted out a situation where extreme stereo­types meet, to the inciting laughter throughout the audience. They played out male and female roles as men and women in the audience wanted to be seen. They also played out a young man telling his story of being accused of rape on a talk show, constantly asking the audience what they thought, what was right and wrong. As the actor talked through the inci­dent, the audience clearly defined each of the char­acter’s actions as right or wrong.

“It was tough [when I first started], because it’s a loaded issue,” said Terry. “It’s a very per­sonal issue, so finding the balance between being humorous and still deliv­ering the proper informa­tion in a way that doesn’t seem belittling or dismis­sive was difficult.”

But the results of the program are worth the challenge of injecting comedy into such a dark, difficult topic.

“I think our biggest feedback is that people enjoy that they’re being engaged, as opposed to just being talked to or yelled at,” said Terry. “The fact that we’re hav­ing a conversation with them helps them observe a little bit more, because they know we’re listening to them and not just giv­ing them information.”