Editorial: “Sex Signals” sent the wrong signals

Anne Buie

Editor’s Note: The following editorial reflects the views of the majority of the editorial board.

The editorial board of The Appalachian sat among many student leaders Sunday to watch a sex and consent education program called “Sex Signals.” The show claims to blend “a unique combination of improvisational comedy, education and audience participation,” and provide a “provocative, in-your-face look at issues surrounding dating, sex and date rape on college campuses.”

The program ran about an hour and a half long, although we were only able to stay for 45 minutes due to a full staff meeting.

But during those 45 minutes, we failed to grasp how humor was supposed to encourage positive discourse about rape, and we most certainly were unable to see the educational value in the performance.

We didn’t feel like we were given the opportunity to discuss or examine the issues in a constructive manner. Instead, we were encouraged to laugh at inappropriate situations.

We felt as if the program embodied unfair gender stereotypes and used crude and vulgar humor.

Rape is not funny, and we were insulted by the program’s method of using comedy to educate students about sexual consent.

The program was recommended to freshmen as part of Welcome Week activities.

“We wanted to particularly target freshmen and first-year students about what it means to be an Appalachian State Mountaineer, and given some challenges last year as it relates to sexual assault, sexual misconduct…and the question of consent…We felt like this was one message we could send to tie into the Welcome Week activities,” Dean of Students J.J. Brown said.

However, we felt as if this wasn’t the proper way to introduce freshmen to such sensitive topics, especially because the actors were quick to disclaim that the audience had probably already “seen something like this before” during uncomfortable scenes in the performance.

These actors normalized obscene parts of the program when really the performers should have been explaining how these situations shouldn’t be considered normal.

But what if that was a freshman’s first look at what could actually constitue rape? Was humor really the best way to communicate this delicate topic?

There’s a time to be serious and there’s a time to joke. Educating students about rape is not the time for humor.

We thought the play was intended to teach us to recognize a bad situation. Instead, the performers encouraged us to laugh at an inappropriate situation.

Although the administration tried to put a positive spin on a negative situation, we feel as if it was done inappropriately.

Twenty-five percent of college women are victims of rape, according to a research report by the U.S. Department of Justice.

If we go by that statistic, that means there were victims in the audience who had to endure laughter about a situation that isn’t funny to them.

We doubt they were laughing, and we weren’t either.