REHEARSAL discussion questions from our resident expert Dr. Julia
Courtney Hope Therond’s short film “Rehearsal” is engrossing and uncomfortable. In depicting the gray areas around issues of consent, the film provides a great entry point into conversations about this topic.
Consider a couple of specific scenes from the film:
In the very beginning, Jared tells the actors they are they to block the scenes to make sure everything looks right and “so you guys are comfortable.” Did it seem like he really cared about the actors’ comfort? Did he pause and ask if they had questions? Did he wait for a response?
How about when the photographer reaches out and grabs Ana’s face without warning? Or when James spins her on top of him, also without warning? Did Ana look comfortable with either of these developments? She says she “wasn’t expecting it.” Did they stop and apologize? Explain what they wanted and why they were positioning her that way? Ask if it was okay with her? Wait for her to answer?
Or what about when Jared says, “Now he’s going to take off your shirt.” Ana appears to think they will just simulate this but no, he really wants her shirt off. Even after she expresses discomfort, noting, “I’m not wearing a bra.” Does she look comfortable? Does that fact that James takes his shirt off make things even? When she asks if her breasts will be showing, the photographer says, “yeah, but only really quick and it’s artistic.” Is he listening to her? Does he imply she would be stifling his artistic sensibilities if she objects?
There are no obvious villains in this film. The men pay lip service to “consent” as they plow through the scene. Ana reluctantly goes along with the rehearsal. She doesn’t ever say “no” or “stop.” But she’s unenthusiastic, isibly uncomfortable, and she ends up feeling badly.
How might things have gone differently?
“Consent” means an agreement to do something. When we talk about consent today, it is generally in the context of an agreement between partners to engage in sexual activity. This film is particularly interesting because it pushes the boundaries of consent around sexual activity though neither party is actually engaging in sexual activity. They are pantomiming the actions, rehearsing for a (future) day’s work. And yet — even though it’s a simulation — the actress is clearly uncomfortable, and the men in the room remain largely unaware of her discomfort.
Both Planned Parenthood, https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/relationships/sexual-consent, and RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), https://www.rainn.org/articles/what-is-consent have excellent discussions about consent and what it looks like and what it doesn’t look like for anyone wishing to read more. Planned Parenthood uses an easy acronym to remember the key points: FRIES. Consent must be:
Freely given: it can’t be issued when asleep, under the influence of alcohol or drugs or under coercion
Reversible: either party can change their mind, at any time and for any reason; it doesn’t matter if you’ve done it before
Informed: it can only happen if you have the full story
Enthusiastic: no one should be pressured into doing something they don’t want to do. Consent is best expressed verbally and positively: a definite yes, instead of the absence of a no
Specific: saying yes to one type of sexual activity (like kissing) isn’t saying yes to other types of sexual activity (like having sex)
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