Staging the campus anti-rape movement : representations of sexual assault and rape culture in U.S. theatre and performance




Baglereau, Laura Elizabeth

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This dissertation looks at representations of rape, its aftermath, and rape culture in performance(s) within the campus anti-rape movement in the United States. I analyze three types of performance: protests, performance art, and interactive prevention plays. I argue for the importance of studying such representations, in part, because sexual assault—and the perception of sexual assault—is, and has been, a continuing problem in U.S. culture. Throughout the dissertation my analysis not only considers how and in what ways these representations understand concepts of rape culture but also the current paradigm of rape in which they were created and performed. I draw conclusions about the ways these representations affect the national imaginary about sexual assault, rape culture, victim-survivors, and rapists. As such, this work contributes to the field of rape studies, sociology, and performance studies. By situating this dissertation among and between these fields I demonstrate how a consideration of representations of sexual assault can contribute to our understanding of rape, the sociology of sexual violence, and social movements.

The introduction provides a brief overview of the anti-rape movement. I argue for a turn away from the wave metaphor to categorize different periods of the feminist movement in order to better track the dis/continuities within the anti-rape movement since the late 1960s. Chapter one examines campus anti-rape protests as performances. I use a performance studies lens to read the ways these protests represent the movement’s demands for change from university administration, federal policy, and rape culture. The next chapter focuses on performance art by individual artists and artist-survivors as acts to raise awareness as well as process their experiences with sexual assault. The third chapter analyzes interactive prevention plays for the ways they provide undergraduate students with opportunities to develop empathy for victim-survivors, rehearse bystander intervention, and practice verbally negotiating consent. I argue these prevention plays point to a shift in the anti-rape movement from a fear-based rhetoric to a pro-consent discourse.


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