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Explicit safe sex video will be shown at Bexley

By Deborah A. Levinson

A controversial safe sex video produced at MIT will be shown to residents of Bexley Hall this fall. Truth or Consequence: Safer Sex at MIT explicitly depicts the proper use of condoms, dental dams, contraceptives and other safe sex devices, and uses models from within the MIT community.

The video, which runs about 18 minutes, is divided into three parts. One deals with latex protective devices, such as condoms, dental dams, rubber gloves and finger cots. Another deals with contraceptive devices, such as diaphragms, spermicidal jellies, and foams, and a third addresses talking with one's partner about safe sex practices.

Truth or Consequence is controversial because of its nudity and graphic scenes of simulated sex acts. One scene shows a condom being unrolled onto an erect penis. Another demonstrates the correct use of dental dams while performing oral sex on a woman.

Jill B. Soley '92 and Aaron T. Curtis PhD '91 produced, directed, and narrated the video.

"I would like as many people as possible [to see the video], in particular, freshmen," Soley said. "People very often don't know stuff they need to know. It's pretty scary. AIDS and chlamydia are common among college students, and I don't want to see people getting diseases because they're not informed."

Curtis is now employed at Boeing near Seattle, WA, and was unavailable for comment.

Two students who participated in the video anonymously as models had very positive reactions to it. One said that it was "an important thing to do. One of the things that I worked on was the dental dam demonstration -- everyone has seen a condom demonstration, but no one has seen how to use a dental dam."

The other student defended the explicit nature of the video. "I thought that there was no unnecessary nudity," she said. "There were no breasts. Every effort was made to present the images in an informative and not a licentious manner."

Both students felt that Truth or Consequence would help the MIT community learn about safe sex. "There are good things in it that would be helpful to people. I advise people to watch it in an environment where they will feel comfortable asking questions," one of them said.

The other student added, "AIDS is a serious problem, and anything that might help is worth trying."

Cambridge Community Television (CCTV) aired Truth or Consequence on July 15 at 10 pm, and it was viewed by a small audience. Curtis gave a live introduction to the video and led a call-in discussion afterwards.

CCTV Program Coordinator Nancy Buzby said that her station had no problems with the content of the video. "We don't have the right to censor any kind of content. We play a lot of avant-garde things. It was well-done and tasteful."

Buzby also said that CCTV planned to air the video again after speaking with Soley.

Video may have limited audience

Members of the administration are not as enthusiastic about the video as students.

Director of Health Education Service Janet Van Ness was concerned about the explicitness of the video. "There were a number of instances where the explicitness was actually gratuitous, [but] I don't think that it was wildly gratuitous," she said. "I've seen videos with a lot of unnecessary nudity. I don't think it approached that."

Van Ness said that Truth or Consequence was "an unusual opportunity to help students practice safe sex." She added that she did not think that the video alone was enough to encourage safe sex practices. "There are other issues besides knowing how to use a condom," she said.

Associate Dean for Student Affairs James R. Tewhey said that he has not yet made a decision about showing Truth or Consequence in other living groups. He voiced some concern about parents' reactions to the video and the way that material was presented.

"If the issue is to get information out, then you don't want to have the message lost in the controversy," he said. However, he added that MIT did not plan to base its decision to show the video solely on parents' reactions.