Presenting visual and performance art in unexpected public spaces.

Fortune, “pleasures,” and Sex by a Virgin

By Matthew Morowitz

“Victoria’s Secret Undressed, bathroom pleasures”

Sex by a Virgin is one of the the alter egos of Fortune Chalme — a fine artist, a recent graduate of School of Visual Arts and a self-described “Jewish Feminist Artist.”  Having grown up within the Modern Orthodox Jewish community, Fortune was strongly influenced by the way the knowledge of image and sex impacts women within her community. According to Chalme, many women in her community, even some who are close to her own age, are completely in the dark about sex and remain so until they get married.  A lot of the time the information these women do get about sex comes from movies, which present a false image of sex and sexuality and will only instill in the women, especially young women, more misleading information on the subject.

Through the persona of Sex by a Virgin, Fortune inhabits a character who can talk about these notions of sex and sexuality openly as she herself has found it awkward to talk about such matters as Fortune.  “Victoria’s Secret Undressed, bathroom pleasures” is part of a developing series by Sex by a Virgin that explores the perceived notion of sex and the false image of sex that is being transmitted to young girls.  Through humor, Sex by a Virgin is hoping to take hold of these erroneous ideas in order to conquer them.  Below are some questions answered by Chalme about the Victoria’s Secret project and her alter ego.

AiOP: What inspired your project “Victoria’s Secret Undressed, bathroom pleasures”?

“Victoria’s Secret Undressed, bathroom pleasures”

Fortune Chalme: One day I was looking through the Victoria’s Secret catalogue and every page that I turned, every model looked exactly the same, exactly like each other.  Their body weight, the image, and their poses, even their skin color were all the same, all to [look] like this one image of “sexy perfection.” It just looked so fake to me and so airbrushed, and I started thinking that I hated this image that was just being sent out to society.  Basically I, Sex by a Virgin, wanted to let the world know the truth — that this is not the real image of what a real woman looks like. This is just a made-up, fake image. This person does not exist.  I wanted to make this project as a way to empower women and teach about the truth.

AiOP: How did you come up with the alter ego “Sex by a Virgin”?

FC: For a lot of my art series I always have an alter ego because it’s just a way that I can express myself freely because for me, it’s kind of embarrassing to talk about sex and issues related to that as Fortune.  So by having an alter ego I can talk on and on without getting embarrassed.

AiOP: Who would you say is the target audience of this project?

FC: Originally, the target audience was only men. It was supposed to be these bathroom pleasures, these sexy images in bathrooms that, at first, seem sexy, but when you look closer they were deformed and it was kind of like a slap in your face, like “oh you’re trying to look at these sexy images of women but they were really ugly at the end of the day.”  Then I realized that it’s not only for them; it’s also for women and it’s also for anyone who has some issue with appearance or who cares about appearance.


“Victoria’s Secret Undressed, bathroom pleasures”

AiOP: Do you post these images in only women’s bathrooms, men’s bathrooms, or both?

FC: At first I tried to post them only in men’s bathrooms, but right now it’s a mix — whatever comes up and whatever I feel at the moment.


“Victoria’s Secret Undressed, bathroom pleasures”

AiOP: What kinds of reactions do you hope to get from people who see these images? What kinds of reactions have you seen?

FC: I hope that people see and are curious about it, drawn into it and it makes them think and question why the image looks the way it is and why this figure is the way it is.  Then maybe at that point they would go to my blog and see what I wanted to say about these figures. I was writing about the other day that I’m not getting a reaction. It’s very hard for me to tell because I just put them in the bathroom and I leave and I don’t know what people’s reactions are. I don’t have the satisfaction of knowing if my word is getting out there or if people are even seeing my project. But it is kind of liberating at the same time.


“Victoria’s Secret Undressed, bathroom pleasures”

AiOP: What have you learned from undertaking this project? Has it differed greatly from the original intention?

FC: When I first started the project I wasn’t even using a Victoria’s Secret catalogue. I was using this other catalogue called Agent Provocateur, which is a higher-end lingerie company.  I loved those images; I was so intrigued by the women’s bodies and how they were displayed and positioned and I just loved to cut them out like dolls and put them in my bathroom.  I was doing it not out of anger, as the Victoria’s Secret is kind of out of anger, but I was doing the previous project out of “oh these are really cool and I love how they look. The women look so sexy. Let me just position them in the bathroom,” and then it changed into something of anger, something more passionate, something driven by disgust.

“Victoria’s Secret Undressed, bathroom pleasures”

Originally I did this in my own bathroom and I would invite people to come see my installation, and then someone suggested “why don’t you do it in public bathrooms?” So at first, I was a little scared to do it in public bathrooms because I thought “oh I’m gonna get in trouble. Maybe it’s not nice to do it … maybe someone else’s private property,” but then I just did it and first I did it with scotch tape, then masking tape, and at last I did it with glue, which I think is kind of a progression of more permanency as I wanted them to stick on.  Now I am struggling with whether I care if they break off or if they get thrown away, or do I want the images to stay there.


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