Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Logo of The Middlebury Campus
Friday, Sep 29, 2023

It Wasn't Cold Feet Couple Explains Why They Backed Out of Show

Author: [no author name found]

By Dana Allen

I want to talk about spanking. I'm pretty new to it all and I have to say I really don't know that much about it. I mean, I got the occasional punitive tap from my parents when I was younger, but I have never really been on the giving end until this weekend when I spanked my girlfriend. Keeping in mind that this is a family friendly paper, I'll explain a little more.

I was asked, or rather commanded, to spank my girlfriend as part of Middlebury College Activities Board's (MCAB) "Art of Kissing" show.

If you went to this show, you didn't actually see me on stage. My partner in this endeavor and I agreed that we weren't going to go up there and essentially objectify ourselves in the name of entertainment that was based on the perpetuation of harmful gender stereotypes.

Since then, I've talked to a number of people, most of whom have been in agreement with our decision. However there are those who didn't understand why we decided not to do it. This letter is for them.

Their argument basically runs along the lines that the show is just that — a performance for the amusement of an audience.

As such it shouldn't be taken too seriously and those of us who are making a big deal out of it are being over-reactionary.

Keep in mind that feeding Christians to lions was also a show done for the amusement of audiences. Granted, no one was being fed to wild animals in McCullough this weekend, but the demonstration was equally as intolerable.

The problem is this: masculine and feminine gender roles and the stereotypes associated with them can be extremely oppressive, especially to women.

In a show where the women are openly asked to portray themselves as prostitutes and then become wanton tramps who get spanked by the presumed authority figure for the amusement of the masses, we are participating in a cycle of violence and degradation.

These serious issues are being reduced to playthings for a comedian and his audience, further reducing their stature in the social consciousness.

I know it's supposed to be funny. It's not. Violence against anyone is not funny. Degrading anyone's position in the world is not humorous. What could have been a funny, silly show about kissing was instead turned into a twisted caricature of male-female relationships that subconsciously served to reinforce the socialized power structures that oppress women.

I'm not saying that this comedian is the source of all women's oppression, but rather that he, his show and entertainment forms like it are all strands in a web that collectively serve to bind feminine freedom.

We all need to realize that it is small cumulative effects like these that continue to add up and create a culture in which women do not have the same privileges enjoyed by men.

So I backed out of the performance because I felt all these things.

How would I have felt had it been me on stage asked to objectify myself and get spanked? I would have felt humiliated and stupid, about the same feelings that I had when I was asked to do the spanking.

I'm not about to go and make someone I care about, or even someone I don't know, feel that way on stage, even if it is "only a performance."

I think that we can come up with better forms of entertainment than that.

Virginia Snodgrass

Maybe I'm one of those rare people who feel that they've never really been objectified. Maybe I just never noticed it before. In any case, Saturday night changed all of this. I was actually kind of excited, I wore tight jeans and a nice sweater and, to my boyfriend's dismay, eye makeup. I defended the show all week from the feminists because my friend organized it and for her sake I wanted it to go well. Not to mention that I hadn't bothered to check out this guy's Webssite. But, hey, "The Art of Kissing" sounds harmless, right? There's nothing offensive about kissing. In fact, I really like kissing. So, I signed up. I signed three of my friends up … and then there was the rehearsal.

"OK guys, there are just two rules to this. Don't talk during the rehearsal, it'll slow things down. Don't talk during the show, it'll distract the audience." Those were the words of Michael Christian, who ran the show. Sort of a shock. I thought it would be a little more laid back. I thought we would have as much fun as the audience, but we weren't even supposed to laugh. And then I guess I also thought this was going to be just kissing. I didn't think it was going to be all about role-playing. And not just any role, but roles that reinforced the most archaic and offensive gender roles. The older, sketchy teacher with the female student who uses her body to get the grade. The bad boy and the bad girl. In my opinion this was one of the worst because, while all the guys got to pretend to be James Dean, we, the 'bad girls,' got to be prostitutes. Because all bad girls are prostitutes. Because all prostitutes are bad girls. "Go ahead boys, give her a dollar," Christian said. I'll give YOU a dollar. Or the finger.

And then there was the car scene, where I was to straddle my partner while he pretended to spank me. When Christian said that, I looked up and then at my partner who had a confused look on his face. I told him that if he spanked me I would beat him up.

The amazing thing to me was that these role-play scenes went as far as to make racial slurs. For example, the Asian kiss involved standing as still as an Asian person would because all Asian people are shy and sexually repressed. Or my personal favorite, the South Pacific Kiss, where we were required to squat down and groom each other like gorillas and kiss violently. Clearly people from the South Pacific are violent gorillas.

That was the last kiss and the last straw. Before that my partner and I had joked about joining Feminist Action at Middlebury's protest once we were on stage. But after being humiliated and objectified for the purpose of turning some guy on (to the point that one of the participants was supposed to hold an umbrella so that it was completely erect) and then getting him to hit on me, my partner and I decided not to participate. On a side note, contrary to the rumors spreading around campus, Eve Coronado, who organized the event, had no problem with our not participating. In fact, she apologized that the rehearsal had offended us and continues to support our decision.We left McCullough Saturday night and explained to everyone we ran into why we decided not to participate in "The Art of Kissing." I thought I would tell you too. In case you didn't see the show. Or in case you just didn't really think about it.

I guess I didn't think anything of it either and thus assumed it was going to be harmless. But the implications of the role playing and the dialogues and Christian's text are serious and should not be taken so lightly. Fortunately, it was just a show. This wasn't me at a party walking towards some guy slowly and touching his chest and biting his ear so that he would like me. If I were lucky, he would interpret my actions to mean that I really wanted him, making him think that sex was next on the agenda. I do believe that this is how rape happens. And I am positive that the way women dress (sexy), and walk (sexy) and thus tease, are reasons that attackers say that the survivor was asking for it.

I know that not everyone feels the same way about the show, in fact there were probably people who found it hilarious and think that I am crazy and overreacted when I decided not to go through with it. But maybe we should all be a little more critical about the way kissing, sex and relationships are presented to us. Maybe we should question stereotypes more often.