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Is Losing Your Virginity Performance Art?

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A 19-year-old London art student, Clayton Pettet, is planning to lose his anal virginity on January 25, 2014. This wouldn’t be newsworthy, except that he’s going to do it on stage, in front of 50 to 100 people, in a performance art piece he has titled “Art School Stole My Virginity.” Presumably he will be graded on this.

On the website for the event, Pettet provides context for the piece, writing that, “’The Idea of “Art School Stole My Virginity’ came around when I was Sixteen, when all my peers at school were losing their Virginity it was incredibly hard for me to ask why I was still a Virgin and why it meant so much to the people all around me. My piece isnt [sic] a statement as much as it is a question. The whole aspect of Virginity was incredibly emotional for me and has been ever since.” While virginity itself is essentially a social construct, loss of virginity is still a rite of passage that many people place value on, for various and complex reasons. Pettet is clearly one of those people: virginity has an importance to him that goes beyond knocking something off a list, or he presumably wouldn’t be making a circus out of losing his own. It would have been interesting if he’d elaborated more on his ideas about virginity, but it doesn’t seem words are his strong suit.

Pettet also writes that he hopes his piece will reawaken what he calls London’s “slowed” art scene: “I want my piece to inject some speed into the arts, a performance of the people if you will.  I feel like now is the time for the new scene. To lose my Virginity with the new age is the Avant Garde that London has been unintentionally waiting for.” It’s hard not to suspect that this is the real impetus behind Pettet’s piece: not to make a statement about virginity, but to make a very splashy entrance into London’s art scene by whatever means necessary.

There’s no way to know if in ten years Pettet will be “that dude that had public sex for class,” or the new Marina Abramovic. Making such a private, personal event very public is possibly crazy, but it’s also undeniably brave. Godspeed, Clayton. Shell out for the expensive lube.

Image via Clayton Pettet

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