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SLUT: The Play Performance Was a Call to Action for Consent Education

Last night, SLUT: The Play, a powerful play about the realities of sexual assault in high schools, was performed for thousands at the Warner Theatre in Washington DC.

In attendance was Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), House of Cards creator Beau Willimon, many advocates working to end sexual violence, and hundreds of local high school and college students. The multi-media play, which incorporates elements of social media and the lived experiences of real American teenagers,was performed by high school students and was followed by a panel discussion.

SLUT was written by Katie Cappiello and created by The Arts Effect All-Girl Theater Company in collaboration with New York City High school students after dozens of conversations and interviews with real teenagers about rape culture in American high schools. SLUT follows the journey of Joey Del Marco, a sixteen-year-old girl who is sexually assaulted by three friends during a night out. Through Joey's narrative, with help from the girls in her community, the audience witnesses the damaging impact of "slut culture" and the importance for victims of sexual assault to be both heard and believed. SLUT and accompanying #StopSlut workshops have toured to great acclaim in locales as diverse as LA, NYC, and Fargo, North Dakota reaching repeatedly sold-out audiences of thousands.

"Theater teaches empathy," said Winnifred Bonjean-Alpart, who has played the character of Joey for the past two years. Bonjean-Alpart spoke of the importance of addressing rape culture openly and comprehensively before students reach college.

"When it comes to activism, when it comes to really making a change, storytelling- the act of sharing voices- are by far the most effective means," Cappiello said at the performance.

Although SLUT includes a national call-to-action, cast member Mary Miller told the audience one step each of them could take in combating rape culture. "If someone in your school says that she was raped," said Miller, "believe her, and do it openly." Miller and the entire cast emphasized that all genders are affected by rape and rape culture.

SLUT and the #StopSlut social movement is produced by The Arts Effect and The Feminist Press with the goal of raising awareness and starting a critical conversation surrounding consent education for young people and creating a culture that does not victim blame or slut shame. SLUT has been made into a book by Cappiello & Meg McInerney that serves as a play and guidebook for combating sexism and sexual violence, and has been published by the Feminist Press.

Following the panel discussion the cast made a call-to-action to demand consent education in all public schools. Attendees were asked to demand action from principals, school boards, and state and federal representatives to make comprehensive sex and consent education a priority.

The Feminist Majority Foundation's Feminist Campus program created a Sex-Postivity Toolkit to aid activists in creating a culture of consent on university campuses, where many of the cast of SLUT are bound for next year. Sex-positivity is the belief that consensual sexual expression is both healthy and important in contributing to a safe and inclusive campus climate, and is grounded in comprehensive sex education, exploring and deconstructing gender norms, and promoting body-positivity and self-love.

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Copyright Ms. Magazine 2009