socially [un]acceptable is a formidable call to arms, to sweep away our perverse societal understanding of consent.
Trigger warning for sexual assault survivors
Writer, producer and performer Laura Desmond steps the audience through a series of vignettes, detailing her own experiences of sexual assault, and her internal monologue in the lead up to and fallout of each. The theatre work is mirrored by an exhibition of anonymous portraits of other survivors, reflecting the normalisation of rape culture.
The stories begin with Desmond's move into the residential colleges at university in Adelaide. Where the O-Week coordinators said "don't drink too much," and in the same breath, "here's your rape whistle." Where the chants and drinking songs favoured by students describe women as inanimate objects, there to be fucked. Where you can wake up in your own bed with your uninvited neighbour's hand down your pants, and he behaves like that's the most natural thing in the world.
This show doesn't try to shock the audience, or to moralise. It's just a straight-up, honest recount of what happened. But it's also about the lies we tell ourselves about these experiences. About what we should have done differently, what we owed him, how much more forcefully we should have said no, how we should give him the benefit of the doubt. Because it's easier to blame yourself than to admit you’ve been raped.
I rate this show five stars, not because of its technical quality as a theatre work, but because it is important. Because it is raw and painful and visceral. Because Desmond is visibly reliving her experiences of assault every single night. Because she believes that doing so can help change what is and is not socially acceptable. And because that is power.