When shouting graphic taunts at women walking down the street, men will often insist they're just giving someone a compliment.
But in Compliment, a virtual reality experience created for the Oculus Rift by Parsons School of Design graduate student Lucy Bonner, men can experience catcalling firsthand. Compliment aims to dispel the illusions that being shouted at and objectified while walking down the street is anything but harassment.
As you navigate the grey streets of Bonner's digital world, men along the street will stop and call out phrases, from the cloying "Can I have your number? No? No? Why not?" to the more acidic "Mm, I'm gonna fuck you like an animal." If you turn around, you'll eventually notice two of the men in the simulation following you.
Bonner was inspired to create Compliment after moving to New York City from Houston and experiencing a dramatic increase in personal harassment.
"I wanted to make it as realistic as possible," Bonner told Motherboard. "Every piece of harassment that is in Compliment is something that has been said to me."
Bonner intentionally set the viewpoint at a lower height from the ground than most people are used to, so that users could feel towered over by the digital aggressors.
"I was diminished, I felt small, and as a result, I felt threatened," one taller male said after using the headset at Bonner's studio presentation. "So that's something I never could have experienced. Even if someone made the most articulate case for why this is a bad thing, I already know that, but now I feel a little more understanding of viscerally why that is."
Watch the full video from Bonner's final presentation here: