The Porn Princess of B.U.

By Andrew Rimas | Boston Magazine |

The glazed pornography in Boink magazine does not come
cheap. A newsstand price of $7.95 puts it on the top shelf, in two
respects. For the money, you get a confessional titled “The Virgin
Slut,” a guide to dorm room masturbation, a remembrance of a spring
break tryst with an obese woman, and this definition of lubricant: “You
know, the stuff that makes everything so much more . . . slippery.” On
the whole, the writing has an artless tang. But then, you don't buy Boink for the articles.

Boink exists to flaunt naked bodies. Bodies that have
youth and campus gyms to their credit. And often penises: About a third
of the photos in Boink' s pages are gay-themed. Next to the expected images—blondes twisted in lingerie, blooming breasts, a smooth landscape of mons veneris —are
pictures of pantless men, some of them enjoying one another. The effect
is disorienting, like walking through an orchidarium and into a
butcher's shop.

Boink aims to be inclusive, to reflect the rainbow
ambience of an enlightened college campus. The magazine is the wild
hatchling of Boston University graduate Alecia Oleyourryk and
39-year-old photographer Christopher Anderson, who met during
Oleyourryk's sophomore year when she answered an advertisement for nude
models that he'd posted above a campus water fountain. They founded the
magazine in 2004 with this quite reasonable business philosophy: People
will always buy pictures of naked youths, and college students will
always collaborate, sometimes in the most congenial manner.

Of course, the idea has been a success. “We're not naive,” says
Oleyourryk. “Sure, everyone wants their 15 minutes, but we didn't plot,
'Should we do bicycles or should we do sex? Let's do sex!' We knew we'd
get a response.”

A sensible conclusion—so sensible that Oleyourryk wasn't the first to reach it. Anderson came to her with the concept for Boink after snapping photos for H Bomb,
a less libertine journal concocted in 2004 by a pair of Harvard coeds,
Camilla Hrdy and Katharina Praxedis Cieplak-von Baldegg. Spotting a gap
in the marketplace, Hrdy and Cieplak-von Baldegg did what any dynamic
Harvard students would do: They published. “There are millions of
magazines at Harvard on every subject,” says Cieplak-von Baldegg (the
name is a Mitteleuropean parfait of Polish and Swiss). “So I thought,
'What would people want to read?' A magazine about sex! It's all we
ever talk about at Sunday brunch.” With Boink, Oleyourryk
and Anderson swapped the earnest poetry found in their Harvard
counterpart with blazing nudity, dropping the intellectual pretensions
like so many discarded thongs. Says Oleyourryk, “We wanted to have
pictures that got people off.”

Naturally, the media lost no time in covering the student
sex-magazine story, trooping out all its fire breathers,
contortionists, and clowns. (This magazine did its part with a
full-page portrait of the H Bomb girls.) “Publicity stunt,”
read much of the subtext, delivered with a leer. “A flash (wink, wink)
in the pan.” But a year later, both magazines remain as frisky as a
1950s Brigitte Bardot. College porn—by students, for students and the
dirty old men who like them—is a notion that has come of age.

Porn.

It's a jumping chimpanzee of a word, the sort that hoots and beats
its fists on the floor, demanding a reaction. It's a four-letter word
in which all other four-letter words are distilled, a syllable both
harsh and oily. A puff of air cut off with a growl. And there was a
time when Boston had a lot of it.

In the 1940s, Scollay Square was a regular cheesecake factory, the
rhinestone of the New England seaboard. But it's been 50 years since
Sally Keith charmed a generation with her milkmaid's good looks and
talent for rotating the tassels on her breasts in opposite directions.
As the Combat Zone lost ground in the '90s, smut retreated into the
anonymity of motel rooms, brown paper mailings, and furtive bytes on
hard drives. In a city that's become less John Holmes than Oliver
Wendell, it's perhaps fitting that it's now fallen to university
students to do our dirty work.

