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Friday, Sep 29, 2023

Show Encourages Men to Work Out Sexual Aggression on Women

Author: Samantha Stevens

I am disappointed in Middlebury College. I am disappointed in Middlebury College Activities Board (MCAB). I am annoyed at William Cane [stage and pen name for Michael Christian], author of the international best seller "The Art of Kissing." Lest anyone misunderstand the purpose of the protest that occurred on Saturday night, I want to make it very clear that I, personally, was not there to protest the concept of kissing as a substitute for sexual activity, I was not there to protest sexual exploration. I was there to protest, what I believed, to be a heterosexist, sexist, homophobic, racist display that Middlebury College provided funding for.

To perpetuate heterosexism is to consistently operate under the assumption that everyone is heterosexual. I believe that it was clear from the display last night that we were operating, from the very start, in a heterosexist space. There were no same sex couples on stage. It would have been virtually impossible to accommodate them. Cane would have had to change his entire routine. His act feeds off of the exclusive interplay between men and women. If a same sex couple had attempted to participate, he would have had no vocabulary with which to accommodate them and their presence would have been reduced to a joke for the heterosexual masses. I did not expect to see a same sex couple on stage. This show was about the art of kissing for straight people. I was under no illusions. What I did hope for, at the very least, was that when addressing the audience, he would not operate under the same heterosexist ideology upon which his demonstration was based. But, Cane addressed his questions to a straight audience, making no mention of the fact that (very simply) girls do not always kiss boys. Boys do not always kiss girls. When Kristen Gray '02 answered his question: "Girls, how do you like boys to kiss you?" with the statement, "I do not like boys to kiss me," Cane failed to understand the implications of her comment and pressed the audience for 'serious responses.' I was not looking for validation from this man, but I was not prepared for such blatant homophobia.

Cane went on to prove himself unabashedly sexist. The role playing was divisive and played off of cultural stereotypes. The role playing consistently put men in positions of authority while relegating women to subservient roles — considering the myriad of possibilities attached to their new boyfriend's 'money-making college degrees.' This is not over-analysis at the expense of fun. These are the very same jokes and little role playing games that we have been fighting against for centuries. Endorsements of these kinds of messages cannot be tolerated. They function in society to underscore sexist/oppressive thinking. And, I want to make it very clear that Cane's advocating of violence against women as a sexual tool (i.e. "I was spanked as a child .. .when I got my first girlfriend at age 13, she bent over and I reached my hand up as high as I could to give her the hardest spank that I could") is disgusting and scary! Sexual play is one thing, but this was not about that. This display was, largely, about encouraging straight men to work out their sexual aggression on the female body and then receive applause for it because it is all part of the 'art of kissing.'

I was actually laughed at by a fellow female student when I suggested that the performance was, in addition to being sexist and heterosexist, also racist. She could not see it. What I saw on that stage was a white straight man in a position of power (evidenced by him being the only person to control the microphone, among other things), standing on a stage and defining the "Asian kiss" as the sexually repressed tentative, 'make sure no one is looking' kiss. We have a serious problem here. The student with whom I shared my opinion referred me to HBO's Def Comedy Jam, citing the jokes about black people that comics appearing on that program often make as evidence of a certain "get out of jail free card" that Cane should be granted. Not a chance! I have little to say in response to her comments aside from the fact that that is, in no way, the same thing. A white man standing on stage should not be stereotyping ethnic groups to sell his book. When he asked everyone to thank the Eskimos for their "nose kisses," I realized the full force of the stupidity I was really dealing with

Middlebury College has shelled out money to import more heterosexist, homophobic, and racist rhetoric into Vermont. Women, members of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transexual (LGBT) community, people of color, people with disabilities, etc, get enough of that pointed at them every day on this campus. We are not afforded the privilege of ignorance where everything can be in good fun. People who have historically been silenced and whose presence had been systematically erased from public view cannot sit back and watch while 'institutions of higher learning' continue to pay lip service to inclusion, but promote exclusion.