Feminist icon Emma Sulkowicz, known for her infamous “Mattress Girl” rape allegations and protest demonstration, was awarded the 2016 Woman of Courage award by the National Organization for Women last week.
In 2014, Sulkowicz carried her dormitory mattress around campus in protest after she claimed that a fellow student raped her at the college in 2012. The mattress was carried everywhere, including to Sulkowicz’s graduation, prompting a huge media storm surrounding the student who media dubbed “Mattress Girl.”
However, in early 2015 it was reported that Sulkowicz had repeatedly told her “rapist” she loved him through leaked text messages after the “attack”, with the alleged rapist Paul Nungesser eventually being pardoned by the campus due to lack of evidence. Nungesser was repeatedly threatened, harassed, and assaulted during the lengthy campus trial, and Nungesser reported multiple rescinded job offers and missed opportunities due to the accusations.
Sulkowicz claimed that Nungesser had beaten her in bed after agreeing to mutually consensual sex, before he allegedly forced anal upon her. Nungesser, however, denied this story and claimed that their sexual encounters were entirely consensual. Nungesser theorized that Sulkowicz’s claims against him were due to the fact that he had decided to split up with her shortly after the encounter.
After gaining mass media attention, Sulkowicz broke into the spotlight again in 2015 after releasing a supposed recreation of the rape in a bizarre sex tape form, where she could be seen performing fellatio on an overweight man before being beaten in what she claims to have been a consensual tape.
Two days after the alleged assault, Sulkowicz texted Nungesser saying “I feel like we need to have some real time where we can talk about life and thingz because we still haven’t really had a paul-emma chill sesh since summmmerrrr”. The following month, Sulkowicz messaged Nungesser saying “I want to see yoyououoyou”, and on her birthday in October after Nungesser had wished Sulkowicz a happy birthday, the infamous Mattress Girl replied with “I love you Paul. Where are you?!?!?!?!”
Numerous other inconsistencies in Sulkowicz story, including the texts above, meant that the campus trial was eventually thrown out, though not before it permanently tarnished Nungesser’s name and reputation. And now Sulkowicz is being rewarded for it.
“Sulkowicz did what many rape victims cannot do; she channeled her fear into a public demonstration and brought attention to her rapist’s despicable act and highly inadequate punishment” announced National Organization for Women president Terry O’Neill. “Emma is an inspiration to all of us.”
“I never imagined that someday I would be honored by such an immensely important organization. It feels like a dream” said Sulkwicz to artnet News. “It’s truly humbling. People should check out NOW’s amazing history, because we really do owe so many of our rights to that organization.”
Despite the lack of evidence and the fact that the case was dismissed by credible authorities, Sulkwicz still maintains her story on the alleged assault, and is still hailed as a feminist icon.