The Boston Phoenix
September 28 - October 5, 2000

[This Just In]

Web sights

Student bodies

by Chris Wright

In many ways, Ailene and Gregor are your everyday MIT students. Ailene's research has focused on a data-collection system for blowdown turbine testing, while Gregor has explored artificial neural networks. Less conventional, however, are the online photos accompanying their résumés: a grinning Ailene applying a pair of electrodes to her nipples; Gregor sitting on an MIT rooftop, his testicles draped across a cinder block.

Ailene and Gregor (not their real names) are among a handful of MIT students who have bared all for, a new Web site in which America's foremost technical college serves as a backdrop for self-pleasuring geothermal engineers and copulating computer scientists.

Although the site also provides a forum for erotic literature and art, it's the snapshots that have gotten people hot under the pocket protector.

"Lots of people are excited," says Andrea, who appears on the site with Fermat's last theorem scrawled across her intimates. "They think MIT is much cooler because of this." The site, she says, is simply a way to "rejoice in our nerdiness." If all goes well, Andrea's next spread will be "The Geek Kama Sutra: All the Positions You Can Have Sex in While Typing on a Laptop."

Stung by a string of binge-drinking scandals, and troubled by what is seen as the university's rising reputation as a party school, the MIT administration has so far failed to see either humor or aesthetic worth in the site. "We're certainly not pleased," says spokesperson Ken Campbell. "We're looking into it."

Bob Randolph, associate dean of undergraduate education, says he's not familiar with the site -- "Porn is not my beat" -- but speaks gravely of "the issue," which is, as he sees it, "somebody trying to make money using our logo and our name." He adds, "We're looking into it."

At the center of the controversy is Anna Dirks, the 23-year-old MIT alumna who started with, she insists, the best of intentions. "Most of the porn out there doesn't associate sexiness and intelligence," Dirks says. "A lot of geeks are uncomfortable with their bodies. My goal with geek porn is to make sexiness and geekiness completely tied."

Despite the official rumblings of disapproval and intimations of legal action, Dirks says she has no plans to cease and desist just yet. "It doesn't bother me that they don't like the site," she says. "I guess some people are uncomfortable with nudity." Besides, she adds, it was MIT that sparked her fascination with pornography in the first place. "For one of my theses," she explains, "I made a vampire-lesbian movie, and that piqued my interest."

Many in the MIT student body, meanwhile, don't see what all the fuss is about. "So what?" says one undergraduate. "It's a free country." Says another, "It's just interesting to see calculus presented in that way."