“Reading Public Sex as Performance; Or, What Clay Pettet Can Teach Us About Contemporary Queer Rhetorics”
keywords: rhetoric, performance, public sex
Clay Pettet has gained recent attention for his proposed piece, “Art School Stole My Virginity”, in which he loses his virginity to a partner. This roundtable considers four theoretical focuses—risk, economies of loss, spatial affect, and temporality—to explore the project and its surrounding discourses.
“REDACTED: Negotiating Risk in Public/Performative Sex” examines the media surrounding Pettet’s public sex act, analyzing how discourses of youth, vulnerability, and risk are used to shape his performance. Kathleen Livingston imagines Pettet’s performance from a sex-positive perspective, arguing that not being able to take the act back is exactly the appeal.
In “Virginity as Currency: Pettet’s Queer Economy of Sex,” Rebecca Hayes analyzes the rhetorics of economics surrounding the project, which Pettet frames as a economic moment which will “inject some speed into the arts.” Drawing from theories of queer embodiment and queer political economy to analyze the economic rhetorics surrounding Pettet’s “first full sexual encounter,” this paper situates queer bodies, sexualities, and subjectivities in a globalized economy.
“On His Back in a Box: Spatial Affect and Reading Shameful Performance(s),” theorizes the spatial intersection of sex, sexuality, affect and performance. Drawing from theories of critical geography and performance theory, Jon Wargo reads Pettet’s performance from the imaginary of touch, contending Pettet uses shame and affect to complicate contemporary rhetorics surrounding queer/ing/ art.
In “The Queer Time of Clay Pettet’s Virginity,” Casey Miles considers the temporalities of Pettet’s project. This paper examines the significance of the loss of virginity as a “milestone” in a person’s life, as Pettet suggests, by examining the artist’s invitation to the audience to consider how his relationship with his sexual partner has changed “before” and “after” this sexual encounter. In the broader context of queer culture, what has led us to this moment, and where do we go from here?