While most students at Texas State University were just trying to get through another Monday morning, an art student named Monika Rostvold gathered the courage to strip down to a pair of tan pasties, a tan thong, a blindfold, and a pair of headphones and sit, unmoving, on the steps of the campus’s main library. And for about 45 minutes, she pulled it off.

Although some students speculated that Rostvold was just another San Marcos hippie looking to get an all-inclusive tan, the demonstration was actually a performance art piece for a class project and a form of protest against sexual assault and objectification of the female body. In an interview with the Texas State student radio station, Rostvold explained her motives and preparation behind the project. She also said she never thought her demonstration would create such a stir around campus and on the Internet:

“I was intending it to be, like, kind of a small performance piece, but the fact that people are talking about it so much and people are saying that it’s a positive thing — it’s awesome. I’m honestly really proud of Texas State kind of because everyone has had so much positive feedback and is saying all this great stuff about it, and that makes me feel good.”

Not anticipating that kind of reaction may have been a bit naive—sitting almost naked in the middle of a college campus for any amount of time will eventually draw a significant amount of attention. And in this case, some of it was scathing. But as Rostvold told the student radio station, she’s been impressed by the amount of positive feedback, saying some students even left her with snacks, water bottles, and in one case, a necklace.

 

At one point during her sans-clothing sit-in, Rostvold was approached by campus police. But not to worry, she wasn’t ticketed or arrested. The police officers were more concerned about her sobriety and state of mind than anything else, and Rosvold was allowed to remain in position. Some preliminary research helped her avoid any sort of confrontation with the law:

“I looked up the federal and the state [laws] — and you’re allowed to be topless actually in Texas — but San Marcos had a specific thing where you can’t show your areolas, and in the student handbook it says as long as you’re not breaking any city state or federal laws, you can do whatever,” Rostvold told KTSW. “I talked to a defense attorney about it to make sure it would be okay because I didn’t want the cops to arrest me for just trying to spark a conversation.”

The idea of using a notable form of protest to get students talking about assault and objectification isn’t new. Two years ago, a woman named Casey Jenkins attempted to demystify the female anatomy with a (NSFW) performance art piece called “vaginal knitting.” More recently, a Columbia University student named Emma Sulkowicz has been in headlines since September for her decision to carry a dorm room mattress everywhere in protest of campus rape and assault. 

A lack of immediate clarity about what Rostvold’s actions were about led to confusion that resulted in harsh inappropriate critiques from sites like Total Sorority Move, shared Snapchat screenshots, and a gif of Rostvold sitting on the steps from one student. Even now, after Rostvold’s had a chance to explain the motive behind her hybrid performance art/protest, the criticism continues to roll in. But if starting a conversation at Texas State was her goal, she’s more than achieved it. Now there’s just the matter of her project’s grade.

(Photo via Twitter)