"Sex Signals" uses humor to open the door to serious conversations

Published: Sep. 2, 2017 at 10:46 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- Talking about sex with teens can be awkward, and getting college students excited about an educational presentation can be a challenge. Unless it's "Sex Signals."

Hundreds filled an auditorium at the Gordon Dining and Events Center on UW-Madison's campus Saturday night -- some for a course requirement, but many by choice -- for an interactive performance where actors-educators open up an honest dialogue about some of the tough issues facing students on campus.

Educator Jessamyn Fitzpatrick is one of the actors. She opens up with questions for students - everything from what they learned in sex education to questions about how to flirt at a party. The actors play out dating scenarios with audience input, pushing boundaries to create conversation topics.

By the time the conversation takes on a more serious tone for topics like sexual assault, Fitzpatrick says students have laughed and participated -- and are ready to share their thoughts.

"Humor can be used to bring down people's defenses around uncomfortable subject matters, right? Sexual assault being one of them, but a very necessary one for us to talk about as a society and a community if we're going to do anything to stop it," she says.

Freshman Mark Diny came with a group of friends, all of whom said they were required to attend - but Diny says he feels it's important that colleges take measures to get students engaged in these conversations.

"It is an important topic to discuss, even if we might not want to talk about it," said Diny. "But it is a problem, it can be a problem, and it's good to be informed about how we can solve and deal with situations surrounding this."

Catharsis Productions puts on the performance at campuses around the country - the organization says more than 1 million students have already seen one of more than 3,600 "Sex Signals" performances in its 18-year run.

Copyright: WMTV 2017