The Columbia student accused of raping classmate and “Mattress Performance” artist Emma Sulkowicz spoke publicly for the first time in an interview the New York Times published yesterday. Because the university found Paul Nungesser not responsible for sexually assaulting Sulkowicz (and two other students who filed complaints), Nungesser told the Times that Sulkowicz’s performance piece, in which she carries the mattress she was allegedly raped on everywhere, attracting supporters and media, amounts to bullying. He also said that intimate-partner violence — rape within the context of a marriage or relationship, of which he has also been accused and found not responsible — isn’t real. He said:
“Outside of a forced marriage or kidnapping, it just seems very hard to believe that a person would over and over again put themselves in a situation where they could expect this kind of behavior to occur.”
Sympathy for men accused of rape is growing, and accusers and accused agree that campus courts fail them. But it’s harder to sympathize when men accused of rape feel comfortable weighing in on the nature of rape. Best case scenario, Nungesser and his accusers (all of whom he knew socially or romantically) had a very serious, rape-based communication failure. Seems like a good time to listen.