How would you feel if Remi Gaillard performed his ‘Free Sex’ prank on you?

Like the typical porno, this gives us male power over several helpless females, dressed up as a Trigger Happy-style trick

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The French have made a considerable cultural contribution over the years, not least to the art of mime. I’m not sure how impressed the late, great Marcel Marceau would be by the controversial “air sex” offering from comedian, Remi Gaillard, who has been criticised for glorifying rape culture with his Free Sex video. The outrage created has no doubt helped the film to reach 4 million views on YouTube, but before you rush off to add to the number, let me tell you, The Artist this ain’t.

The film sees the 39-year-old comic sidling up to unsuspecting women (and one token male police officer) before simulating sex with them through the power of visual perspective. At best, it’s puerile. At worst, it’s downright creepy, a strange man in control of the action as both director and leading man, feigning non-consensual sex acts while the unwitting women are merely impassive objects. He isn’t actually flashing or groping them, and he hasn’t slipped them a roofie first, but the reaction on both sides of the Channel shows that to most women, the joke of “surprise sex” from a stranger is just not funny.

Gaillard remains defiant, pointing out that the women in the video all consented to the footage being shown. I’m not sure if they thought they might look like spoilsports if they said no, or if they genuinely found the prank amusing. I think a lot of women would have had a very different reaction. If I turned round and found some pervert simulating sex two feet behind me, my first instinct might be to slap him. But then I could be arrested for assault, whereas he has committed no criminal offence, however offensive his acts.

I’d never heard of Gaillard until the media maelstrom broke, but apparently he became a professional prankster after losing his job in a shoe shop. He found success rapidly by posting his “visual humourist” antics on YouTube, where he is now the seventeenth most subscribed comedian. Now, I can understand why a person might want to cut loose after years of having to look at other people’s gnarled trotters, and I admire his entrepreneurial flair, but if his latest offering is what passes for entertainment these days, I’m afraid it’s lost on me.  Free Sex, like the typical porno, gives us male power over several helpless females, dressed up as a Trigger Happy-style trick.

It seems Gaillard is happy to piss off thousands of women, seeing himself as a champion for freedom of expression against a collective feminist sense of humour failure. We’re always hearing how women aren’t funny, remember, so that must be why some of us don’t get how pant-wettingly hilarious this clown actually is. Or maybe it’s because we ladies aren’t clever enough to appreciate the film’s subtle metaphors. Perhaps it’s both.

In Anglo-French relations, things can sometimes get lost in translation, but this is a silent film so I don’t think that’s the trouble here. We all find different things funny. Vive la difference, as they say. But not vive la rape, even if it is through the medium of mime. Hopefully, mimed sex won’t become a craze in the schoolyard or in other public spaces. Can Gaillard and his fans not understand why young girls and women might feel violated, embarrassed and distressed if they have “air sex” inflicted on them while others look on and laugh? If that’s the case, it’s not our sense of humour that’s at fault so much as his complete failure of imagination.

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