PW Talks With Creator of “Dan Rottenberg Is Thinking About R@ping You”

Perhaps the strongest reaction to Broad Street Review editor Dan Rottenberg’s recent rape-victim-blaming editorial is in the theater community. Since BSR is one of the few places to get a show reviewed in this town, many theater and dance folks naturally read the publication regularly.

One such theater artist, 32-year-old Cara Blouin, was so outraged that she is staging theatrical response. She says the goal behind her production, Dan Rottenberg Is Thinking About R@ping You: An Educational Presentation, is to put Rottenberg’s ideas under the lights to be laughed at—exactly where they belong, she says. Here, we talk with Blouin about her new piece.

PW: How did you first come across the inspiration for your new theater piece?

Blouin: Actually, it’s kind of great because a lot of women in the theater community read it and shrugged and said, ‘Well, here’s this again, something we’re used to hearing’ but so many of our male friends were posting and reposting saying, ‘This is outrageous and we don’t want to be depicted this way.’ So it was men in the theater community who were outraged that he was saying they were animals and couldn’t control themselves. We were galvanized by the fact that our male friends were some great allies. The thing that bothers me most about the article is that it’s being called ‘controversial’ as if it’s something we should all debate. If people say it was terrible, yes. But to say it’s controversial opens up a whole other argument because to me there’s no controversy.

How did it come to you interpret his column as a theater presentation?

The tone of it is so paternalistic and condescending that it reminded me of those assemblies we had in school where the fireman would come and tell you not to plug too many things in the outlet. It sounded like someone talking to children. The article itself is inherently theatrical, the way it’s worded, ‘Earth to liberated women!’ Immediately I imagined it as a presentation from him, offering his advice as a five-step program to avoiding sexual assault. This is going to be a funny, 20-to-25-minute show but what’s really going to happen is everyone’s going to go upstairs and get a drink and say, ‘What can we do about this?’ and ‘What does this actually mean?’

Tell us a bit about the show.

I’ve taken the text and expanded it into a satirical interpretation, because just reading the text of the article didn’t get it across as theatrical as I wanted to. I’m literally right now typing the last few lines. There’s a huge outpouring of support that’s like, ‘How can I get into this,’ ‘How can I help?’ I’m sort of afraid because I feel like a moment is going to happen when someone calls me out and I’m waiting for that shoe to drop.

What do you mean by that?

Somebody’s going to say I should take sexual assault more seriously. Rape and sexual assault are definitely not funny. However, I think the only thing that makes me feel better when I feel terrified by reading something like [Rottenberg’s article] or living in an environment created by something like that is to hear a room of people laughing about it. You can argue and argue and all someone has to do is say one quick condescending thing and your argument falls away. But if all these people are laughing at it, it puts it in the place where it belongs. I think every woman has been in the position of trying to explain why this kind of thing is not OK and knows how frustrating it is to try to explain it. Satire gets at it much more closely.

Dan Rottenberg Is Thinking About R@ping You: An Educational Presentation screens at 10 p.m. this Saturday, June 25, at Plays & Players, with drinks and informal discussion to follow afterward at Quig’s Pub.

7 Responses to “ PW Talks With Creator of “Dan Rottenberg Is Thinking About R@ping You” ”

  1. Deborah Lisa Cohen says:

    As for the BSR being the only place in town where theater companies can get their plays reviewed, that’s true because the BSR has about 100 freelance theater reviewers (some of whom fancy themselves critics), most of them first-timers with zero experience who do not (or could not) write for any other publication. The BSR is the only “publication” in town that reviews the same minor, off-off-off-off Broad Street play at least five times. Who needs this much repetition?

    Dan Rottenberg is right on the money when he suggests that women take certain measures to protect themselves in public. To suggest that they not go around half naked or in skimpy shorts and then walk through a risque, crime-ridden neighborhood seems very natural to me. Philadelphia is mostly a patchwork of poverty-ridden, rough and tumble neighborhoods with rather scuzzy people. These scuzzy men will always treat scantily clad women with hoots and “dog calls.”

  2. Lucas says:

    Dan Rottenberg is right on the money when he sits couched in his male privilege and tells women they’re the ones who are wrong, and “Boys will be boys”, all the while showing great contempt for women as well as men.

    It may indeed be a “natural” impulse for the “male animal” to assault and hurt. Murder and racism are also natural impulses. That is no excuse at all to allow them to keep happening in society.

    You’re doing yourself a disservice if you shut your mind down and take the superficial message without critically analyzing the deeper implications of Rottenberg’s claims.

  3. Tanglethis says:

    You’re missing several of the points, Deborah.
    One is already described above in the post: when you put the onus on women to keep themselves from getting assaulted or harassed, you paint a pretty negative picture of men – like men are animals or savage children with violence in their nature. This sucks for men who aren’t that way, of course, but it also sucks because men who are that way get a lot of validation from a culture that makes that assumption. (c.f. the case of the 11-year old girl who was gang-raped in TX, after which the media found it pertinent to discuss how her clothing may have persuaded a number of grown men to act like beasts.)

    But another salient point is that a woman may be subject to “dog calls,” assault, or rape regardless of how she is dressed. There is no statistical correlation between what a woman wears and her likelihood of being raped. Actually, while we’re speaking of statistics, a woman is mostly like to be sexually assaulted in her own home or the home of someone known to her, by someone known to her. But no one is writing articles discouraging women from having homes and families. It’s just so much easier to pretend that wearing the right thing or doing the right thing will protect you, and that women who are attacked must have been doing something wrong. It’s a form of magical thinking that denies the reality while doing a disservice to men and women alike.

  4. Deborah Lisa Cohen says:

    To Lucas and TangleThis: Poppycock!

  5. Kelly D says:

    To Deborah Lisa Cohen: Excellent! Your last post is precisely the kind of satire Cara Blouin was referring to. Hahahahahaha ha ha hahaha!!!!

  6. [...] Plays and Players Theater. It featured a Rottenberg character leading women through what Blouin calls a “five-step program to avoid sexual assault.” Proceeds from ticket sales benefited [...]

  7. [...] or plays that dealt with people of faith. It was an odd request coming from the creator of “Dan Rottenberg is Thinking About R@ping You.” In that 2011 production, she took a feminist stand against blaming rape victims.  The show [...]

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