No in Disguise

A project by Simon Boas and Kris Blackmore

No in Disguise is the continuation of over a year of research into repurposing online dating platforms to explore the role of power and permissions in contemporary hetero-masculine sexual identity.

The video installation features men reading transcripts of conversations held by the artists with dating site users who have expressed regressive attitudes toward women and the concept of consent. Women have long insisted there is a cultural problem of sexual violence in the United States, but it has often been framed as exclusively a women’s issue with the role men have to play in its prevention left out of the discussion.

This project instead focuses on presenting a gradient of masculine viewpoints through an unfamiliar audio-visual format. The physical features of the male reenactors in the video are deconstructed and randomly recombined with every playthrough so that the definitions are read by an endless procession of unfamiliar voices and faces that look like every man and no man in particular.

The scripts recited in these videos come from recent conversations between the artists and male OkCupid dating website users. The artists target the OkCupid users via techniques inspired by online advertising: A custom computer program searches through the text in users’ profiles to find those who have made statements that show a potentially harmful attitude about sexual consent.

The artists then engage in conversation with these men through a fictional straight female dating profile named Emily. For example, when Emily asked one interviewee why he stated in his profile that he did not always believe that no meant no, he responded, “Some people would be too shy to say yes, when they say no, it actually means a shy yes… But if I know no means no to you, I won’t force you to do anything when you say no.”

After reenacting the online conversations in the video, the volunteer readers then have the opportunity to record their own responses to the statements they just read. This provides a rare platform where men can speak about sexual consent without it being in direct response to a particular incident.