When I first heard there was going to be a comedy set on rape at this year’s Zoofest called Asking for It, my reaction was a mix of horror and curiosity. If done well, I thought, at best it would be interesting. But if done poorly it would be abhorrent, and further the pervasive rhetoric that rape culture stands on.
Adrienne Truscott’s set opened with her dancing through the audience naked from the bottom down, in an intimately sized room. The audience from the beginning was clearly put on edge by the proximity of the naked women, but I think that was her point. She tried to ease the crowd with banter, and a couple outrageous rape jokes meant to poke fun at the assumptions that are made about rapists and survivors. It fell short, making some people, myself especially, more uncomfortable. I think it would have been much more effective is she focussed more on ridiculing the perpetrators and the culture that supports them.
After interviewing Truscott earlier that week I guess I had expected a lot more from the set. The intent was there to satirize a prevailing issue in gendered violence, that was clear. And Truscott also stayed clear of any victim blaming, which was also, more or less, clear. But the satire could have, and actually really should have for the sake of effectively shifting the focus of rape culture, been taken a few notches up.
I had gone wanting to see how a comedy set could be executed well on this topic, but instead I feel like what was left was a very shallow attempt at address the issue in a comedic way. Her costume, I think, was a good example where she should have satirized more. She was dressed as “the ideal rape victim,” meaning wearing revealing clothing, drinking, and being flirty, as a way to point to the assumptions made about women who are raped. But other than dressing this way, it was never brought in to her set very directly, which rendered it more or less superfluous.