Posted March 19, 2015 by Mara Dahlgren 

Big Ten New Theatre Consortium’s ‘Good Kids’ Addresses Sexual Violence

theater play review stock art Good Kids, a Big Ten Theatre Consortium commissioned production, is currently touring institutions in the Big Ten conference to start, provoke, and/or continue the conversation about sexual assault and sexual violence—a hot topic on most college and university campuses right now. The production came to Indiana University for two weeks this February, and I was able to attend one of the four showings. 

The production is based on the rape case involving two high school football players and a teenage girl from Steubenville, Ohio, that made headlines in 2012. This case went national (while so many others are rarely discussed) because of social media use. The boys who committed the rape documented it—they sent photos to friends, who then shared on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. It all went viral and then disappeared as they tried to cover up the proof. A blogger was able to uncover and write about the rape, which led to the trial of the teenage athletes, who were found guilty and sentenced to juvenile detention.

Good Kids uses this story as a base to discuss rape—how it happens, where it happens, who’s doing it, and who should be held responsible for it. For many people in this country, rape only happens in a dark alley with strangers. It doesn’t happen in small town America. It doesn’t happen with acquaintances. It doesn’t happen to or isn’t perpetrated by “good kids.”

The play creates a realistic understanding of the American teenage experience by addressing hook-up culture, the use of social media as a way to connect and be connected with others, and the underage drinking experience. The script is notable because it doesn’t create a simplistic representation of teenage life. It explores masculinity, the power and prestige of high school athletes and athletics (football especially), and social groups and cliques that create behavioral norms. It questions our perceptions of right and wrong, suggesting that morality is something contextual with varying factors rather than black and white.

I don’t say any of this to excuse the perpetrators or the students who failed to speak up when they realized their classmates’ actions were wrong. I think it’s important to understand these and similar situations as complex. Sexual assault and sexual violence are not as simplistic as media outlets would like to have them be. They weren’t simplistic in the Steubenville case, and they certainly aren’t on college campuses.

After watching Good Kids, I am left with two questions:

  • What’s a “good kid?” 
  • Why do “good kids” rape? 

I don’t think these are easy questions to answer, but they are the questions we need to be asking ourselves when we talk about rape/sexual violence. Who gets dubbed a good kid and who doesn’t? How often are the good kids the star athletes? Do sports create unrealistic beliefs about power? Why do boys and men think they are entitled to sex? Why are women’s bodies viewed as objects? Do kids and college students know what consent means?

We can have rules and procedures outlined by Title IX, state and federal laws, and bloggers sharing the information to keep it from being swept under the rug—but until we address the underlying factors involved in sexual violence, not much will change. Sure, we will see more reports being made. Institutions will be in compliance with federal law. But the number of reports won’t decrease until cultural changes are made, and those can’t start until you starting asking yourself and your community two questions: What’s a good kid, and why do good kids rape?


Mara Dahlgren

Mara Dahlgren is the Assistant Director, Activities & Events at Indiana University–Bloomington.

Mara serves as an advisor for the Indiana Memorial Union Board, helping student leaders and student employees plan events on campus. She completed her undergraduate education at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and completed her master’s in Higher Education and Student Affairs at Indiana University–Bloomington, where she gained experience in the operations side of the college union as the building manager.


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