Spreading the Love and using performances to prevent rape

Aurora Murphy

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)


    While rape is ordinarily considered an invariable reality, Sharon Marcus argues that it is instead a cultural script, which casts women as victims and men as perpetrators. In imagining rape as a script, it may seem pertinent to suggest that the arts and performance have a role in its prevention. Performances can provide a forum to publicly reflect upon and analyse personal traits and interactions, and foster alternative representations of cultural norms. In this paper, I investigate how my own performances, named Spreading the Love, worked as a strategy in primary rape prevention. These performances drew upon Nicola Gavey's notion that rape is not simply a distinct, easily recognisable act, but is a range of behaviours sanctioned by normative notions of gender and heterosex. My prevention framework was determined through Moira Carmody's sexual ethics framework, which maintains that programmes must stimulate a discourse of desire, rather than focusing only on risk aversion. Spreading the Love asked local people to share their views on love and desire, enquiring into their lived experiences and inviting them to reflect upon their behaviour and the way they negotiate desires in relationships. While rape prevention projects often present one dominant health and educational message, these performances looked for a multiplicity of observations and diverse understandings of ethics in relationships. Spreading the Love did not warn people about the dangers of sex, but instead mobilised the general public to share and reflect upon ethical approaches in negotiating desire. It documented and circulated the ways in which people disrupt the script of rape by challenging normative notions of gender and investigating popular understandings of respect in relationships.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)133-143
    Number of pages11
    JournalResearch in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - May 2013


    • ethics
    • feminism
    • performance
    • rape prevention


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