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Violence and Empathy: Jennifer Walshe’s XXX_LIVE_NUDE_GIRLS!!! as a Simulation of Acquaintance Rape

Macklay, Sky

This paper is an analysis of Jennifer Walshe’s 2003 multimedia Barbie opera XXX_LIVE_NUDE_GIRLS!!!, with a particular focus on the opera’s treatment of sexual assault. I argue that in addition to depicting an instance of acquaintance rape directly in the narrative, Walshe’s entire opera can be read as a simulation of an experience of acquaintance rape and its aftermath. Drawing on sexual assault research and case studies, I demonstrate that XXX_LIVE_NUDE_GIRLS!!! creates this simulation in three ways. First, plot points are initially obscured and later clarified. This slow revelation simulates the phenomenon of delayed recognition (in which many acquaintance rape victims do not immediately recognize their experience as rape). Second, the opera’s overwhelming multiplicity of intersecting and diverging sonic, musical, visual, and textual streams simulates the complex web of communications surrounding an instance of acquaintance rape. Third, the drastic reduction of sonic and visual information and the emotionally dissonant music in the rape scene simulate the phenomenon of disassociation. By creating a simulation instead of a mere representation, Walshe engenders enhanced empathy for victims of sexual assault.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Music
Thesis Advisors
Lewis, George E.
Degree
D.M.A., Columbia University
Published Here
July 21, 2018