I felt like a failed 20-something -- a turncoat to the Facebook generation -- reading the New York Times' Sunday Magazine piece about the recent growth of college sex magazines. Apparently, I'm far too clothed in the photos on my Facebook profile, which, by the way, I have failed to appreciate as "an embodiment of [my] personality," as one interviewee puts it. Raised amid the inherent exhibitionism of social networking sites, we're supposed to be comfortable with having millions of anonymous eyes watching our every move. "In this context, posing for a sex magazine can seem like just another, more formalized level of display," writes Alexandra Jacobs.
That seems like a canyon-size leap to me. But it's an attitude held by 23-year-old Alecia Oleyourryk, co-creator of Boink, a porn mag featuring pictorials of college students. "A body is a body is a body, and I'm proud of my body, and why not show my body? It's not going to keep me from having a job. Maybe it sticks to people, but it doesn't have that negative connotation like, I'm going to have to carry around this baggage," says Oleyourryk, who started -- and posed for -- the magazine as a senior at Boston University. "Maybe it's like, I'm going to carry this around and be proud of it and say: Look how I looked then! My boobs weren't on the ground. I wasn't 45 pounds overweight. How hot was I? It's not, like, 'The Scarlet Letter' anymore. It's a little badge of honor."
The article seems to suggest that posing nude is no big thing for today's coeds: "Oleyourryk said that for her and her peers, the question is not why pose nude, but why not?" Usually, arguments about the "stripperfication" or "pornographication" of young women drive me bonkers because they strike me as far too knee-jerk. (Many a time, I've found myself ranting aloud in a bookstore while skimming the latest "literary" arrival of this sort.) But despite my pro-sex (what a silly classification) and (generally) pro-porn feelings, reading this article made me feel a party to the other side. For instance: "Girls totally find Halloween a chance to be slutty. Not slutty in a negative way, but -- sexy," Oleyourryk tells the Times. "All girls want to be sexy and have a lot of sex, but they want to do it in an environment that's safe for them. So they're doing the Carrie Bradshaw thing or dressing up for Halloween." Or posing for college sex magazines.
An upcoming issue of Harvard's H-Bomb, a "literary arts magazine about sex and sexual issues," will feature female science majors peering "earnestly at test tubes, wearing lab coats opened to expose black lacy bras and panties, as in the old Maidenform advertisements." In case it went over your head, that's intended commentary on Larry Summers' controversial comments about women's abilities in the sciences. (Was it just unsuccessfully subversive? Or, maybe the intended message was, "Women are less intellectually capable in the sciences, but they do have breasts!")
Here's the thing: I don't disagree with Oleyourryk's "a body is a body is a body" sentiment. But so too, porn is porn is porn. I'm a little bothered by the moral hierarchy when it comes to, say, Hustler magazine's regular feature on naked coeds and spreads in Boink of students simulating sex. I think it's great that students at some of the country's most well-respected colleges have the freedom -- and nerve -- to start up sex magazines. But, let's remember, it's porn! If taking your clothes off for others is your thing, have at it. Let's just not set up nude or pornographic modeling as a normalized rite of passage for all coeds.