Female Students Shoot Controversial Sexual Film In Columbia’s Butler Library


porno5n-2-webColumbia University and Barnard College created a stir this month by filming what has been described as “a feminist pornographic film” in Columbia’s Butler Library to fight what they see as “gender tension” at the school. The film called “Initiatiøn,” was billed as a feminist statement exploring “the rituals of American Ivy League secret societies, to the point of hysteria, highlighting our culture’s perception of female desire.” It somehow made this ambiguous point by showing the women engaging in fondling, tweaking, and rubbing eggs on their bodies in the Butler library.

Now I admit that I am a middle-aged, Mid-western-born male professor who spends most of his academic time in the 18th Century, but I am confused. The students condemned the library because it had only names of males on its facade, proclaiming that “Butler is an extremely charged space — the names emblazoned on the stone facade are, for me, a stimulant for resistance.”

300px-Nyc_columbiaColumbia art and history major Coco Young explained that the library was the symbol of sexism because of the gender of those emblazoned on its walls. Butler is a neoclassical structure named as the University’s former President Nicholas Murray Butler. The names on the facade are a rather obvious and austere group: Along the front and sides of the library are inscribed the names of Homer, Herodotus, Sophocles, Plato, Aristotle, Demosthenes, Cicero, Virgil, Horace, Tacitus, Saint Augustine, Aquinas, Dante, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Milton, Voltaire, and Goethe. Notably, the most recent is Johann Wolfgang von Goethe who was born 1749. The names reflect the neoclassical structure and the core curriculum of the University when it was constructed.

The students waited for a Saturday when the library was largely empty and used a tarp to shield some of the more racy scenes.

My guess is that the film is being the most closely scrutinized at fraternities, but that is clearly not the purpose. I have a hard time as an academic squaring the objection to the recognition of these ancient and classical philosophers as threatening or insulting to women. Columbia has long advanced female scholars and female scholarship. The university honors many such figures in different parts of the campus. Academia has been enriched by such voices and has evolved as women have thrown off the restrictions and prejudices that once existed. However, that does not mean that classical philosophers should be denounced for their gender anymore than female scholars should have been barred at one time for their gender.

Columbia is a curious site for such a protest given its history. Indeed, Barnard is named after Columbia President F. A. P. Barnard who fought for years to admit women at Columbia over objections from both students and faculty. He first called for such admissions in 1879, just 14 years after the Civil War. Finally, in 1883 after continual campaigning by Barnard, the Trustees adopted the Collegiate Course for Women. In 1886, the school awarded its first degree to a woman, a PhD in astronomy to Wellesley College graduate Winifred Edgerton. There remained opposition to women going to class and efforts to reverse the gains made by Barnard. In 1887, the school awarded a B.A. degree to Mary Hankey upon her completion of the Collegiate Course. In 1889, the trustees approved the establishment of Barnard College and in 1890 they hired a female botanist, Emily Gregory, to instruct Barnard students.

Like many institutions, there is a stratigraphic history of Columbia that shows the steady increase in female scholars and students. All universities now celebrate that diversity. It is possible to honor ancient and classical voices as well as more modern voices at such institutions. It takes a degree of maturity to understand this history while honoring all of these brilliant contributions. I do not read Locke or Plato through the lens of gender politics. These are philosophers who introduce students to foundational concepts of government, religion, and society. I certainly do not view their mere mention on library walls as a symbol of sexism or repression.

220px-ReferenceButlerYet, Barnard College senior Sara Grace Powell insisted “Butler is an extremely charged space — the names emblazoned on the stone façade are, for me, a stimulant for resistance . . . I work in Butler but sometimes feel suffocated by it … The point was to transgress the relative conservatism (and it’s history) of the space with this hysterical intervention.” Wow, I can understand not liking neoclassical architecture but feeling “suffocated” by the fact that there are male names on the façade of the building? I also remain confused how that feeling of suffocation leads to tweaking and what has been criticized as a soft porn shoot at a place of learning.

220px-Young_Dorothy_ParkerFrankly, the film strikes me as adolescent and irresponsible. It certainly bring a new meaning to Dorothy Parker’s view of Ivy League women when she said “If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.”

