Every year during orientation, first-year students are required to watch Speak About It, a play written, directed and acted by Bowdoin students. The performance brings to life the College’s dry sexual misconduct policy, and shows clearly, through skits and monologues, what the legalese “effective consent” really means.
The seven actors in the play on Wednesday recited stories written by former Bowdoin students about personal relationship experiences and acted out a number of scenarios to illuminate what the dating and sex scene can be like at Bowdoin. The play hammers home the message that consent is vital, in every sexual experience, every step of the way.
Speak About It informs every new Bowdoin student of what’s expected of them, explained Meadow Davis, associate director of student affairs. Davis in 2009 worked with three students – Emily Skinner ’08, Linzee Troubh ’09, and Jeremy Burnfeld ’09 – to write Speak About It. They collected confidential submissions from the Bowdoin student body for their material, as they wanted to use material that college students, and Bowdoin students in particular, could easily relate to.
Many of the monologues are poignant, even wrenching, and describe empty hookups, the discovery of sexual orientation, or a boyfriend’s anguish upon learning about his girlfriend’s experience of sexual assault.
While the play contains plenty of humor, and covers wide ground, it doesn’t shy from the hard topic of sexual assault. “It brings up the issues of what’s real and kind of scary and let’s people know it’s a reality,” Davis said.
At the same time, Davis said it’s important that the play gives students tools on how to get consent, be safe and take care of friends. “It gives them language, tools and awareness,” she said.
Following the play, first-year students returned to their dorms and spoke to representatives of Safe Space, a group on campus that supports survivors of sexual assault. Two Safe Space members this year have been assigned to work with every first-year dorm.