Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Rocky: Beyond the Lingerie and Sex Toys

As the cold October chill set in, and the campus tours came to an end, Whitman College was sparked with the resurgence of life: “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” The less clothing, the better – people went all out, eager to participate in the soft-core porn that is the virgin games. But with all the excitement and chatter about sitting in a room full of sexy, very intoxicated, people, I couldn’t help but notice the larger context at play. Rocky did more for the Whitman community than just give us an excuse to shout “slut” in an auditorium: it gave us acceptance. 

Truly, I was floored by the strange beauty present in Cordiner that night. Here was a room full of half-nude people, and no one seemed insecure. Certainly, no one held back. The audience roared for the virgin games participants, cheering on faux orgasms like it was the Superbowl. 

So while the general narrative surrounding Rocky remains true – lace, lingerie and liquor – to ignore the empowering nuances present underscores the entire purpose of the performance. Rocky isn’t just a night to let go of your inhibitions, it’s a night to celebrate bodies, sexuality and expression. 

Rocky features a segment of burlesque, and for the sake of comparison, I’m going to equate burlesque to all that goes on within the Rocky stage (the virgin games, the burlesque show, the play itself). Burlesque, and Rocky for that matter, is as much a political expression as it is a mode of entertainment. As burlesque teacher Bunny D’Vine wrote for Medium, “Breaking free from the ‘respectable woman’ image our patriarch society has chained us to to reinvent what respectable means, to be the living proof high heels, stockings and a mini skirt mean ‘empowered’ just as much as long pants and a suit is all Burlesque stands for.”

Burlesque is an equal parts performance, as it is just as dependent on the audience’s reaction. The shock factor, playing on the taboo, is what makes the show successful. The same is said for Rocky; if it was not an outright refusal of gender norms, a refusal of societal values like modesty, the audience wouldn’t be screaming and gasping, captivated by watching something “wrong” or “inappropriate.” It is this sense of crime that makes Rocky so powerful as a political statement. 

In participating in Rocky, you are successfully defying systems of power the patriarchy forces upon us. This comes into play not only in traditional forms of feminism, but also in terms of body positivity, sex positivity and the celebration of queer bodies. 

Sometimes, Whitman is viewed as a sweet safe haven for those who are “different” (differently abled-bodied, queer, etc. I refuse to use the term minority because Whitman still has egregious reservations when it comes to BIPOC). However, just with all microcosms of our world, the general narratives relevant to popular culture still loom over our campus. Trans bodies are still written off as odd. Body and weight shaming is still rampantly apparent, though perhaps transmitted through under-the-breath whispers rather than shouts. Sex is still that giant elephant in the room that we all skirt around (although the conversation surrounding consent was refreshing and amazing). 

Rocky combated these missteps in spades. While shocking, irreverent and off-putting even, participating in Rocky was and continues to be a massive step toward acceptance on this campus. Rocky’s outrageous performance of gender and sex is what establishes its place on the Whitman campus – it’s a form of political discourse. If the narrative of booze and leather was spun just slightly to include dismantling oppressive systems that we all forgetfully operate under, the cloud of ignorance that follows Whitties around may slowly dissipate. 

While these protests begin small – a group of theatre kids doing drag – larger participation provides forward momentum – the administration making Rocky a cornerstone of the Whitman campus. Though, this is a dangerous tightrope to walk. If more admin became involved in Rocky, perhaps making it available multiple times a year and further advertising it as a Whitman staple, the message I’ve discussed earlier would in theory get more exposure. At the same time, that leaves a lot of room for error in forms of censorship in order to make the performance more profitable, as well as the entire purpose being even more misconstrued than it is now. 

With all forms of political movement, so much lies within the elected leaders and their intentions – meaning, with the right administrator and proper purpose going into it, the expansion of Rocky at Whitman may actually greatly benefit this rejection of patriarchal norms. 

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