Woe to the Wayward Adventurer: The Story of the American Exchange Student Trapped in a Giant German Vagina
The story broke on Friday evening, in a stiff-lipped German regional newspaper, the Schwäbisches Tagblatt:
“Tübingen. The emergency call reached the fire department on Friday around 1:45, and was somewhat curious: ‘A person is stuck in a vulva of stone.'”
The person in question was an unnamed American exchange student in Germany, and the vulva in question was a sculpture of a giant vagina made of Italian marble. Images circulating online of the incident show a young man in glasses, a graphic t-shirt, and fitted jeans sprawled on the ground, humiliated before the temple of the avant-garde.
(Click for a larger version of the fiasco.)
After the student got himself trapped in the stone sculpture in the university city of Tübingen on Friday afternoon, it took nearly two dozen firemen to pull him to safety. The adventurer was uninjured.
This, two centuries after Byron, is the modern-day Grand Tour.
It is also the perfect media storm. All the ingredients are here: a hapless American abroad, controversial and sex-positive artwork and, finally, their fusion into a photographable and clickable mess.
Since Friday, European and American sites have had a field day. Even Russia Today has weighed in. Below, some of the very worst, and oh, the very best, headlines and ledes on an American abroad.
The Sun, a London tabloid, hits the ground running:
“Bet he feels a right… Student trapped in sex organ statue”
From Germany’s Bild, the nation’s most popular daily, a more considered analysis:
“In all likelihood the American student hoped only to visit the picturesque town of Tübingen. Ultimately, this would become perhaps the most agonizing excursion of his life. Namely, he became trapped in a stone vagina and had to be freed by the fire department.”
Russia Today, gleeful:
“It’s a boy! US exchange student rescued from giant stone vagina in Germany”
The Guardian, telling it like it is:
“US student is rescued from giant vagina sculpture in Germany”
ArtNet gives agency to the work:
“32-Ton Marble Vagina Traps US Exchange Student”
But perhaps the greatest contribution comes from the sculptor himself, Peruvian artist Fernando de la Jara, who created the statue before its installation in Tübingen more than a decade ago. Excerpts from the personal statement on de la Jara’s website become, in retrospect, premonitions:
“Exaltation of the damsel, gate to garden of delights illuminated…there is something there,” de la Jara writes, “like an unravished promise of spring.”
John Arquilla earned his degrees in international relations from Rosary College (BA 1975) and Stanford University (MA 1989, PhD 1991). He has been teaching in the special operations program at the United States Naval Postgraduate School since 1993. He also serves as chairman of the Defense Analysis department.
Dr. Arquilla’s teaching interests revolve around the history of irregular warfare, terrorism, and the implications of the information age for society and security.
His books include: Dubious Battles: Aggression, Defeat and the International System (1992); From Troy to Entebbe: Special Operations in Ancient & Modern Times (1996), which was a featured alternate of the Military Book Club; In Athena’s Camp (1997); Networks and Netwars: The Future of Terror, Crime and Militancy (2001), named a notable book of the year by the American Library Association; The Reagan Imprint: Ideas in American Foreign Policy from the Collapse of Communism to the War on Terror (2006); Worst Enemy: The Reluctant Transformation of the American Military (2008), which is about defense reform; Insurgents, Raiders, and Bandits: How Masters of Irregular Warfare Have Shaped Our World (2011); and Afghan Endgames: Strategy and Policy Choices for America’s Longest War (2012).
Dr. Arquilla is also the author of more than one hundred articles dealing with a wide range of topics in military and security affairs. His work has appeared in the leading academic journals and in general publications like The New York Times, Forbes, Foreign Policy Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Wired and The New Republic. He is best known for his concept of “netwar” (i.e., the distinct manner in which those organized into networks fight). His vision of “swarm tactics” was selected by The New York Times as one of the “big ideas” of 2001; and in recent years Foreign Policy Magazine has listed him among the world’s “top 100 thinkers.”
In terms of policy experience, Dr. Arquilla worked as a consultant to General Norman Schwarzkopf during Operation Desert Storm, as part of a group of RAND analysts assigned to him. During the Kosovo War, he assisted deputy secretary of defense John Hamre on a range of issues in international information strategy. Since the onset of the war on terror, Dr. Arquilla has focused on assisting special operations forces and other units on practical “field problems.” Most recently, he worked for the White House as a member of a small, nonpartisan team of outsiders asked to articulate new directions for American defense policy.| Rational Security |