Where do you draw the line? Who decides?

ADAM:  Being a girl, growing up, is that what it’s like?  Do you have to deal with—I don’t know what words to use—do you have to deal with men being … creepy all the time?

 

The following is a scene from my full-length play DISCLOSURE, originally produced by Those Women Productions at PianoFight in San Francisco.

DISCLOSURE is available for production. Contact the author for rights: clashof[at]gmail.com.

(C) All rights reserved. The author is a member of The Dramatists Guild.Disclosure, Rehearsal photo with Gabriel Kenney & Kelly Rinehart

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Adam, a 21-year-old college student, has had an affair with his graduate teaching assistant, Janice. She broke off the relationship because of ethical doubts and from fear of being disciplined for sexual misconduct. Now Adam comes to Janice to discuss his term paper. Shortly before this scene, Adam learns that his mother was abused by her uncle when she was a child.

 

(JANICE is sitting in her professor’s office, grading papers.  ADAM knocks tentatively on the half-open door.  JANICE looks up.  When she sees ADAM, she sighs miserably and shakes her head.)

 

ADAM

I just want to talk to you about my final paper.  Like any other student.  Okay?

 

JANICE

Yeah.  Okay.

 

(ADAM enters and sits down.  He pulls books and notes out of his backpack.)

 

ADAM

This passage here.  I want to use this in my paper, but it’s bothering me.

(He opens a book and begins to read aloud.)

“One day in 1867, a farm hand from the village of Lapcourt, who was somewhat simple-minded, employed here then there … was turned into authorities.  At the border of a field, he had obtained a few caresses from a little girl, just as he had done before and seen done by the village urchins round about him …”

 

JANICE

We talked about that in the discussion section last week.

 

ADAM

I wasn’t there.

 

JANICE

I noticed.

 

ADAM

It’s hard to be in class when … I mean, it’s hard for me to see you and, you know, not—

 

JANICE

I won’t mark your grade down for attendance if that’s what you’re worried about.

 

ADAM

I’m not.  Worried about my grade.  Although, I thought you said you were going to treat me like any other student.  You did say that.

 

JANICE

If you had pneumonia or something, or a family emergency, I wouldn’t mark you down.

 

ADAM

Whatever.  I really don’t give a shit.

 

JANICE

Sorry.

 

ADAM

Me too.

(Pause.)

My paper?

 

JANICE

Yes.  Sorry.

(Pause.)

You were thinking …?

 

ADAM

About how Proust and Foucault represent childhood.  And also, Foucault uses the phrase “timeless gestures”—I thought maybe I could make a connection to Proust’s search for lost time.

 

JANICE

Interesting.  That’s good.

 

ADAM

Thanks.

 

JANICE

So what’s bothering you?  About the passage.

 

ADAM

Foucault says: “What is the significant thing about this story?  The pettiness of it all …” And he calls it an “everyday occurrence” and an “inconsequential pleasure.”  And then he says, basically, that it was ridiculous for the authorities to make a big fuss, to turn this “everyday occurrence” into a matter for policemen and judges and doctors.

 

JANICE

In the overall context of his argument, Foucault is explaining how the discourse we use to discuss sexuality has changed over the past three centuries./ He suggests—

 

ADAM

But is it true?

 

JANICE

Is what true?

 

ADAM

That child abuse is an everyday occurrence?  Okay, I know that Foucault wouldn’t call it “child abuse.”  I mean, the things that happen between the peasant girl and the farm hand, he calls them “timeless gestures” and “bucolic pleasures.”  But, whatever you call it, does it happen all the time?

 

JANICE

It happens a lot.

 

ADAM

And does that make it petty and inconsequential?

 

JANICE

Not necessarily.  It’s a controversial passage.

 

ADAM

But, an “everyday occurrence”?  Is that what it’s really like?

 

JANICE

I’m not sure what you’re asking me.

 

ADAM

Being a girl, growing up, is that what it’s like?  Do you have to deal with—I don’t know what words to use—do you have to deal with men being … creepy all the time?

 

JANICE

“Creepy”?

 

ADAM

Yeah.

 

JANICE

Not all the time.  But, yes, there are a lot of “creepy” men in the world.

 

ADAM

And only a few of them get arrested or put in jail, and not every woman spends years and years in therapy dealing with her childhood traumas … so, is it actually “inconsequential,” like Foucault says? I mean, if it’s just the way things are, then … ?

 

JANICE

Well, there are differences in degree.

