Vagina Project sheds light on sexuality, rape culture

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This year’s Vagina Project was heavy with themes of body acceptance, rape culture, sexuality and cupcakes that looked like vaginas.

The project began Wednesday and ended Friday. The events were held in the North Plaza and the Eccles Fine Arts Center. A handful of departments across campus participated in the events, including dance, theater, art and psychology. 

An art reception and dance improvisation performance was held Wednesday night. The choreography was titled “Moving in Our Own Way” and was performed in a small space with a single bassist.

The dancers said the performance meant something unique to each of them.

Haleigh Caldwell, a sophomore physical therapist assistant major from Riverside, California, said the project was a representation of her own body image.

“When I was doing something where I wrapped my arms (around myself), I was kind of uncomfortable with my body, so I wanted to hide it,” she said. “When I had my arms wide, I was kind of breaking free of that.”

Caylie Taylor, a sophomore integrated studies major from Canyon Lake, California, said watching the dance performance was interesting, and it was something she had never seen before.

Research presentations were given Thursday by Dixie State University faculty and students. The research dealt with rape myths, body image acceptance and sexual satisfaction.

A theatrical performance titled “Mirrors” depicted the types of behavior and emotions people exhibit while looking at themselves in the mirror, and there was also a dance solo by Sara Gallo, an assistant professor of dance.

Dannelle Larsen-Rife, social and behavioral sciences department chair and an assistant professor of psychology, said the Vagina Project is influenced heavily from The Vagina Monologues. However, instead of having outside monologues read, Larsen-Rife emphasized the importance of having monologues from the community submitted. The monologues were read Thursday and Friday, and many were reflective of sexual struggles.

You never know what people are struggling with, said Hiu Yu Tang, a senior psychology major from Hong Kong.

“I’ve never felt like that before, like struggled with sexually that much and had it really affect my life,” Tang said. “I never really thought my sexually could be that difficult.” 

In one of the monologues, the writer explained his or her experience with misinformation about sexuality.

“I’ve had to figure this out through my own trial and a lot of error,” it said.

Informative exercises and workshops were held Friday, and Christine Chew, an assistant professor of psychology, said she participated in the Vagina Project because she has a natural alliance with the treatment of women’s issues and depression.

“A lot of times, [women] feel alienated because they feel like they’re not allowed to talk about their experiences, and this kind of work helps us to start working on our shame,” she said. 

The overall goal of the Vagina Project is to shed light on women’s issues in southern Utah specifically and open up dialogue for safe discussion.

John Pugliese, an assistant professor of psychology, said the DSU community is on the right track.

“It only takes a little band of people on the right trajectory to open up conversation and make it safe for everyone,” he said.