Emma Sulkowicz, 22-year-old Columbia University graduate, alleges she was anally raped and violently attacked in her dorm room by another student on the first day of her second year in August 2012, during what began as a consensual sexual encounter.
Columbia University cleared Sulkowicz’s accused rapist of responsibility. But it was not over.
In protest of the university’s handling of the case, during the summer of 2014 visual arts major Sulkowicz created what she called, “Mattress Performance,” a performance art protest piece. She purchased a mattress — the same dark blue, extra-long twin kind from Columbia’s dorms, similar to the one on which Sulkowicz alleges she was raped — and defined the rules of engagement for the performance. Written on the walls of her studio in the university’s Watson Hall, these included that Sulkowicz had to carry the mattress when on university property; that it had to remain on campus when she was not there; and that she was not allowed to ask for help in carrying it, but if help was offered she could accept.
In early September 2014, Sulkowicz began carrying the mattress on campus. Sulkowicz said the work would end when the accused was expelled from or otherwise left Columbia; she would take the mattress to her graduation ceremony if necessary. She kept a diary throughout, amounting to 59,000 words by the end of the project.
In the end, Sulkowicz carried it to her — and the accused’s — graduation day on May 19, 2015, despite a request from the school that students not bring “large objects which could interfere with the proceedings.” Several women helped carry the mattress on stage. As they approached, university president Lee Bollinger, who’d been shaking other graduates’ hands, turned away as if to pick something up, and did not shake their hands; the university said this happened only because the mattress was in the way. The next day posters appeared in Morningside Heights near the university calling Sulkowicz a “pretty little liar.”Sulkowicz is not pretty — at least because of this stunt —but definitely a liar. So, what happened to the young man, Paul Nungesser, who was accused but cleared of rape? His life became a nightmare at the hand of Sulkowicz. Nungesser’s name was written on campus bathroom walls and distributed on flyers, and he was shunned by other students and subjected to threats.
The political class weighed in as well, of course. Hillary Clinton, the woman who wants to be President of the United States of America, in September 2014 told the Democratic National Committee’s Women’s Leadership Forum: “That image should haunt all of us …” Then, in October 2014, Columbia students carried 28 mattresses on campus — one for each student who joined the federal Title IX complaint — then left them outside the university president’s home; they were fined $471 for the clean-up. A month later a group called “Carry That Weight” organized a “National Day of Action to Carry That Weight,” during which students carried mattresses on 130 U.S. campuses and several elsewhere. Sulkowicz received the National Organization for Women’s Susan B. Anthony Award and the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Ms. Wonder Award.
And wonder of all wonders! In January 2015, New York Senator Kristin Gillibrand invited Sulkowicz to attend the 2015 State of the Union Address!
What an honor — Sulkowicz became famous! But wait a minute. HE was innocent; SHE was a LIAR! Too bad for Paul Nungesser. You see, from one end to the other — right to the halls of Congress and the State of the Union Address —Sulkowicz’s narrative went unchallenged amidst massive publicity.
So can this be some type of “evolved” rape case? Not likely; as The Daily Caller reports, Facebook messages between Sulkowicz and her accused paint a picture of “a jilted love interest whose deep obsession with Nungesser transformed into a savage hatred.” As the young man tried to escape the on-campus torment by spending time in Germany, Sulkowicz sent him more than a dozen messages along the lines of, “PAUL I MISS YOU PAUL I MISS YOU PAUL I MISS YOU PAULLL” and “I would LOVE to have you here – omg – we could snuggle.” And finally, she begged him bluntly during one Facebook exchange: “f**k me in the but (sic).”
Dear God in Heaven, what type of upbringing or hurt could have lead to this focused stalking?!??
Paul Nungesser, the accused-then-cleared and tormented young man, is now going after Columbia University for failing to protect him from Sulkowicz’s “gender based anti-male discriminatory harassment campaign.”
Nungesser’s attorneys reason that the university has violated Title IX by “condoning a hostile educational environment due to knowingly permitting and apparently approving” of Sulkowicz’s performance, thus “denying him equal access to Defendant Columbia’s resources and opportunities.” His suit argues that the university made no attempt to silence Sulkowicz after finding him “not responsible” for raping her — and in fact went ahead and featured her work on university property. It even, the suit alleges, gave her “special university privilege” to carry her mattress to the school’s graduation ceremony.
Nungesser maintains — and rightfully so — that the mattress caused “damages to physical well-being, emotional and psychological damages, damages to reputation, past and future economic losses, loss of educational and athletic opportunities, and loss of future career prospects.”
Meanwhile, having now graduated, Sulkowicz has created an eight-minute porn video, titled “Ceci N’est Pas Un Viol” — French for “This is Not a Rape” — featuring Sulkowicz and an anonymized male actor having seemingly consensual sex in a dorm room. But the act soon turns violent as the actor chokes and slaps Sulkowicz, removes his condom and penetrates her against her will.
Her parents, Sandra Leong and Kerry Sulkowicz — psychiatrists from Manhattan’s Upper East Side — must be so proud.
But there are bigger questions here. If the year-long torment Sulkowicz perpetrated against Nungesser were committed by a man against a woman, wouldn’t that be called “stalking”? Additionally, if a woman pleads for a young man to notice her, to perform sex acts and so forth, is she not responsible for her own words? Finally, once the act is completed, does he (Nungesser) OWE it to her (Sulkowicz) to eternally love her and cherish her obsession — which borders on criminal? Obviously, this young woman was “helicoptered,” well-educated (at Dalton School in Manhattan’s Upper East Side) and doted on from birth. Did no one tell her along the way that she’s not ENTITLED to love and regard by any and everyone she targets?
Columbia University dropped the ball and deserves to be sued. Paul Nungesser deserved equal protection and Emma Sulkowicz deserves a lesson in life — real life.