trigger warning: rape, sexual assault
For my image text project I decided to create a stencil piece that also incorporates free-hand writing. Through this piece, I really wanted to voice my frustration with the prominence of sexual assault on college campuses. I also want people to realize that date rape and sexual assault are an extremely serious problem and that everyone should be mindful of when they are making sexual advances.
The main image of the piece is a mouth with the word “no” inside the lips. The text underneath the mouth says “means no”, and together with the text inside the mouth the phrase spells out “no means no”. This phrase is actually an anti-date rape slogan that has been used in anti-date rape campaigns before. In this society where rape culture is still rampant, too often, women are sexually assaulted even if they clearly voice that they do not want to have any sort of sexual interaction. Especially on college campuses, as high as 1 in every 4 women are sexually assaulted during their college career. Initially I only planned on having the lips with the word “no” between them, but I wanted the message to be as clear as possible, hence the whole phrase “no means no”. The decision to make the piece bright red also reflects this sentiment. Red is a colour often associated with stop signs. I want the red of the graffiti to remind people of a stop sign, as this sign could be considered a remediation of stop signs in a way, as it is trying to stop sexual assault from happening. I decided to use simple type to make the words clear and legible.
John Berger has said that the surroundings of an object “confirms and consolidates its existence”, and I really wanted the environment to matter for this graffiti project. Initially, I was planning on putting the graffiti on walls of buildings around campus, but focusing on student residential areas as majority of sexual assault is committed by someone the victim knows. However, I felt as doing so would make it seem like I was targeting just the students living in those areas, which was not something I wanted to do. After contemplating on a better location to put the graffiti, I thought of bars on campus. Approximately 74% of perpetrators are under the influence of alcohol when they sexually assault someone. Through placing these graffiti beside or close to bars, I wanted the patrons to see the graffiti and be conscious of their actions for the night. Also, as many bars on campus are located in busy areas where numerous students pass by every day, in a way, the graffiti serves as a daily reminder to students that no really does mean no. I picked three bars located at three different locations on campus: Canopy Club, Kam’s and Legends. I picked these three bars as they were located at three drastically different locations on campus and even during the day, numerous students walk by them on the way to class.
Stencils can be easily applied on any surface, and are created to be reproduced multiple times. Other media such as painting can have their meanings distorted when it is reproduced, but stencils’ meaning embodies reproduction, which makes stencils perfect as a tool to voice one’s concern on an issue. If stencils are seen and noticed by many people, it becomes an icon. Even though the lips are not real and just a representation of human lips, through the stencil it becomes an icon of voice against rape culture.