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Dr. Yvonne K. Fulbright Headshot

Porn on Campus

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Every few months, a college campus becomes all hot'n'bothered about some sex issue. This time it's the University of Maryland. While it managed to pull off a sell-out showing of "Deep Throat" years ago, with little complaint, a similar attempt with "Pirates II: Stagnetti's Revenge" hasn't been so lucky. Plans to roll the hardcore porn film have ignited a local firestorm around morals, academic freedom, and censorship, largely thanks to Maryland's state senator, Andrew Harris.

An appalled Harris feels that the college campus is no place for porn. The reality check required would be laughable if it wasn't that Harris is putting your money where his mouth is. So strong are his convictions that he has offered an amendment to cut state funding (a.k.a., your tax dollars) to public colleges showing hardcore porn flicks on campus. Exceptions will be made when it comes to showing films for course purposes, e.g., cinematography studies. (Sexologists like me are wiping their brows.)

Despite the fact that the event is funded by student -- and not state -- monies, the University of Maryland has reacted by canceling the screening. It claims that the film's "educational" context was lost in the debate. The educational component was its "foreplay." A Planned Parenthood representative was invited to talk about safer sex prior to the midnight screening. (Apparently, the pirates don't practice safer sex.)

As a sex educator, I was surprised that Planned Parenthood would want to go anywhere near this kind of event. Given the country's political climate, a debate was guaranteed to ensue. I can understand the organization's interest in that the event is a forum with an audience waiting to be captivated. But the students are there for the action, and the thrill of being group voyeurs. They're not there to be educated.

I don't know who the university -- or Planned Parenthood -- thinks they're fooling in framing this matter as a sex education seminar of sorts. Sadly, the below-the-belt backlash is one being bore by all sexual health advocates, who are made to look like porn peddlers in this student body's passion pursuits. The rationale we often need to justify legitimate educational opportunities involving video, like those in a classroom, have only been hampered by this misrepresentation.

The intent to eroticize - and not educate - is supported by comments made by those who originally organized the event. They claim that the fun and entertaining 2.5 hours, "XXX" activity was meant to be a stress break. (Hmmm... seems plenty of people can get the same stress relief in 2.5 minutes of "XXX" private-time, solo action). The flick was chosen because it had a plot (as if this matters), and would be one way to compete with DVD rentals and illegal downloading (not quite sure I understand that one).

Outraged that their right to porn has been infringed upon, a group of students are moving ahead with plans to show the movie anyway. They've organized a campus viewing Monday night. Apparently, professors have been invited to moderate discussion on free speech issues (Note: no mention of safer sex education anymore). They need something to prove that their rebellion is being waged in the name of academic freedom.

Ironically, showing porn isn't needed to host a discussion on your right to view explicit materials in an academic setting, even if that involves no more than using university facilities for such. It's not necessary to provide adult sex education in most circumstances. If these students want to satiate their sexual needs, they could better see to their business -- and let the university see to its -- in focusing on events in their personal space. Better luck next time with a dorm porn crawl.