Love & Sex

Female College Students Film Porno Inside Columbia’s Library (But It’s Not Porn at All)

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Watch the strange, NSFW video here.

A lot more than studying was going down in Butler Library on the campus of Columbia University last November, when a handful of female students decided to shoot a quick erotic film in the basement. Student director Coco Young and Vogue's resident sex columnist, Karley Sciortino are both featured in the porno, which you can watch below if you're not at work, but you might want to prepare yourself first.

The video, released on Sunday by purple TELEVISION, begins with five female students studying at a group table in the library's basement, recorded by a surveillance camera. There's no dialogue, only a girls choir singing a hymn in the background. As time passes, the girls begin to undress one another before making out. A pretty standard start to a school-girl fantasy porno, only things take a strange turn. The girls drag one another through the halls, crack eggs over their heads, pour milk over others sitting on the toilet. As the film goes on, the strangeness escalates.

The most interesting thing about Initiation might be the fact that calling it a porno is a misnomer. A casual viewing will reveal that the act of sex itself, though implied, is missing. The stars, all white, young, and slender, writhe and arch their backs in ways that are conventionally seen as sexualized. But the porno stops just short of titillation and displaces you with macabre imagery. There's bobbing breasts, but they're interspliced with syrup being poured over a dead bird.This isn't a film fashioned after Edgar Allen Poe's personal collection; the three minutes are alienating and haunting. And it's on purpose. 

In an interview with the New York Observer, Young revealed the piece is a social commentary on women's hysteria, portrayed as the women shamble and shake in fits and bursts. Young explains that hysteria is a term that's been used to describe any emotion displayed by a female since the 19th century. She and her costars feel this idea still exists in 2014. She said, "The more you watch it, the more you get repulsed by it. Men get hooked because they want to see naked girls, but then we do gross things and are not attractive at all." 

That unattractive aesthetic works its way into the poor production value too. The film was shot on iPhones and Go Pro cameras, everyday accessible platforms that have been widely used to exploit women most recently on revenge porn sites. By taking the out-of-focus lens into their own hands, Coco Young and her fellow actresses hope to defuse some of the power a culture of surveillance can have over women.

The location also holds significance to their project. The filmmakers feel there's an unspoken bias against Barnard College, the all-female college within Columbia, a haven in the boy's club of academia. Butler Library is a showcase for male-oriented nostalgia on campus, making it an apt and politically resonant place to shoot. 

Initiation is not a porn because it doesn't deliver on the promise of arousal, but the heightened level of sexual performativity, the sly grins crossing the women's faces as they lick egg off each other's backs, suggest that the filmmakers are okay with never delivering. Female sexuality doesn't always have to be a means to an end. It doesn't have to exist for an audience. Sometimes it's a political statement, sometimes it's for pleasure, and sometimes, it's about eschewing conventional perceptions.  

The film, named Initiation after Young's fascination with the history of collegiate Greek life and its relationship to female sexuality, can be seen below and is NSFW

initiation from Agatha Claw on Vimeo.

[h/t NY Mag]