Vogue contributor and the author of the Slutever blog Karley Sciortino helped create the film and encouraged people, if they liked her feminist porn to check out “the most recent was a blow-job instruction video that I made with Sandy Kim last May.” I am not sure if that is considered a feminist porn film but I think I will pass.

34 thoughts on “Female Students Shoot Controversial Sexual Film In Columbia’s Butler Library

  1. Enjoyed the quote from Dorothy Parker. She certainly knew a great deal about, and was appreciative of, the subject of the quote.
    Now, as long as these young women stick to using egg whites, their point may eventually sink in.
    — If Dorothy were able to join them, she’d likely be leading the pack, egg beater in one hand and her mighty pen in the other.

  2. Well, guys don’t mind seeing girls get each other aroused, but you’d hardly call that feminist porn most of the time. In fact I suspect many feminists might object to that as being sexism from their viewpoint. Now if the feminist girls wacked the guy trying to chat them up, & maybe tied him up to boot, & then made love between themselves while the unfortunate male looked on uncomfortably… Well, I’d call that feminist porn!

  3. This reminds me of the recent event in the desert where two obese boy scout leaders destroyed a naturally eroded rock formation, laughing and high fiving along the way and then stated that they did it with concern for public safety.

    You can make an argument out of anything. Watch the republicans make hay with this latest piece of mostly good news about the effects of the ACA. There is nothing more pathetic in this world overflowing with stuff that really needs fixing than someone tilting at non existing problems and oppressions that aren’t there.

    This is so seventies when if you referred to a female friend as a lady you were nailed to the cross.

  4. “by filming what is called “a feminist pornographic film”

    Who called it “pornographic”?
    That does not seem to have been the intent – or the result.

    A tweet from one of the makers stated:
    Karley Sciortino @Slutever: I made a film for @purplediary w/ Coco Young where I hazed some babes into a secret society in an Ivy League library: http://purple.fr/television/sex/initiation

    Warning, the film (in the link) is NSFW
    – if work would be disrupted by the sight of female breasts in any context.

    *Not* viewing the film would be NSFD ( Not Safe For Debate ). If you have not actually seen the film, you are not on good ground for debating the merits/demerits of it.

    I don’t see it as pornographic. The closest it gets to sex is some mild kissing. There are breasts but no pubes.
    It’s more arty/weird. It just happens incidentally to have boobs.

    What I get from it is a question….
    Would a film of a non-staged ‘respectable’ (male?) society initiation hazing at a place of learning look any less weird? What would that tell us about the nature of the people/institution?
    I think that sort of question was intended to be provoked.

  5. Wow, I can understand not liking neoclassical architecture but feeling “suffocated” by the fact that there are male names on the façade of the building?” – JT

    I think the point of suffocation is that they are exclusively male.

  6. “Frankly, the film strikes me as adolescent and irresponsible. It certainly bring (sic) a new meaning to Dorothy Parker’s view of Ivy League women when she said “If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.””

    Another Dorothy Parker poem comes to mind. Just sayin’.

    Men

    They hail you as their morning star
    Because you are the way you are.
    If you return the sentiment,
    They’ll try to make you different;
    And once they have you, safe and sound,
    They want to change you all around.
    Your moods and ways they put a curse on;
    They’d make of you another person.
    They cannot let you go your gait;
    They influence and educate.
    They’d alter all that they admired.
    They make me sick, they make me tired.

  7. “On January 25th, Andrew Lohse took a major detour from the winning streak he’d been on for most of his life when, breaking with the Dartmouth code of omertà, he detailed some of the choicest bits of his college experience in an op-ed for the student paper The Dartmouth. “I was a member of a fraternity that asked pledges, in order to become a brother, to: swim in a kiddie pool of vomit, urine, fecal matter, semen and rotten food products; eat omelets made of vomit; chug cups of vinegar, which in one case caused a pledge to vomit blood; drink beer poured down fellow pledges’ ass cracks… among other abuses,” he wrote. He accused Dartmouth’s storied Greek system – 17 fraternities, 11 sororities and three coed houses, to which roughly half of the student body belongs – of perpetuating a culture of “pervasive hazing, substance abuse and sexual assault,” as well as an “intoxicating nihilism” that dominates campus social life. “One of the things I’ve learned at Dartmouth – one thing that sets a psychological precedent for many Dartmouth men – is that good people can do awful things to one another for absolutely no reason,” he said. “Fraternity life is at the core of the college’s human and cultural dysfunctions.” Lohse concluded by recommending that Dartmouth overhaul its Greek system, and perhaps get rid of fraternities entirely.

    Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/confessions-of-an-ivy-league-frat-boy-inside-dartmouths-hazing-abuses-“20120328#ixzz2sSajEcSy
    Follow us: @rollingstone on Twitter | RollingStone on Facebook

    O.K. I watched that film and it brings together many things for me. First, fraternity hazing is full of homo-erotic sexual violent abuse (as opposed to sexuality). It is also full of sexual violent abuse towards women. Notice how the description above is quite similar to the women’s film. I took this film to be a comment on the cruelty towards other people that happens in initiations. I believe it succeeded in this regard.

    As to happening in a library, this is often a part of elite school initiation. Doing cruel things in a public spot (see The Social Network) is “cool”! The schools know it happens and they just look the other way.

    I will also link these images to Gitmo. People in chains, people beaten, people forced into sexual acts are all a part of what is happening in one of American’s finest prisons. I have often considered that the people who participated in these initiations also thought up how to set up torture in Gitmo and other US blacksites.

    In the case of elite initiations, S and M is not “transgressive”, it is a norm.
    As to suffocating in the library. It is discouraging to be in an environment where males are considered to have much more worth than females. I again refer people to The Social Network because it shows clearly how even highly privileged and educated women are regarded
    and regard ourselves (in too many cases.)

  8. A library is inherently sexist?? I don’t get it. I don’t dispute that sexism is a problem, but I don’t understand how you solve or help the problem by making this bit of nonsense. Who had to clean up the egg mess after they were done filming??

  9. Ahhh, The state of feminism. It has never been pro woman but anti man @ its core. Any movement w/ a negative philosophy is bound to end up like this self parody. Pro women feminists like Camille Paglia left the feminist movement decades ago. The movement is irrelevant and just angry, like the “angry white men” they rant about continuously.

  10. Meanwhile, there’s still a stubborn gender gap in wages and millions of women toil away at dead end jobs at places like Wal-Mart with no significant growth in wages over time. This is why feminism, esp. the academic variety has lost its connection to any kind of grassroots.

  11. In the late 70’s I attended Columbia U, took pre-med courses, gained a scholarship and plenty of insults. I had to turn down the scholarship and leave because, as a single mother, my teenage boys were becoming a problem I had to deal with. In one particular course, Physiological Psychology, I was called a “cow” by a male professor (most professors were male, btw) in front of the class. My thesis for that course was returned with an A- and a note that I had engaged in “excessive scholarship.” Admittedly this was at an earlier time, but we had already gone through the 2nd wave of feminism.

  12. Rich,

    I agree with you about women’s wages and about the disconnect between academic feminism and anything useful to women’s rights. However, this is one of the few things coming out of an academic setting that does ring true.

    In my earlier post I linked to a man who had gone through the initiation ceremony at Dartmouth. “…He accused Dartmouth’s storied Greek system – 17 fraternities, 11 sororities and three coed houses, to which roughly half of the student body belongs – of perpetuating a culture of “pervasive hazing, substance abuse and sexual assault,” Rolling Stone

    You can read countless accounts of Greek initiation “ceremonies” and they will almost all have an element of sexual assault as an important component in them. Sexual assault is endemic to women’s lives regardless of class. We should be asking the question why men would choose sexual assault in their initiation ceremonies? That’s one question this film is raising.

    The degradation and harm done to women by men is serious. This cruelty must end. Sexism is as dangerous and harmful as racism and as classism and as homophobia. People die because of it. Yet, I feel that many people do not feel the reality of that harm (nor the harm of classism) as they might with racism and homophobia.

