April 7, 2006

Vita to loosen up, go further for next issue

Starting with its next issue, Vita Excolatur, the U of C’s sexuality magazine, will begin publishing more explicit photography. Planned imagery includes erect penises, female genitalia, and oral sex.

Editor in chief Charlotte Rutherfurd, a fourth-year in the College, said the new realms of imagery would allow the magazine to look into a greater range of sexual issues than was possible with the previous, less explicit photographs.

“We’re exploring more areas in the new issue,” Rutherfurd said. “We have two shoots encompassing notions we didn’t show before; we’re exploring the idea of gay sex, the idea of going down on a girl.”

By covering these sexual relationships for the first time, Rutherfurd said that Vita will be able to better fulfill its mission of generating discussion about sexual life at the University and in general. She said it was important to emphasize that the magazine is making these creative decisions in order to express its artistic and intellectual values.

With the new photo spreads, the editorial staff of Vita is moving away from the standards followed in previous issues. Vita had been operating on verbal guidelines given by last year’s editor in chief. As Rutherfurd understood them, the standards were: no erect male genitalia, no female genitalia, and no forms of sex could be shown.

“A number of agreements were in place between the founding members with members in the administration,” Rutherfurd said. “When we couldn’t find the written laws, it was a great opportunity to put up our case to the administration to show these photographs.”

With the bolder photography also comes concern about a shift toward pornography. Rutherfurd said that when they first came up with plans for the new shoots, the administration seemed worried. However, both Vita staff and their ORCSA adviser, Sola Akintunde, are quick to reassure that while there will be more forms of nudity, the images will still follow Vita’s guidelines of erotic art.

All photography and layouts must be reviewed by Akintunde before they are cleared for publication. Moreover, Akintunde ensures that everything falls within previously set rules.

“I try my best not to edit them, not to censor them. I try to enforce the University’s policies, and challenge them to explore creative alternatives,” Akintunde said. “It’s all in the way it’s displayed. We’ve seen Vita with genitalia before; it’s all about the context within which it’s shown.”

Akintunde said that the administrators are not opposed to the new photography; they are just concerned about its effect on the students in the magazine.

“In order to protect the students and their futures, [the University] shies away from anything that could be pornographic,” he said. “The University’s concern has always been the protection of our students. That’s primary. Perhaps secondary is a concern for how the University will appear.”

Rutherfurd said that the new opportunities they have with photography give the magazine a chance to justify itself to the administration, which she said has always been a little wary of their publication. She added that the new, less

restrictive guidelines would be helpful to the magazine’s goals.

“There are two things we’re hoping to do with the new boundaries,” Rutherfurd said. “We want to explore important concepts in sexuality which we haven’t gotten a chance to do before and prove our legitimacy. We have to show the administration we are acting responsibly. We’re hoping to prove to the administration how serious we are.”

Students at the University of Chicago have mixed opinions about the shift toward a more hardcore magazine. Some feel it will sell more copies, but others think that the expansion of freedom will come at the expense of it being seen artistically.

“A lot of people see [the magazine] as kind of a joke,” said Brandon Woodhead, third-year in the College. “I think they’ll be a lot less likely to take it seriously after this.”

Fourth-year in the College Clay Carmody said he has only seen the magazine once, but that he would be more likely to buy it if it featured more hardcore images.

Vita model and photographer Tynan Kelly, a first-year in the College, is emphatic that the photography will be done tastefully, and not in any manner that could be construed as pornographic.

“They are not presented in a fundamentally vulgar manner. I’d say they are erotically and artistically vulgar,” Kelly said. “Basically, I am not going to be vulgar for vulgar’s sake. I will keep any hardcore activity in good taste.”