Sensitive Guys by MJ Kaufman
“It’s about hearing someone.”
We are living through history. There has never been a more critical time to discuss the issues that Sensitive Guys by MJ Kaufman unabashedly sheds light on. The Me Too movement has sparked a heated debate that many politicians and people are choosing to ignore or sweep under the rug. Women are at the door, clamoring to have their stories heard and validated. When all of those experiences are being shared, it begs an important question: How often do we actually hear what the people in our lives are trying to communicate to us? Do we sit down to have a serious conversation with others with the intent of listening to their side or do we just want to share our own point of view and be told we’re correct?
Whether or not we care to admit it, sexual assault is pervasive in our society. It is a heated issue that requires us to actually sit down with one another as people in order to find a solution that works. This point is illustrated perfectly in Sensitive Guys through the formation of two separate groups with spoken confidentiality agreements. The men agree that they will not judge one another or report on one another (pending the severity of the problem, of course) and the women have a similar accord—no judgement, but we’ll help one another report if the want to do so exists. These two groups of people sit down and discuss the issue of sexual assault, but only amongst themselves. When the issue is brought up between two characters when they’re alone together, both are too afraid to confront the issue head on. This is a keen reflection of how the issue of sexual assault is being addressed in the States today.
Truth be told, it’s hard not to find a single incomprehensible moment throughout the whole play. Survivors in Kaufman’s play are talked out of their right to justice for the sake of not disrupting the status quo. Women are told to drop out of classes in order to not harm the futures of their perpetrators. It’s a story we’ve heard in the news one too many times. It’s a story that many of us have experienced one too many times.
I could sit here and write out each and every experience I’ve run into in my own life, or I could encourage you to sit down with the people in your life and start that terrifying discussion. Speaking from recent experience, you’ll be surprised what people don’t realize is problematic. Were we all unafraid enough to engage in authentic, difficult conversations, we could begin the important work of negating rape culture and eliminating sexual assault. It will require the courage to speak our truths (on both sides of the argument) and the courage to hear what others are trying to say. If we want to solve the problem, we have to be willing to understand one another, even when it feels impossible.
Sensitive Guys does a great job of showing what happens when we are afraid to talk to one another. In the Men’s Peer Education Group, their tradition of self-reporting turns into the act of smothering the issue and refusing to listen when somebody finally tries to broach the subject. Again, this is an acute comment on society as a whole. We’re all so used to smothering the issue of sexual assault that there are times when we can’t even talk to members of our own gender about it. Smothering the issue allows us to ignore our own feelings in regard to our actions or the actions of others. But we have to accept our feelings and take care of them. It’s poignantly pointed out in the play that we should not take care of one another’s feelings in such a fragile situation. The issue of sexual assault is not about keeping our truths from one another. It’s about confronting acts of barbarism head on and agreeing on what is and is not socially acceptable.
Directed by Clare Thompson and filled with a cast of powerful actors unafraid to deliver a raw, authentic performance, Sensitive Guys by MJ Kaufman is an important play to see. Go. Experience. Start a discussion. Be prepared to listen.
You can catch Sensitive Guys at Laughing Pig Theatre on June 22, 22, 28, and 29 at 7:30pm at the Mesa Arts Center in the Acting Studio. The Acting Studio is located up the big lit stairs on the second floor of Studios South. You can purchase tickets here.
Alaina is a writer who lives in Phoenix. She is a proud feminist and likes to spend her spare time volunteering with women’s rights organizations, reading voraciously, and spending time with her loved ones.