  13. Excellent comments, as always, Jill. Thanks.

    “I will also link these images to Gitmo. People in chains, people beaten, people forced into sexual acts are all a part of what is happening in one of American’s finest prisons. I have often considered that the people who participated in these initiations also thought up how to set up torture in Gitmo and other US blacksites.” (Jill @ 10:13 am)

    And it’s come home to the streets (and communities) of America, as well, in a myriad of ways.

  14. “You can read countless accounts of Greek initiation “ceremonies” and they will almost all have an element of sexual assault as an important component in them. ”

    Important point: it is not sexual assault if you agree to participate. GLOs are entirely voluntary and self-selecting.

    As far as I can tell, sororities exist primarily to provide inexpensive sexual services to fraternities. Indeed, to me, fraternities seem very nasty and sororities doubly so. But you agree that they are popular.

    So the real question is whether it is any of your business what consenting adults choose to do with each other.

  15. So the real question is whether it is any of your business what consenting adults choose to do with each other.

    50 Shades of Consent

    Consent – Yay! WOOT!
    Consent – coerced
    Consent – uniformed
    ( OK. 3 shades )

    Is consent to hazing totally free consent?
    Do (some) people only undergo the types of abuse described above because the alternative is being shunned/rejected/bullied?
    Do (some) people only learn the full nature of it after it is in progress – and not feel strong enough to call a stop?

    What is the value of such hazing?
    Is it completely harmless to the ‘hazers’ and the ‘hazee’?
    What does it tell us about the nature of the people who engage in it?

  16. nick spinelli

    Ahhh, The state of feminism. It has never been pro woman but anti man @ its core. Any movement w/ a negative philosophy is bound to end up like this self parody. Pro women feminists like Camille Paglia left the feminist movement decades ago. The movement is irrelevant and just angry, like the “angry white men” they rant about continuously.
    ========================
    “Stifle it Eadittt …”

  17. SlingTrebuchet

    “So the real question is whether it is any of your business what consenting adults choose to do with each other.”

    50 Shades of Consent

    Consent – Yay! WOOT!
    Consent – coerced
    Consent – uniformed
    ( OK. 3 shades )

    Is consent to hazing totally free consent?
    Do (some) people only undergo the types of abuse described above because the alternative is being shunned/rejected/bullied?
    Do (some) people only learn the full nature of it after it is in progress – and not feel strong enough to call a stop?

    What is the value of such hazing?
    Is it completely harmless to the ‘hazers’ and the ‘hazee’?
    What does it tell us about the nature of the people who engage in it?
    =======================
    It is a practice for the perfecting of the Authoritarian A and Authoritarian B social dynamics:

    Authoritarianism is something authoritarian followers and authoritarian leaders cook up between themselves. It happens when the followers submit too much to the leaders, trust them too much, and give them too much leeway to do whatever they want — which often is something undemocratic, tyrannical and brutal. In my day, authoritarian fascist and authoritarian communist dictatorships posed the biggest threats to democracies, and eventually lost to them in wars both hot and cold. But authoritarianism itself has not disappeared, and I’m going to present the case in this book that the greatest threat to American democracy today arises from a militant authoritarianism that has become a cancer upon the nation.

    (Authoritarianism: Past And Future Is Now). These are bugs treated as features within the elitist cultural amygdala of our society (Hypothesis: The Cultural Amygdala).

  18. Easy questions, easy answers:

    Is consent to hazing totally free consent?

    Yes. Everyone knows what GLOs are like by the time they apply to college.

    Do (some) people only undergo the types of abuse described above because the alternative is being shunned/rejected/bullied?

    That is their free choice. BTW, I’ve never heard of anyone being ‘bullied’ into joining a GLO. You have to put considerable effort into being accepted by one.

    Do (some) people only learn the full nature of it after it is in progress – and not feel strong enough to call a stop?

    No, because no one doesn’t know about it already. If there were a particular example of a sheltered naif who really did not know, they are free to walk away. And in any case, the naif wouldn’t get in.

    What is the value of such hazing?

    The value is what the participants place on it.

    Is it completely harmless to the ‘hazers’ and the ‘hazee’?

    Is that relevant? ‘Completely Harmless’ is not a standard achievable by any aspect of out society or culture.

