No Sex at Wesleyan University

by

01/02/2001

W 89th St & West End Ave, New York, NY 10024

Neighborhood: Upper West Side

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To members of the snoopy national media who still call to inquire, Brian Brown, a junior at Wesleyan University, insists, at articulate length, that he is no aspiring porno king. His favorite book is Vladimir Nabokov’s “Pale Fire”, and he is currently immersed in the films of avant-garde German directors like Werner Herzog, and Wim Wenders, part of a class he’s taking this semester, called “New German Cinema”. He was a member of the debate team during his high school days in Durham, N.C., a varsity letterman as a swimmer, and an enthusiastic participant in the local model United Nations Program, among other upstanding civic activities. Ask about the towering classics of the pornographic film genre, like “Debbie Does Dallas” and Marilyn Chambers’ masterwork, “Behind the Green Door”, and Brown falls primly silent. “I’ve only seen a couple of porno films,” he said, the other day, via telephone, from the off-campus house he shares with two room mates on the fringes of the leafy Wesleyan campus, in Middletown, Conn. “They happened to be playing at someone’s house, so I just sat down and watched them.”

This brief encounter my have influenced Brown’s artistic vision in the end, it’s hard to say. Last February, in the depths of another dreary New England winter, he tacked up a series of fliers around campus, advertising for participants in a film project he called “Wesporn”.

“Get paid to get laid,” the flier read, “all welcome/do what you want/show what you want/Wesporn/start fucking around/if interested, call Brian.” Nearly thirty students called, or sent e-mail, and before long, Brian had eleven parts cast for a working script he’d titled “NoSexit”, after the famous Sartre play. His plan was to make a movie about a group of students making an actual porn film at Wesleyan, a conceit he stole from one of his favorite recent comedy films, “Waiting for Guffman”. “We were going to film it at locations around campus, and wherever people volunteered their rooms,” said Brian, a little wistfully. “I was as interested in people’s reaction, as I was in the film itself. ThatÍs partly why the fliers were so explicit. I wanted to see what students thought of such a project, and to galvanize people into thinking about sexuality and sex issues at Weslyan in general. I guess it worked, although I didn’t necessarily mean to interest the rest of the country.”

Brian put his fliers up over the weekend, but by Monday, most had been taken down. The fact that he had never made a film before (he’s an American Studies major, with a concentration in Film and Media Studies) didn’t deter Wesleyan’s president, Douglas J. Bennet, from calling Brown into his office. Bennet, a former president of National Public Radio, won’t talk about the meeting now. But Brown remembers a Draconian proceeding, in which he was forced to renounce his project which, by then, he was calling “a piece of performance art”. Together with other grim-faced university officials, President Bennet played a tape of a security report of a sexual harassment incident on campus that weekend. “Your worried about sexual inhibitions on campus,” Brown recalls him saying, “well I’m fucking worried about sexual inhibitions (too).” They reminded Brown that news of a real live porno shoot at Wesleyan could cause similar incidents, and attract unsavory outsiders to campus. “I’ve never seen any reports saying pornography can be linked to sexual assault directly,” Brian says now. “When they linked it, I’m not sure I wanted to continue.”

Brown describes himself as being “tallish”, with blue eyes, dark brown hair, and bushy eyebrows. He does not currently have a girlfriend at Wesleyan, although to hear him tell it, that’s not abnormal. Sex and sexuality are fiercely debated topics at the famously P.C. university. Last year, President Bennet cancelled a class called “Pornography: The Writings of Prostitutes”, after the professor caused a furor by inviting the performance artist, Annie Sprinkle, to dance topless in front of her students. In December, the Student Assembly declared “Ask Someone Out Week” in response to students complaints about the general lack of dates on campus. Brown describes his porn film idea as a reaction to a kind of creeping, Fifties-style prudishness around campus. “Issues like date rape, sexual harassment, and AIDS are constantly dealt with and talked about around here,” he says. “I’m not suggesting everyone should be free to have orgies twenty four hours a day, but itÍs gotten to the point where the atmosphere has become negative and restrictive. Sex should be discovered and explored in college. Instead, it’s become a kind of thing where no one does it. People are either almost married with someone, or they’re celibate.”

Since “NoSexit” was shelved, BrianÍs undergraduate life is more or less back to normal. “IÍm writing and working and taking classes,” he says, “once again the meaning of my life is an illusion.” Most of his fellow students were supportive of his porno efforts, although he admits one or two female friends found the concept “odd”. He still considers pornography to be a genre with untapped artistic potential, but, for now, heÍs moved on to other projects. In recent years, Wesleyan has been a hotbed for young independent film makers (Paul Weitz, director of “American Pie”, the hit film about adolescent sexual angst, was a Wesleyan grad), and someday, Brown says, he would like to follow in their footsteps. “I actually like to write screenplays and such,” he modestly says, “but itÍs not one of those jobs you apply for.” Currently heÍs scribbling away on a script called “Critical Theory”, about a group of highly literate mental patients who rise up and take over an isolated insane asylum. “ItÍs a dialogue-driven movie about Critical Theory stemming from the Frankfurt School,” says David, sounding a little oblique, at first, but then more and more excited. “I might categorize it as an action film, oddly enough.”

(Note: Does Wesleyan University have a club, or even a development office, in Manhattan? If anyone is aware of one please let us know, as nobody over in Middletown CT. has been able to enlighten us.)

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