'Wax That Ass' Guerrilla-Style Art Installation By Allison Bouganim Confronts Sexual Harassment By Bringing Butts Into Public Spaces
Share

If you're a woman, you've likely received unwanted sexual attention in public. A simple walk down the street, trip to the gym, or ride on public transportation can be traumatic. One artist wants to talk about it: In a guerilla-style art installation appropriately named Wax That Ass, Allison Bouganim is using butts to spark a dialogue about sexual harassment. Bouganim's statues are designed to confront unwanted sexual attention in typical spaces where women feel most vulnerable.

"I'm using my voice as an artist to make pieces that allow other women's voices to be heard," Bouganim, 18, tells Bustle. "I say 'heard' instead of 'told' because often times women share their stories of harassment, and assault, and [they] often aren't listened to, or [are] accused of lying. That is especially true when talking about the 'justice system.'"

Separating "heard" from "told" is an important distinction. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, false sexual assault reports are rare, but women who do report are often made to feel shamed, and sometimes they are not believed. I will admit that in my 20s, I did not report sexual harassment at work even though I had evidence of the incident in writing. I was afraid of losing my job. I was afraid of being blamed. I was afraid of losing the respect and support of my colleagues. But if I could do it again, I would report.

Courtesy of Allison Bouganim

Bringing up instances of sexual harassment often falls on deaf ears. I once had a straight, white male friend tell me that men receive the same unwanted sexual attention as women. When I tried to explain to him that men are generally not made to feel unsafe in the same way that women are, he wouldn't hear me. And because most cis, straight men will never experience the microaggressions woman suffer daily, many will likely never truly understand what it's like to have someone follow you home, grab you in public without your permission, or make unsolicited lewd comments about your body.

Bouganim understands this. "My sculptures are a vessel for women's stories to be not only told, but to finally be heard," she explains.

She works directly with women to create the butt sculptures, which are casts of real women's butts. She then places the sculptures "guerrilla-style" in public places where women regularly experience sexual harassment, like the laundromat, the beach, on public transportation, and more. Bouganim then snaps a picture of the installation before anyone notices what she is doing. She says her goal is not money or notoriety, but to increase visibility around sexual harassment.

Courtesy of Allison Bouganim

"The reason I make art is to start an important conversation about the way women are perceived and the way they, and their bodies, are treated," Bouganim says. "Unfortunately, I think that harassment, in some form or another, is universal to all women."

Bouganim is right. The website Stop Street Harassment reported that a telephone survey of 612 women found that almost all women surveyed had experienced street harassment: 87 percent of American women between the ages of 18-64 had been harassed by a male stranger; and more than half of them experienced “extreme” harassment that included being touched, grabbed, rubbed, brushed, or followed by a strange man on the street, or other public place.

Additionally, the survey found that harassment was more prevalent in rural areas with 90 percent of women reporting sexual harassment in rural settings; 88 percent in suburban areas; and 87 percent in urban areas. Writer Mary Karr even penned a piece for the New Yorker after being grabbed by the crotch on the street in New York.

Courtesy of Allison Bouganim

Bouganim's physically interactive sculptures, which were placed around Miami, are designed to test the boundaries and limits of female sexuality. On her website Bouganim, says the sculptures are intended to play into the viewer's level of comfort, or discomfort, while sparking an open dialogue.

I for one am glad she's starting this conversation.