Yes, Emma Sulkowicz Appeared in a Pornographic Art Video. Doesn't Mean Much.



Emma Sulkowicz
Columbia Spectator

Emma Sulkowicz, the Columbia University student (now graduate) who carried her mattress everywhere as both a protest against her alleged rapist and as an art project for course credit, recently appeared in a pornographic art film titled "Ceci N'est Pas Un Viol," which means "This is not a rape."

The 8 minute video, which is not suitable for work, comes with a disclaimer that the content could trigger survivors of sexual assault. The disclaimer also makes clear that the sex in the video is "absolutely consensual," but was staged to resemble a rape.

The scene features Sulkowicz having sex with an unidentified man in what appears to be a college dorm room. The man's face is blurred, protecting his identity, but everything else is shown. Their sex eventually becomes abusive—the man hits Sulkowicz twice and chokes her; she tells him to stop, but he doesn't listen. Again, they are merely acting out a scene, and he does not actually rape her, though they do at least appear to have real sex. confirmed that the woman in the video is indeed Sulkowicz:

"I may not be able to answer many of your questions," Sulkowicz wrote to us when we reached out to her over Facebook and asked her about the video directed by Lawson. Sulkowicz also agreed to be interviewed. When asked if she wanted people to view the video as a follow-up to the mattress performance, Sulkowicz wrote back, "Separate. It has a diff title."

Sulkowicz also presents the viewer with a series of questions to ask themselves before, during, and after their experience of viewing the film, including "Are you searching for proof? Proof of what?," "What do you want from this experience?," "How well do you think you know me? Have we ever met?," and "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?"

Both critics and supporters of Sulkowicz will probably try to read something into her decision to make this film, and maybe that's exactly what she wants. But whatever Sulkowicz's intentions here, the film doesn't tell us anything about what happened between her and Paul Nungesser. As the title of the film suggests, this video does not depict an actual rape, just a scripted scene made to look like a rape.

You can watch the movie here, but be warned, it's highly unsuitable for work and may disturb some viewers.

*Update: The video is no longer available at that link.