Sexualized naked protest using young and attractive women's bodies have long featured in the repertoire of protest tools for interventions in public space. Antirape feminist groups and nonhuman-animal rights activist groups, in particular, have mobilized these bodies to attract attention to their causes. Contemporary debates have suggested that these sorts of protest are objectionable, and that they are entwined with contemporary rape culture. This article complicates these accounts by considering what happens when the naked body is presented as a grotesquery in the service of these apparently emancipatory politics.
Analyzing two instances of naked protest as case studies, this article examines what happens to naked protest when the bodies protesting are “ugly” or are rendered so. The analysis suggests that naked protest featuring bodies that are “ugly” harbors the possibility of mobilizing a transgressive politics beyond contemporary rape culture. This article has implications for better understanding how to mobilize protest in a way that is transgressive and bold without further enshrining rape culture as the normative background against which it takes place.