    What does it tell us about the nature of the people who engage in it?

    That they are desperate conformists. But many thousands of people join GLOs every year. Many thousands more want to but are rejected and suffer, sometimes badly, because of it.

    I think GLOs are horrid and would pay to get out if I was admited by mistake. But I don’t presume to oppose other people doeing what they want.

  19. Many thousands more want to but are rejected and suffer, sometimes badly, because of it.

    When you say they “suffer, sometimes badly”…. Can you expand on that?
    Is this simply desperate wannabe conformists experiencing angst? – An internal thing.
    Is it that the rejection triggers negative actions from others? – Not of the elect, so fair game for whatever.

    I am not of the heavy-handed “ban everything” persuasion.
    It could be that a sensible response to the issue would be to ridicule the practices.

    Perhaps this was one of the purposes of the film in question.

  20. Another interesting issue is the idea that someone wanted to join a fraternity so if they, for example, end up dead from being hazed, well what’s the problem? They must have known people have ended up dead before, so they have no right to expect they might live through the experience. The only people at fault for a hazing death should legally be the person who joined up. Likewise, if one is sexually assaulted, it is not the fault of the person doing the sexual assault, it is the fault of the person who joined the fraternity or sorority. Actions have consequences when, and only when, you are the victim of illegal activities. If you are the perpetrator, then how could you know that you might sexually assault someone, or maybe even kill them? You’re an innocent! Only the victim should have preplanned that!

    The legal system is so screwed up! Imagine holding perpetrators of illegal activities responsible for their actions. Just like those miners being killed. Hell, shouldn’t they know better? Do they really deserve safe working conditions when any idiot knows that miners are going to die. Screw-em I say. They should have known better than to take that job. It’s not the employer who should be held to account for unsafe working conditions-it’s the miners fault for taking that job. Victims are always at fault, never perps!!!

  21. “When you say they “suffer, sometimes badly”…. Can you expand on that?
    Is this simply desperate wannabe conformists experiencing angst? – An internal thing.”

    Yes, that sort of thing. What could be sadder than a frat reject? Well, a sorority reject, certainly.

    “Is it that the rejection triggers negative actions from others? – Not of the elect, so fair game for whatever.”

    I can’t imagine this happening. Outside of the GLOs and their bitter, sad rejects, no one else cares about them. If frat boys become bothersome the police and university administrators are well practiced at dealing with them.

    My point is that this group is entirely self-selecting. No one is ever subjected to a GLO hazing without actively seeking out such action. This makes it completely different from, for example, sexual abuse in Catholic schools.

  22. “Another interesting issue is the idea that someone wanted to join a fraternity so if they, for example, end up dead from being hazed, well what’s the problem?”

    Your post makes no sense. Everywhere in the US dangerous hazing is prohibited. GLOs must obey the law at all times and if there is an incident they may be suspended or removed from the school. Individuals will be prosecuted if a crime has been committed.

    There is no question of victimhood. This is an issue of consensual, legal activity pursued by adults. As you know, many people are eager, even desperate, to gain entry to a GLO.

  23. “So Dan, Since it’s illegal to engage in dangerous hazing, do we hold perps accountable when they engage in it?”

    Yes, obviously. But I didn’t say it was illegal. I said prohibited, and that means prohibited by the GLOs themselves or the universities. There are many dangerous activities that are not illegal. In the end they can always be sued if someone thinks they have been harmed.

    But we are not talking about illegal or dangerous activity. We are talking about guys shoving radishes up their butts.

  24. Dan, actually sexual assault and homicide are illegal. People in the greek system have been convicted of these crimes for their actions during initiation ceremonies.

  25. “Dan, actually sexual assault and homicide are illegal.”

    Thanks for the news flash.

    ” People in the greek system have been convicted of these crimes for their actions during initiation ceremonies.”

    If this is true then you can clearly see that such things are taken seriously when they occur.

  26. I don’t see how making a film like that is going to do anything to change what they are upset about. If they are upset that the library has only names of males on its façade, then why don’t they fight to have deserving females added? Wouldn’t that at least take care of one of the many problems they see the school having?

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