No, you’re not fighting rape

Here are the headlines:

This Woman Is Fighting Rape By Allowing Strangers To Touch Her V… (that’s right, they couldn’t even spell out ‘vagina’.); and

‘Mirror box’ artist who allowed complete strangers to fondle her genitals and breasts in Trafalgar Square arrested

I come into all discussions biased. We all do. I get that. However, I have now sat with this for almost 24 hours and I’m just not seeing it.

There is a Swiss performance artist who thinks she is teaching a valuable lesson about consent and fighting rape with her performance that permits individuals over 18 to touch her breasts and vagina for a maximum of 30 seconds. She stands on the street wearing mirror boxes that people then reach into to touch whichever part of her they’ve asked to touch. There are also cameras inside the boxes to record the touching.

I’d be making a significant reach here, but I would be open to discussing how it might be a lesson in consent. People who approach her *have* to ask if they can touch her; they (presumably) can only touch the part of her that’s on offer that day; there is a time limit for how long they can touch her; they must stop touching her when the time is up; and they must make eye contact with her the whole time.

All of that said, this performance artist also – as you can see – measures up to conventional beauty standards. What would be the difference for a woman who didn’t? What kinds of people would or would not approach her? What kinds of remarks would be made to her? And so on.

Further, how is her performance impacting people when it comes to issues of consent in regular, every day settings? I’m still struggling with that bit, because I don’t see it. A man being permitted to touch her doesn’t translate to that man understanding that I don’t want him to touch me. It doesn’t in any way guarantee that he won’t still touch me even after I’ve said ‘no.’ In fact, I feel like I can already hear the collective sigh of women everywhere in response to the numerous men who would say to their friend/date/partner, “but that complete stranger didn’t have any problem with me touching her!”

But now onto this whole “fighting rape” bit.

It just doesn’t.

This performance art piece doesn’t do a single thing to fight rape.

Women around the world are raped by men they know and by strangers. Women around the world are raped no matter if they’re wearing a bikini or a burqa.

Maybeand gawd this is another streeeetch – it could be considered fighting rape – or at least unwanted groping – if she was wearing these mirror boxes with the cutouts for people to reach into and then was denying people their requests. But I struggled even typing that.

It doesn’t fight rape. To me, it says, “here I am for you to objectify and get a few seconds of pleasure from this very taboo thing I’m doing.” It gives people a story to tell their family and friends and to all laugh about.

That’s all it does.

She’s not even handing out literature or talking to people about rape, statistics, and how to stop it.

It doesn’t fight rape.

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