Updated: Monday, 13th July 2020 @ 9:36pm

Student's plan to lose virginity with gay sex performance dubbed unartistic and provocative by LGBT Youth North West

Student's plan to lose virginity with gay sex performance dubbed unartistic and provocative by LGBT Youth North West

By Ruth Dacey

A student’s plan to lose his virginity by having gay sex in front of 100 spectators has been branded provocative rather than artistic by the LGBT Youth North West.

Last week student artist Clayton Pettet, 19, revealed his plan for a project entitled ‘Art School Stole My Virginity’ in a London gallery in January.

News of the event caused a nationwide stir and received a backlash that accused the student of ‘a stunt which cheapens sexual relationships something which LGBT Youth North West is concerned about.

“We work hard to promote a sex-positive approach to LGBT young people who engage in sex and sexual activity,” Ali Hanbury, a spokesperson from the LGBT Youth North West said.

“We encourage them to engage in sex when it is safer, pleasurable, legal and consensual.

“The 'art' performance appears to be driven out of desires to be provocative rather than through a desire to have pleasurable and safer sex with someone.”

Mr Pettet studies at the Central Saint Martins art school in London, once attended by famed musicians Jarvis Cocker and M.I.A, and has been planning the event for three years and wants the unique performance to challenge the idea of sexuality.

"The key thing about performance art is that it should only be performed once, and this is the ultimate once-in-a-lifetime performance,” the art student told Huffington Post UK.

"I've held on to my virginity for 19 years, and I'm not throwing it away lightly. Basically it's like I am losing the stigma around virginity.”

However, LGBT Youth North West believes the performance could have a negative impact as it may reinforce stereotypes that surround the LGBT community.

“Often through our work in schools, young people ask us about 'gay sex' and we try to raise awareness about LGBT people as being much like heterosexual people and the sex we have is not the only thing that defines us,” Ali Hanbury said.

The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement have also criticised the project as they believe it is not art and cheapens the special relationship of sex between loving partners.

"I'm not quite sure how that's art. My view is that we believe that all sexuality is a gift from God,” said spokesperson Rev Sharon Ferguson.

"As an art project in front of an audience, where is the love, respect and mutuality in that?

"Stunts like this cheapens our own sexual relationships."

After Mr Pettet has had safe sex with his friend, one of the ideas he wants people to question is the importance of virginity and the traditional values that we place upon it, including issues that surround gender and sexuality.

"I had the idea when I was 16, when all my peers were losing their virginity,” Pettet told the London Evening Standard.

“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.

"Virginity has almost become heteronormative in its definition.  Is virginity even real? Or is it just an ignorant word that was used to dictate the value of a woman's worth pre-marriage?"

LGBT Youth North West are concerned that Mr Pettet wants to question whether virginity is real as it is an important part of the sex education they deliver to a number of youth groups and schools across the region.

“We have trained hundreds of college and university staff about LGBT awareness and I think many of those I deal with would be concerned about this story," Rachel Williams, the education and training lead said.

“We often try to discuss what 'virginity' means as sometimes it is thought that same sex couples are not having 'legitimate' or 'real sex' because a penis isn't entering a vagina.

“This is quite an old fashioned and heterosexist way of viewing sex that is unhelpful not only for LGBT people but for straight people too.”

Central Saint Martins, encourage confrontational pieces (a student once pooed on a table as part of his course work), however Alex Schady the Programme Director of Fine Art, at the school confirmed to MM that they will not be publicly endorsing Mr Pettet’s piece.

“It is not part of his course and has not been endorsed by Central Saint Martins,” he said.

“Staff are discussing with him the implications, both legal and emotional, of the performance and he is exploring the possibility of alternative means of expression,” Mr Schady said.  

Despite much outrage, Mr Pettet’s performance will still be held in an as-yet-unnamed gallery in the East End next year.

A decision that Michael Simpson, Head of Visual Arts and Engagement at The Lowry, Manchester respects.

“As an arts organisation we respect a venue’s choice to stage thought-provoking and challenging works, especially those which inspire debate and discussion,” he said.

“We would expect the venue to have thought carefully about the impact of this piece on its audiences and to have ensured that the themes and meanings behind the piece are clearly articulated to them.”

Tickets can be applied for online and among the hundreds who have put their names forward is Polly Stenham, the playwright who wrote the award-winning The Face when she was also 19.

Mr Pettet has stated that none of his family will be there and for safety reasons the audience will be hand-picked and monitored.

“I don’t want it only to be people I know, but I don’t want anyone who wants to hurt me or cause trouble.”

Image courtesy of Twitter, with thanks

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