How Will Clayton Pettet Outdo Himself?

Latest posts by Jamal Gerald (see all)

‘Art School Stole My Virginity’  is the title of Clayton Pettet’s new performance art piece. A Fine Art student that attends Central Saint Martins in London, Clayton is losing his male virginity with a fellow student in the name of art on stage. He’s 19 and a performance artist. For those of you who are not familiar with the nature of performance art, this would be considered a live art piece, as he’s losing his virginity and there is no way that can ever happen again (duh!).

Pettet has been through a lot in the lead up to the date of his performance. He’s been arrested for promoting the date of his show in East London on a billboard (which he graffitied), and has had Christians saying they’re going to pray for him. Some people even said they hope he gets AIDS. Even his place of study are now distancing themselves from the performance. Newspapers are equally just calling his piece a ‘gay live sex show’.  Why does it have to called a ‘gay’ live sex show instead of just a live sex show? Or why not just called it an art show? Because that’s what it is. That is what he’s trying to portray to the public.

Unfortunately, a lot of controversy has been thrown his way, and for what? The fact a young man is losing his virginity? There isn’t anything shocking about sex. Well, to me there isn’t and there shouldn’t be to anyone else. What really is the big deal?  An artist can never win can they? Regardless, of all that has happened, the performance will still take place, so I guess he is winning.

It’s such a shame that homophobia still exists. Come on people, it’s just sex. Ultimately it’s just virginity. Of course it’s important to him because it’s his virginity and he wouldn’t have taken it this far if it didn’t mean something to him, but I think the bigger issue is that it’s exposed that people as a whole still aren’t ready to be confronted with men sleeping with other men. It’s not a disgusting thing, it’s beautiful thing. I for one applaud him for doing this because it has shown us how people still hold a latent disapproval of strong sexuality. I also love an artist that knows how to push the boundaries and has the guts to do it. I wonder if the same reaction would happen if it was a straight male or female losing their virginity?

As Clayton describes the concept:

“[I had] the idea when I was 16,” when all my peers 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 people. My piece isn’t a statement as much as it is a question.”

It’s interesting to know that he’s been planning this for quite some time. The negative reactions remind me of the reception a photographer called Robert Mapplethorpes received, who was known for his controversial art works. He had a X Portfolio (1979), where he placed various objects into his anal cavity. Of course around this time people found it disgusting, but now we can see it as an important and progressive piece that helped to raise queries about sexuality.

I don’t think its that big of a deal.  When you’re a performance art student like myself nothing ever shocks you, believe me. What I want to know is how is he going to outdo himself next? It is nigh on impossible to top this with anything more intimate, controversial, final and yet beautiful.

Unfortunately his event is already sold out to an audience of 100 people so I will not be attending, but the performance will take place within a gallery in Hackney on the 25th of January.