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Rape Culture and The Duet

Eleanor Sikorski

We’ve all seen it.

The dance duet.

One woman and one man (sometimes there are two men, but for now let’s keep it simple).

Both are distraught (their flailing limbs reveal their anxiety), the woman is especially distraught. You recognise, from the particular angles of her head, that this is a love duet. The man is reaching out to touch her, she is reluctant to enter his embrace. She seems unsure of whether she wants to be there or not (she throws herself away from him and pauses, then she throws herself towards him and pauses again, never really touching him). He is less confused, he wants her. He keeps reaching out to her with his outstretched fingers. He follows and circles.

It seems like there might have been a bit of an incident between them, an unknown history which makes her unsure of what she wants, or too pained to accept his advances, and which makes him convinced that she needs persuading to enter his embrace. He gets hold of her, they slide around for a bit then, wait for it, suddenly he flips her off the ground and she is hanging over his shoulders, spinning. Then she is lowered down again, but not onto her feet, she is on the floor.

They both pause.

Then, again, she slowly moves to get away from him, but he grabs her arm to stop her going. He holds her for a second.

It’s a hug. A hold. A kind of head lock.

Then with renewed energy she shoves him aside and moves away again, but this time she runs. She fucking runs. She runs like she wants to be somewhere else. Anywhere else. It’s a real fuck-off kind of run. But yeah, he’s quick, he saw that coming and he runs as well. He chases her and, because he’s really big and strong, he catches up and grabs her again. He grabs her so hard that she can’t get away, and anyway, she’s tired now so she doesn’t have the energy to escape again.

He got her.

He persuaded her (forced her).

He reached for her so many times that it became normal.

She was grabbed so many times that she forgot what it was like to not be grabbed.

She thought, oh, maybe this is what I am here for.

I am here to be grabbed.

Yes, he said, you are here to be grabbed.

Fucking hell.

This is rape culture.

Why? Because:

It is ubiquitous (so many dances. SO MANY. This, this, this,this, this, this, this etc.)

It is so fucking normalised

The female body is lifted off the floor, denied its own weight

The female body is limp, a doll

The female body is under attack (grab grab grab)

The female body is not listened to (she said ‘no’ the first time, idiot)

The female body is more naked

The female body is on display

The female body is made flexible (pulled open)

The female body is a toy

The female body is hairless

The female body is a vessel

The female body is undecided

The female body is available

Over and over again. It’s statistics, baby.

Eleanor Sikorski is a dancer and choreographer whose work spans cabaret, comedy, film and music. As well as making solo work she is one third of Nora, alongside Flora Wellesley Wesley and Stephanie McMann. They curate and dance together, inviting artists to make work for them to perform. This writing was originally published at