In the ranks of the most asinine, pointless, downright goofy acts of administrative censorship ever perpetrated against students in the twenty-first century, this one has got to be right up near the top of the list.
The administration at Cal State Long Beach is refusing to allow a graduate student production of “Night of the Tribades,” a 1975 historical drama about Swedish playwright August Strindberg (1849-1912) to be advertised on campus property.
Why? Because “tribade,” an archaic term meaning “lesbian,” is also a reference to a sexual act.
Tribadism, a type of frottage, is — thank you, Wikipedia! — “a form of non-penetrative sex in which a woman rubs her vulva against her partner’s body for sexual stimulation.” Nowadays, it’s more often referred to as “scissoring” or “tribbing.”
A tribade, then, is one who engages in tribadism. And according to CSULB theatre arts major Courtney Knight, because someone in the university’s administration did a Google image search on “tribade” and didn’t like what they saw (or liked it more than they’d anticipated), the play’s name got banned from the school theater’s marquee.
Again, this is a 1975 Swedish play about a Swedish playwright who died in 1912. (The play itself is a “metatheatrical drama” about tensions between Strindberg, his estranged wife, and a female friend of hers — it takes place at a Copenhagen theater during rehearsals for one of Strindberg’s plays, and incorporates considerable actual dialogue from that production.) It’s got nothing to do with scissoring, in other words. There’s no tribbing, actual or implied, in it. The title is a reference to two characters’ ostensible lesbian relationship, not to any particular sexual act.
But of course protesting the administration’s silliness by dressing up as affronted 19th century Swedes wouldn’t have been any fun at all, so CSULB’s students took a more obvious and more gratifying tack — they staged a scissor-in.
Some two dozen theater students gathered on campus, some with shirts reading “tribade” or duct-tape over their mouths … and tribbed. Or mock-tribbed.