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VES Video Excites Curiosity

By Nicole B. Urken, Contributing writer

A planned Visual and Environmental Studies (VES) video project on masturbation has aroused a combination of interest and ire after the directors solicited participants over House lists last week.

Lucy F.V. Lindsey ’06 and Nicole A. Salazar ’06 e-mailed looking for students to relate personal experiences, be part of a group discussion and even appear in the act on camera.

Lindsey and Salazar said they were motivated to pursue their topic because masturbation has sparked so much interest among so many people.

“There is something shocking about masturbation that draws so much attention to it, and we want to capture that,” Salazar said.

The project is one of several small final projects that the students are working on in VES 51a, “Fundamentals of Video: Introductory Course.”

According to the course’s professor, Lecturer Robb Moss, the project is still in its early phases.

“The students are still not clear exactly what direction they will pursue,” Moss said. “The complication will involve presenting the topic of masturbation and have it not be pornographic.”

Salazar and Lindsey said they will keep an open mind about what people want to contribute.

“We don’t want to restrain anyone from anything,” said Salazar. “We want to gather all the material we can and then see if it’s tasteful and go from there.”

Lindsey and Salazar said they hope to approach the subject from a “personal and professional standpoint,” incorporating interviews with both professors and students.

“This cross-cultural, cross-generational study will aspire to open up what we perceive to be one of the final frontiers in sexual education and communication,” they wrote in their House list post.

While Lindsey and Salazar said that over 50 respondents have expressed interest in participating, some who received the pair’s advertisement e-mail weren’t as excited.

One student responded to Leverett-Open with a terse, one-word, expression of disgust: “Gross.”

Another complained about the solicitation e-mail’s ambiguous subject line, which read “amazing opportunity.”

“Perhaps a more specific subject line would have increased the likelihood that those interested in this ‘amazing opportunity’ would read the message and that those who found the prospect ‘gross’ would delete it,” Sarah G. Dawson ’04 said.

Dawson conceded, however, that such specificity could easily have triggered recipient’s spam filters.

Lindsey and Salazar said that although they did expect some negative responses to their e-mail, their motive in sending it was to spread the word about their project so they could have an eclectic group of participants.

“We sent the e-mail out over House lists not to stir things up. We just wanted a diversity of opinion on the subject for our project,” Salazar said. “We knew if only our friends participated, it would not be as interesting.”

Other students defended the mass e-mail as an effort to enhance an academic endeavor, and thought that instinctive negative reactions to the subject matter were uncalled for.

“What actually is ‘gross?’” Cara C. Delzer ’04 asked. “Is that sort of blanket reprimand of a very appropriate invitation to social scholarship?”

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