“I’m A Feminist,” Claims Accused Rapist Who Sparked Columbia’s Mattress Protests

Unless you go to Columbia University, you probably don’t know the name Paul Nungesser. You do, however, know the woman who accused him of rape: Emma Sulkowicz, who has been carrying a mattress around Columbia this past year to shed light on the University’s disinterest in expelling Nungesser or punishing him in any way. Sulkowicz is one of three women who say they were assaulted by Nungesser, and who came together to report him to school officials after they had discovered what they had in common.

Sulkowicz says that what had originally been a consensual encounter turned violent after he hit her, pinned her down and had sex with her in spite of her protests. Another young woman says he followed her up the stairs at a party and began groping her until she pushed him off. Another accuses him of “intimate partner violence” during their months-long relationship, saying that he emotionally abused her and subjected her to nonconsensual sex. Or, as it is commonly known, rape.

Nungesser, however, in an interview with The New York Times maintains his innocence. Which is not at all surprising, since when was the last time you heard of someone being accused of rape going “Oh, yeah, I totally raped that woman. What of it?” He says it’s unfair that Sulkowicz is able to use the mattress performance as part of her senior thesis, under the guidance of a faculty member, when the University had dismissed the accusations against him. He also feels that it’s unfair, given this, that people on campus find him repulsive. Not in so many words, but you get the gist.

Nungesser also claims to take sexual assault very seriously, and says his mother raised him to be a feminist and to believe that women have equal rights and whatnot.

I’m sorry, but this is not the world’s most convincing argument. There are lots and lots of men out there who claim to be feminists, and who thus think they can get away with a lot of bullshit. Claiming to be a feminist, or having a feminist for a mom isn’t some kind of “get out of jail free card” for either sexual assault or misogyny.

For what it’s worth, I believe Sulkowicz. Carrying around a mattress for an entire school year seems like an awful lot of work to go through just to ruin some poor man’s life for shits and giggles.

[NY Times]