 

ADAM

But who draws the line?  Who decides?

 

JANICE

That’s a good question.  You should explore that in your essay.

 

ADAM

Oh, crap.  You sound just like a teacher.

 

JANICE

Well, I am a teacher.  That’s the problem, isn’t it?  Anyway, you said you wanted to talk to me about your paper.  Like any other student.  So I’m trying to talk like any other teacher.

 

ADAM

Okay, but you can tell me what you think, can’t you?  As a teacher.  As a person.  Is that not allowed, to have a real conversation about a real subject?

 

JANICE

Of course.  Sorry.

 

ADAM

Thanks.  So.  Let’s say a person, as a child, had an experience with an adult involving sexual contact … If you say she was “abused” or “molested,” then it’s a crime.  It’s a terrible violation.  But you might use different words, like “seduced” or “fooled around” or “obtained a few caresses,” and then what?  Does it change the experience?

 

JANICE

It changes the significance of the experience.

 

ADAM

For whom?  For the child?

 

(Pause.)

 

JANICE

That’s a good question.

 

ADAM

When she was a child, my mother was abused by her uncle.  She told me about it just recently.

 

JANICE

Oh.

 

ADAM

And she thinks our relationship, yours and mine, is abusive.  Was.  Was abusive.

 

JANICE

What?

 

ADAM

An abuse of power.

 

JANICE

Your mother thinks that—about me?

 

ADAM

She’s the one who reported us to the dean.

 

JANICE

Me.  Reported me.  I doubt your name was mentioned.  In any case, you are a tuition-paying undergraduate, by definition innocent.

 

ADAM

What do you mean?

 

JANICE

Just that you won’t—wouldn’t—wouldn’t have gotten in any trouble for having sex with me.  You weren’t running any risk.

 

ADAM

I wasn’t trying to put you in a bad situation.

 

JANICE

But did you think about it?  Did you think about the consequences?

 

ADAM

I thought about, you know, pregnancy, STDs, condoms—

 

JANICE

Points for that.  But you also read the student handbook, you knew the rules about “amorous relationships” and “sexual misconduct.”  You knew right from the beginning.

 

ADAM

But I didn’t think about it.  Not that way.

 

JANICE

How did you think about it?

 

ADAM

I don’t know.  Just.  You know.

 

JANICE

No, I don’t know.  I don’t have any fucking idea.  So why don’t you tell me?

 

ADAM

Well, it actually sounded kind of sexy:  “Sexual misconduct … Amorous relationships.”

 

JANICE

Sexual harassment.  Violation of ethical standards.  Does that sound sexy?

 

ADAM

No.  That just sounds creepy.

 

(Pause.)

 

JANICE

When you came to class wearing those damned pajamas—did you have it all planned?

 

ADAM

Did I have what planned?

 

JANICE

Getting me to go to your room with you.  I mean, you had a condom in your pocket—

 

ADAM

I always have a condom in my pocket.  Like most guys.  I thought that was a good thing, being responsible—

 

JANICE

Were you planning to have sex with me?

 

ADAM

Planning?  No. … I was hoping, I guess.  I mean, yeah, I thought about having sex with you.  But it was just a fantasy.  Not a plan.  I didn’t think anything would happen really.

 

JANICE

But you tried.

 

ADAM

You can’t blame a guy for trying, can you?

 

JANICE

That’s open to debate.

 

ADAM

I didn’t force you to do anything against your will, did I?

 

JANICE

No.

 

ADAM

I’m not a … creep.  I’m not a … rapist.

 

JANICE

No.  No.  I didn’t mean that.

 

(Silence.)

 

ADAM

So, now what?

 

JANICE

So now I’m a teacher, you’re a student.

 

ADAM

Until I graduate?

 

JANICE

Not only until then, no.

 

ADAM

Forever.  Even when I’m not a student?  Just put it behind us?

 

JANICE

Yes.

 

ADAM

Is that really what you want?  It’s not just what you’re saying because of not wanting to, you know, violate standards of ethical conduct, or whatever?

 

JANICE

Yes, it’s what I want.

(Pause.)

I like you a lot, Adam.

 

ADAM

But you don’t love me.

 

JANICE

I’m sorry.

 

ADAM

Right.

 

(ADAM stands, gathers up his things, and turns towards the door.)

 

JANICE

Are you okay?

 

(ADAM shrugs without turning back to look at JANICE.)

 

ADAM

See you in class.

 

(He exits.)

 

END SCENE

 

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