La dolce Vita : Campus publication arouses audience

By Joseph Gunther

The University saw a mostly positive response to the publication of its brand new sex-themed magazine’s first issue this fall quarter.

Its name taken from the second half of the University’s motto, Vita Excolatur was distributed free at the Reynolds Club. Twenty pages long, it included photo spreads containing partial nudity, a sex advice column, articles ranging from first-time masturbation to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, and a piece of erotic fiction.

Vita Excolatur Editor in Chief Sida Xiong, a fourth-year in the College, described the formation of the magazine as spurred by the fact that “Vassar has a sex-positive magazine and we thought an environment like this probably needs it more.”

The magazine’s purpose, stated in its first issue, is twofold: to create “an open forum to discuss sexuality” and “remind the university we are sexual and we are hot.”

The magazine’s editors obtained RSO status and sponsorship from SGFC, and received administrative assistance concerning possible legal barriers to publication.

“In the initial stages, the administration was really crucial to making everything okay” with the legal issues, Xiong said, referring to University restrictions that meant that pictures for the photo spread “Love in the Stacks” could be taken of the inside of the Regenstein library but not its recognizable facade.

After obtaining the resources and content to publish the first issue, the staff distributed 700 issues on its first day out, and soon the entire 1000-issue run was in circulation.

Xiong was pleased with the magazine’s initial reception: “People were talking about it in classrooms, in the dorms, and we got mostly positive feedback.”

Students seemed to approve of the magazine’s general open forum concept, though most were reluctant to make final judgments on the first issue’s execution of its concept and the magazine’s future potential.

Dan Worthen, a second-year in the College, said, “I applaud the effort and I was very impressed with the photography. People were certainly interested.”

Asked about possible areas of improvement, Worthen said, “We’re a bunch of dorks, and most of us have some schooling in areas of sociology, so I think it could have used a little more academic rigor.”

In response to the magazine’s stated intent to address its assertion that “the student body on this campus is stricken with the false belief that we are an ugly campus,” Rebecca Cohn, a first-year in the College, said she was not yet convinced. “There’s a difference between people having sex and being sexy.”

Steve Klass, vice president of the University and dean of students, said it was a “reasonably good” first issue, and said he was interested to see how the magazine develops. “It would be interesting to include discussions of public health issues, religious-moral issues, historical perspectives, the humanities,” he said. “I think that it’s possible to include these central aspects of our academic culture alongside the pictures and other elements of the magazine and still be provocative and fun.”

Xiong said that future issues would have new content. “In this first issue, there’s a lot of very first-time type articles about first experiences,” she said. “The next issue will be twice as long and have a very large spread with frisbee players to show an athletic side that doesn’t really get talked about.”

Plans are for the magazine to be published twice a quarter, with the next issue due to come out fifth week of winter quarter.

In response to complaints she received that the magazine was “not being hardcore enough,” Xiong said, “Yes, we’re ever-changing, but there’s a difference between pornography that’s lewd and erotica that’s classy.”

Vita Excolatur is exploring possible collaborations with Fire Escape and FOTA, and the magazine’s staff members are in the Reynolds Club this week, accepting nominations for the “sexiest TA” contest, the winner of which they hope will appear in an upcoming issue.