Fashion

02.05.14

Columbia’s Pompous Butler Library Porno

College girls invade Butler library to make a softcore statement on “female hysteria.” Paging Camille Paglia.

At first glance, it looks like a slightly pretentious softcore porn film: topless women in unsexy underwear, writhing and kissing, oiling each other up. But read the video’s title and description—“Initiation explores the rituals of American Ivy League secret societies, to the point of hysteria, highlighting our culture’s perception of female desire”—and you realize this porno-lite has a political purpose, albeit a rather earnest one. (No surprise here: it was made by college students.)

The sapphic adventure—complete with whips and blindfolds, raw eggs, milk and a black rubber chicken—was not shot in a dank studio in the San Fernando Valley but rather in the hallowed stacks of Columbia University’s Butler Library. The film was conceived by Coco Young, a Columbia undergraduate, and Karley Sciortino, author of the “Slutever” blog and columnist for Vogue, and its stars a cast of artists and students.

For the woefully obtuse, she added that the film shows the “ecstasy moment right before death or the moment of orgasm, which usually describes hysteria but is a humanly universal feeling.”

In an interview with The Observer, Young explained that the video is “a critique on the institution and society, in general” and that they chose the Butler “because there are all-male names written on the wall of the library. It is a politically strong place.” She told the IvyGate blog that she works in “Butler [Library] but sometimes feel suffocated by it… The point was to transgress the relative conservatism (and its history) of the space with this hysterical intervention.”

For the woefully obtuse, she added that the film shows the “ecstasy moment right before death or the moment of orgasm, which usually describes hysteria but is a humanly universal feeling.” Young later told the New York Daily News that the film was about “female hysteria”: “We as women feel female hysteria is still prevalent in our society but it’s disguised in different forms. Like when a guy calls a woman ‘crazy’ or females are dismissed as being too emotional for powerful career paths.

To Young, the film covers lots of ground. But on her Twitter feed, Sciortino stripped away the politics and focused on the “babes” in the film, tweeting: “I made a film for @purplediary w/ Coco Young where I hazed some babes into a secret society in an Ivy League library.” So much for subversion.