It is not worth dwelling at length on the continued exploits of Emma Sulkowicz, a.k.a. “Mattress Girl,” but a word is in order about her new “art” project — an eight-minute video of Sulkowicz and an unknown male actor engaging in seemingly consensual sex, during which the man becomes violent and forces himself upon Sulkowicz.
The project is titled “Ceci N’est Pas Un Viol,” or “This Is Not a Rape,” after Rene Magritte’s famous image of a pipe, “La Trahison des Images (Ceci N’est Pas Une Pipe).” Magritte was not Michelangelo, but he at least had some artistic skill. Exactly what artistic skill is required to make an aggressively un-erotic sex tape is not clear.
Of course, the “art” is not the video per se, but the video in its proper framing, which is the purpose of Sulkowicz’s mini-essay (replete with a trigger warning) and list of “reflection” questions that introduce the video. Those so inclined can read them in full here (obviously, the video is graphic; discretion is advised), but we will do some selective quoting:
Do not watch this video if your motives would upset me, my desires are unclear to you, or my nuances are indecipherable. . . .
If you watch this video without my consent, then I hope you reflect on your reasons for objectifying me and participating in my rape, for, in that case, you were the one who couldn’t resist the urge to make Ceci N’est Pas Un Viol about what you wanted to make it about: rape. . . .
Do you refuse to see me as either a human being or a victim? If so, why? Is it to deny me agency and thus further victimize me? If so, what do you think of the fact that you owe your ability to do so to me, since I’m the one who took a risk and made myself vulnerable in the first place?
“Consent,” “objectification,” “agency,” “victimization,” “vulnerability” — as I wrote last month, Sulkowicz uses words not as signifiers with accessible definitions, but as talismans with which to ward off rational thought. The notion that you could watch the video without Sulkowicz’s consent, and thereby “participate” in her “rape,” requires mystifying words such as “consent” and “participate” and “rape.” Sulkowicz offers all the trappings of artistic profundity . . . but no actual insight into anything beyond her own immeasurable self-absorption.
The same could be said about much of the feminist Left, which is why it is a mystery neither why Sulkowicz is the way she is, nor why those same feminists have made of her a suffering saint.