When people ask about Good Kids, I sometimes say “It’s loosely based on Steubenville” (a high profile sexual assault case in 2012 where a pair of football players in Ohio sexually assaulted an unconscious sixteen-year-old woman and put videos of the incident on social media). However, Naomi Iizuka’s play, and a great deal of the conversation following the real Steubenville, zooms the focus out from the event itself to better understand the context surrounding such events: What are the attitudes and mindsets that can create a circumstance where young men participate in sexual violence? How does the media frame these incidents? How do people talk about the perpetrators? How do people discuss the survivors? What ideology and messaging are reinforced by the way parents, peers, and police respond?
These are the questions we must ask in order to understand rape culture. In her recent book, Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture, Roxane Gay explains that she “was interested in the discourse around rape culture because the phrase is used often, but rarely do people engage with what it actually means. What is it like to live in a culture where it often seems like it is a question of when, not if, a woman will encounter some kind of sexual violence? What is it like for men to navigate this culture whether they are indifferent to rape culture or working to end it or contributing to it in ways significant or small?”
It has always been urgent and necessary for us to be examining these questions, but only recently can we see the impact of this examination starting to take hold in our society. We may finally be at a critical moment, a tipping point, where a new generation of youth commit themselves to understanding and dismantling rape culture and replacing it with a culture of consent.
In choosing Good Kids as part of the 2018/19 YP season, that is the exact challenge the Young Professionals Company has embraced. They have chosen this show to better understand their role in challenging and dismantling rape culture, to be better allies to survivors, and to use their considerable skills and energy to educate and invite others to take up this mantle. I could not be more proud of the YP Company’s values, ethics, and heart, and it is a true privilege to accompany them on this journey.