It's probably no coincidence that Boink and H Bomb
arrive at a time when, if conservative commentators are to be believed,
American culture differs from Sodom's only by the fact that we have air
conditioning. From low-rise jeans to MTV to the very existence of
Jessica Simpson, it seems as if there's porn in our very groundwater.
That's a point that gets roundly hammered in two recent polemics:
Pamela Paul's Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families and Ariel Levy's Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture.
Paul's book is full of examples of porn's growing ubiquity and
harmfulness. Levy's takes the view that porn culture—meaning stripper
chic, vaginoplasty, and Paris Hilton—is undermining the hard-won
victories of feminism. The argument is a simple one: If Britney Spears
behaves like a prostitute, and America loves Britney Spears, Americans
will behave like prostitutes.

“The ideas in pornography seep into the mainstream, and into women's
consciousness,” says Gail Dines, a professor of sociology and women's
studies at Wheelock College. “Women are becoming increasingly sexy in
the way men want them to become, but they're losing their sexuality.
What happened is that sexual freedom has come without real liberation.
And this is hailed as an advance.”

Dines cites Sex and the City as an insidious example of
how porn poisons the cultural waters. “On that show, you never saw
social change. All they were free to do was screw around.” And, in
fact, Oleyourryk says she was “big into” the series during her
sophomore year. “Every little girl wants to be Carrie Bradshaw,” she
says.

Or Jenna Jameson: When Boink first advertised for
contributors, Oleyourryk and Anderson were surprised to receive more
responses from aspiring models than from writers. H Bomb
also didn't lack for input. Like team sweatshirts and bargain vodka,
sexual exploration is a major part of college culture. So is breaking
rules. But posing naked in a magazine is a transgression of another
order than flashing the science quad, getting a tattoo, or flirting
with communism. A nude photo shoot leaves thousands of pieces of
evidence, and it's not inconceivable that at least one of these will
turn up in a parent's house, or a future workplace, relationship, or
congressional hearing. Maybe it sounds ingenuous in supersexed America,
but the question still can be asked: Whither modesty?

Boink has a ready answer. The fall 2005 issue featured a
story in which a female writer boasts of her oral sex techniques. It's
called, “Jenna Would Be Proud.”

In the beginning there was H Bomb. And no one knew if it
was good. “The university administration was very nervous,” says
Cieplak-von Baldegg, a soft-spoken senior who wouldn't look out of
place sitting in a pre-Raphaelite woodland by John William Waterhouse.
It didn't help that she and Hrdy responded flippantly to early press
inquiries. “We said, 'We think it's a lit and arts magazine,'” says
Cieplak-von Baldegg. “'You can call it whatever you want.' And then the
headlines read, 'Harvard Starts Porn Magazine!'”

Most of the negative reaction to H Bomb came during that
initial media tornado, before the magazine had reached the presses.
“The Republican Club was outraged,” says Cieplak-von Baldegg. “But the
minute it came out, everyone stopped calling it porn. The
administration lost interest in monitoring our progress, except for the
Harvard library archives, which requested two copies.”

It's true that H Bomb doesn't really tickle the
hypothalamus. It features articles with titles like “The [un] Erotics
of the Encounter” and “Taking Back the Female Nude.” The second issue
opened with a harsh review of Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons.
(“Have you read it?” asks Cieplak-von Baldegg. “Unbelievable! A
cartoonish fantasy. I find it very hypocritical, condemning and ogling
at the same time.”) But lubricity isn't the point. As a college-funded
magazine, H Bomb aims to foster a campus dialogue about sex.

“For example,” says Cieplak-von Baldegg, “one Muslim student
e-mailed us requesting that the magazines be mailed in an opaque
envelope.” His complaint was prompted by the cover of the second issue,
which showed a golden spaghetti of naked limbs topped by two men
kissing each other. “I responded, 'Do you think it's so shocking that
you can't take 15 seconds to drop it in your recycling bin?' And he
said yes. So I asked him if he wanted to write for us.” The invitation
was declined.

It seems almost sweet to try to foster civilized dialogue about a
subject that excites shrieks from both sides of the cultural divide. It
also isn't easy. H Bomb's editors have learned a lesson that's plagued writers from Ovid to the Penthouse
letters page. “It's amazingly hard to write smart things about sex,”
says Cieplak-von Baldegg. “It's hard not to fall back on clichés and an
adolescent view of sexuality. As a girl, what do I want to see in a sex
magazine? What does embracing my sexuality mean? It's a lot harder to
come up with that than with yet another girl running around naked in a
two-dimensional image.”

