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Sex Signals Uses Comedy to Confront Sexual Assault

Staff Sgt. Thomas Doscher, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing

Actors Kyle Terry and Amber Kelly perform Sex Signals, a two-person comedy improv show focusing on sexual assault prevention, at the Rock Theater March 19. Sex Signals uses comedy and audience interaction to address the danger of sexual assaults and stereotyping., Senior Airman Courtney Richardson

386th Air Expeditionary Wing, 03.22.2009

Sexual assaults are no laughing matter, but laughter can be used to help prevent them.

Sex Signals, a two-person comedic improv show, performed for members of the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing March 19 and 21.

The show, performed by civilian actors Kyle Terry and Amber Kelly, seeks to improve communications between people and prevent sexual assaults from occurring while combating male and female stereotypes.

"The purpose is essentially to arm the audience with tools to better communicate with each other about the subject matter," said Catharsis Productions actor Kyle Terry. "We want to give them a clear and more inclusive definition of rape than I think they have in their heads, that being the stereotypical rapist jumping out of the bushes to something a bit more realistic and acceptable and also a bit more thought-provoking."

The 90-minute show featured Terry and Kelly acting out various social scenarios Airmen may find themselves in at home or deployed. The show encouraged audience participation, giving everyone in the audience a small stop sign and instructing them to hold them up when they felt the situation had gone too far.

Each actor in the program has at least 40 hours of training in sexual assault programs. Originally designed for college students, the program was adapted to relate to a military audience, Kelly said.

"The fact is we throw out some jargon to try and have a good time and look legit, but people are people across the board whether they're military or civilian," she said. "Relationships are between people, not branches."

Some Airmen who saw the show said it surprised them.

"I thought it was going to be another boring Air Force production," said Senior Airman Kevin Wolff, 386th Expeditionary Communications Squadron. "I thought it was a really good show. It tried to bring up many points that people are too nervous or don't want to talk about."

Terry said being outsiders actually allows them to better interact with the audience.

"I think where we have a good in is that we are civilians, and we don't have rank," he said. "So that whole status and hierarchy thing doesn't come into play with us. They can be a little more honest with us. It's much more of a one-on-one conversation than I think they're used to having on the subject."

"It was good that they brought someone from the outside to do this," agreed Wolff. "It wasn't just A1C This and Senior Airman That acting something out. They brought in real actors, which really helped. They had a way of making the show interesting in a funny way."

Kelly said humor allows them to get their message across.

"I do think we've created more thought, planted seeds and created conversation," she said. "We had one guy come up to us in the parking lot after a show, and he said, 'I was racking my brain trying to figure out how you were going to make this fun, but you did it.'"

The program's success, however, is measured against an impossible criteria, Terry said.

"When rapes stop," he said. "That's the only measurable way, impossible as it is. We remain hopeful."

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