Wednesday, April 27, 2011


About a week ago I finished reading the play Extremities by William Mastrosimone.  I was shocked to check out the copyright just now and find that it was written in 1982.  It is still extremely (pun not really intended) poignant.

The play is about rape.  Plain and simple.

The first ten to fifteen minutes of the piece plays out a scene in which a woman who has been going about her daily routine in her bathrobe and PJs is confronted by a man who walks into her house and asks for his friend, "Joe".  When she asks him to leave, he refuses, and attempts to rape her.

The scene is graphic and difficult to read.  I can't imagine watching it without feeling nauseous.

Marjorie, the woman, is eventually able to get Raul, the rapist, away from her by spraying him in the face with wasp spray.

She eventually turns the tables on Raul, by tying him up and putting him in the fireplace (it's not lit).

When her roommates come home (two other women), she tells the what happened.  Both want to call the police at first, but Raul has already told Marjorie when she threatens this that she has no case because he didn't actually rape her.  He's pretty vulgar about explaining why there's nothing she can do.  And he makes it clear that after he's released from the police station, he'll come after her again.

The roommates are sympathetic to Marjorie at first, but then begin to turn on her as she becomes more and more desperate to deal with Raul.  She suggests burying him in the yard (alive) so that he can feel what it was like when he smothered her with a pillow.  She suggests chopping him up, burning him.... and as she becomes more extreme and Raul becomes more pleading and pathetic (his face is now swelling from the wasp poison and he is evidently blinded), the roommates turn on Marjorie.

While she is out of the room, Raul tells one roommate that Marjorie is sleeping with her boyfriend (a lie).  He knows everyone's name - he's been going through their mail for weeks.

He manages to gain sympathy from both roommates - they end up getting him medicine at the drugstore, feeding him and giving him a drink.

In the end, Patricia, the roommate who arrives home last gives this monologue to Marjorie, her supposed friend:

"You parade around this house like it was a centerfold.  A man enters the room and you go all statuesque.  How you cross your leg at just the right moment - how you butterfly through a room - You're not happy until youve got every man in the room begging for it.  And this one did.  And now you want to fix him.  One man pays for every letch and wolf whistle.  You go through men like most women go through kleenex, and then you complain about the advances you provoke.  The man is blind.  Look at what you've done to yourself, to us, to him.  Can't you look in blind eyes?  Let's see what else you've done!"

After her "friend" explains that she's almost been RAPED, this is the speech that happens in the end.  Marjorie is blamed because of how she dresses.  Blamed because the other women are jealous of her.  Blamed because, according to some, she was "asking for it."

As an audience member who witnessed the scene at the beginning of the play, this twisted speech is horrifying to us.  And yet...  there are still articles like this one.  If you haven't clicked on it and read it yet, it's about the gang rape of an eleven year old girl (that's a FIFTH or SIXTH grader, ladies and gentlemen).  It was written in March of THIS YEAR.  In the article, it states: 

"Residents in the neighborhood where the abandoned trailer stands — known as the Quarters — said the victim had been visiting various friends there for months. They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said."

And about the rapists:

"These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives."

 This article reminds me of an article printed in our local newspaper a few years ago when a cyclist was killed on the road - hit by a driver who got (get this) a wreckless driving charge and $250 fine for hitting him with her car.  He was riding on the right side of the road, as near to the shoulder as possible (no issues with the law here, my husband rides his bike to work every single day, we know the state law on bicycling well).  It was day time.  The woman driving the car said she "just didn't see him."  In the article describing the tragedy, it was stated that "the cyclist had a driver's license, but chose to ride his bike."


You're saying that this might be the cyclist's fault because he chose to ride his bike?!?!?  Insanity.  He had a license...but he chose to ride his bike.  The cycling community cried outrage and wrote to the paper and the police department (it was claimed as a quote from the police report) and eventually the police issued an apology for the statement - but really?  I find it insane that anyone would blame the victim.  The guy was killed by an automobile.  I'm not saying we should rake the girl over the coals.  Things happen.  There ARE such things as accidents, but let's not make this the fault of the guy who had no choice in leaving his wife and kids without a husband and father because he decided to get some exercise and cut down on his carbon footprint.

It's the same with this rape case.  A little girl was raped.  By many boys and men.  Young and old.  In an old trailer.  She's eleven.  So because she dressed like she was twenty and wore make-up maybe it's her fault?

It's like my husband said when he we talked about this issue, "If a woman is walking down the street naked, that is not an excuse for a man to pull her into the bushes and rape her."  Rape is never okay.  It is never acceptable.  It is never the victim's fault.  NEVER.

The other thing about this play that struck me was the fact that Raul was right.  Marjorie couldn't count on justice for the man who attempted to rape her (edited for my younger readers):

RAUL.  You there?  My eyes burn!  I need a doctor!  You there?  I'm hurt bad!  Help me!  You there?  Where are you?  (MARJORIE dials the phone.)  Call the cops, ...!  You can't prove a ... thing!  Why don't you ... answer me!  ...  I'll kill ya!  Get the cops!  They gotta let me go!  Your Honor, I goes out looking for work cause I got laid off the car wash and I sees this farmhouse and goes t'ask if there was any work cause I got three babies t'feed, and this crazy lady goes and sprays me with this stuff, Your Honor.  Go on, Marjorie, go down the road and stop a truck on the highway and tell 'em get the cops.  You got no bruises, no witnesses, no ...  You got nothing, ...  This is a civilized ... country, ...!  You don't go around tyin' up innocent people, Marjorie!

So what can Marjorie do?
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