Such questions don't trouble Alecia Oleyourryk, who edits Boink
in her apartment off Brighton Avenue, in the belly of the Allston
student ghetto. Oleyourryk's bedroom, where she does most of her work,
still bears the hallmarks of a student boudoir: tactically scattered
candles, a cat, and Oriental trimmings by way of study abroad or Pier 1
Imports. At 22, she seems almost too sunny to be a pornographer, a
profession that evokes leaden men with dubious handshakes. Oleyourryk
is spry, even girlish, although she's also got an air of being made of
harder fettle. As a matter of principle, she posed for the cover of Boink's
premiere issue. The photo showed her sharing an eventful moment with a
pretty brunette. “I've never been modest,” she says. “Not a lot makes
me blush.”

That's a useful quality in someone who publishes reviews of dildos. But it also seems to be surprisingly common on campus. Boink
calls itself “the college guide to carnal knowledge,” and its models
and writers are either students or recent graduates. While BU has no
official connection with Boink, about half the contributors
are enrolled at the school. The rest come from colleges like
Northeastern, Tufts, and UMass Amherst. None required much inducement
to sign on to the project.

“We pay models $100,” says Oleyourryk. “But $100 is nothing, even to
a student. Some people do it to shove it in their parents' faces. Some
because they're narcissistic. For me, it was 'Why the hell not?'”

If posing nude is good enough for Madonna . . . and for Cindy
Crawford, Sharon Stone, Jane Fonda, Raquel Welch, Kim Basinger, and the
women of the 2004 U.S. Olympic contingent, then, indeed, why not? Anna
Lee, a BU sophomore, answered the call for models. “One of my friends
joked and said that I should apply to be a model. We thought it would
be kind of funny, and we wondered who would be in it. So we went online
and applied.” Lee appeared in a body painting spread, in which she
remained nude while an artist painted individual pieces of clothing on
her skin—first panties, then a bra, and so on—with photos taken at each
stage. “The shoot was really long, about seven hours,” she says. “But I
had a good time.” Printed in reverse order, the photos give the effect
of a conventional striptease, except in greasepaint.

“We want it to entertain,” says Oleyourryk. “That's why people watch
TV. That's why they read magazines. That's why they read books.” It's
certainly why they read an article called “Fall Fornication MUST-HAVES”
(issue 3). And it's why Boink sells 20,000 copies of each new edition.

For all its high-minded diversity and jumbled proclivities, Boink is a commercial venture. Oleyourryk appeared on Howard Stern last year, and she frequently gets e-mails from students at other colleges who want to launch budding Boinks of their own. The magazine is sidling toward harder content and a more robust Internet presence. As for H Bomb, Cieplak-von Baldegg is confident the presses will keep rolling under future classes.

“We don't have any competition right now,” says Oleyourryk. “But I don't think it'll be long before we do.”

Not every student endorses Boink's message of love,
frequently repeated and involving imaginative props. Hence this letter
to the editor from one of Oleyourryk's classmates: “I would hate to see
BU's reputation singlehandedly ruined by one of its students. . . . You
weren't selling sex, you were selling trash. Good luck, get some values
and go back to school.” A second, anonymous note spurts a darker jet of
venom: “Ignoramuses like you should be banned from the face of the
earth.”

But for every sneer, every judgmental prude overstuffed with alumni
pride, there's a quiet man sitting alone in the lamplight. He sees a
beauty within the pages—a brazenly lit, uniquely American beauty.

In another issue of Boink, Oleyourryk reprinted a letter
from a Marine back from his second tour in Iraq. It read, “Thanks for
the inspiration and I just wanted to let you know it's good to see
someone take advantage of the rights we have fought so hard to
protect.”

Oleyourryk delineated her magazine's philosophy in her inaugural
editor's note. “Boink,” she wrote, isn't an exploitative term. Rather,
it conveys “immediacy, candor, naughtiness, and, above all, fun.” And
how can you argue against fun?  

Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2006/05/the-porn-princess-of-bu/