Watching A Man Lose His Virginity On StageBy Alicia Queiro
Last night I was one of about 150 people invited to watch art student Clayton Pettet lose his virginity on stage at Art School Stole My Virginity. It was performance art, it was cutting edge, I was excited. Here’s what happened.
18.55: We arrive outside the venue in Marylebone and join a long queue of art students in denim jackets. Spreadsheets left firmly in office, my companions and I are in the mood for metaphor: ‘I am wearing white dress as a homage to virginity,’ says my colleague, to anyone who will listen.
19.00: We enter the venue. We are asked to put our mobile phones into plastic sandwich bags with a raffle ticket, and a label with our names and a keyword. ‘This is a good system,’ notes my friend to the woman bagging phones. ‘I hope so!’ she says, worryingly.
19.05: We enter the edgiest room, ever. The proportion of people with bullrings is topped only by the proportion of tall girls wearing floor length skirts and Doc Martens.
19.07: We buy drinks. We sit and watch a screen with a picture of some bananas on it expectantly.
19.10: I pass the time waiting for virginity to be publicly lost by thinking of all the pictures of cats I could be browsing, had these swines not confiscated my mobile. ‘Is this an elaborate plot to steal everyone’s phones?’ wonders my colleague.
19.20: Something happens! They start paying ‘futuristic’ but infinitely outdated music. Think: Dr Who/The Clangers.
19.22: People wearing only pants (!) march on stage. Newsflash! One of them is Real-Life Clayton. They have white veils on their heads, and carry signs saying weird shit on them, e.g. ‘Live fuck/Butt virgin/Sex show’. Clayton is painted with words in black paint. He starts aggressively cleaning the words off his body with an abrasive-looking brush. I wince. Someone starts cutting his hair, and someone paints a moustache on his face.
19.24: Clayton disappears downstairs. One of the almost-naked students starts forcefully ordering people to stand by a pillar. For the purposes of this piece I will call him: Intimidating Art Student #1. Meanwhile, Clayton appears on the screen (let’s call him, Screen Clayton). He starts peeling a banana with more force than is strictly necessary.
19.27: The first group of people troop downstairs to Real-Life Clayton’s lair. Screen Clayton continues to molest fruit. French music is interspersed with audio recordings of people (mainly Americans) criticising Clayton’s idea to have sex in front of loads of strangers. ‘It’s like Inception,’ says my companion.
This continues on repeat. Screen Clayton has disappeared.
19.32: Screen Clayton is back! This time, he’s twisting a banana apart. Then he starts fingering one of the banana halves. I am appalled by this abuse of good fruit. Doesn’t he know there’s a banana shortage on the horizon?
Intimidating Art Student #1 continues to point at individuals, inviting them downstairs in groups.
20.01: The banana video finishes! But then, horrifyingly, recommences.
20.30: Finally, I make my way downstairs with my group of fellow Chosen Ones. We are guided into a small, brightly-lit room featuring a) a nearly-naked art student (not Clayton) b) some of Clayton’s art c) a blue wall on which Clayton has spray painted the words ‘Art school stole my virginity’ in pink graffiti, and written some other things that I am too hungry to read.
20.31: I overcome my hunger to read the wall offerings; I am offended by some intentionally poor spelling.
20.32: Wow! This is the moment I’ve been waiting for. Intimidating Art Student #1 tells me to follow him, alone.
I enter Clayton’s lair. He is crouched on the floor, surrounded by bananas.
‘I AM YOUR ANAL VIRGIN,’ he tells me.
I snort with laughter because I am a child and a philistine.
‘PICK A BANANA.’ He says. It is all very serious and I am handling it badly.
He then tells me to penetrate him, six times, in the mouth, with my chosen banana. I do so. He is looking at me and I am looking at him, to keep face. It feels weird and I don’t really want to keep doing it but I do, because watching a video of someone violate fruit for an hour and a half affects your judgement.
‘Now leave the booth,’ orders Clayton.
20.33: I leave the booth.
20.42: During the mingling where everyone is supposed to buy Clayton’s artwork, people discuss their intimidating banana experience. Some people express disappointment that the real sex we had been promised had been replaced with fruit sex (not the same).
Conclusion: I respect what Clayton was doing – namely, creating a huge media circus around our fascination with sex and virginity and making the Daily Mail look like fools. But if you announce to the world you’re going to do something incredibly controversial, and then you don’t do it… well, it all feels like a bit of an anticlimax. Sort of like losing your virginity I guess.
The banana penetration experience was one night only, but you can see the public exhibition and the artworks by heading to Theatre Delicatessen, 35 Marylebone High Street, before 10pm tonight.