Oregon State U Shuts Tristan Taormino Out

As you may have heard if you follow her on twitter, Tristan Taormino was invited to speak at Oregon State University’s Modern Sex Conference, at least until the folks in charge at the school found out that she makes and sells porn. Since I’m one of the speakers at the conference as well as being one of her colleagues, I’d like to offer my take on this situation.

Some background: a few months ago, the con organizers emailed me to ask if I’d be interested in participating. They invited me to do a closing keynote presentation since Tristan had been asked to do the opening one. It sounded like a great fit and I thought that Tristan & I would be a fantastic combination, so I accepted. I also proposed doing a breakout session since I really enjoy having the opportunity to explore sexuality topics in an interactive workshop setting. After some back and forth, all the details were sorted out and I waited for the final schedule.

On January 19, I received an email from Tristan (as did many other people in our sex education community) which announced, in part:

Steven Leider, Director of the Office of LGBT Outreach and Services contacted Colten Tognazzini, Tristan Taormino’s manager, to say that the conference had come up short on funding. Tognazzini told him that since the travel was booked and the time reserved, they could work with whatever budget they did have.

Leider said that would not be possible: “We have to cancel Ms. Taormino’s appearance due to a lack of funding. It has been decided that OSU cannot pay Ms. Taormino with general fee dollars, because of the content of her resume and website.” At OSU, ‘general fee dollars’ include taxpayer dollars given to the University by the Oregon State Legislature to defray various costs. They differ from ‘student activity dollars,’ which are part of every student’s tuition and help fund student groups and activities.

I emailed my contact at the school, who was understandably frustrated with this situation. The con organizers had been excited to have Tristan and it was clear that they had tried to convince the university to keep her on the schedule, but the decision was made by the higher ups. She asked me if I would be willing to have my presentation moved to the vacancy that this change created. While I accepted this schedule change, I contacted Tristan because I respect her and I wanted to make sure that this didn’t lead to friction between us. Not surprisingly, she understood the situation and the fact that this is not what I wanted, either.

In the last two days, lots of blog posts, articles, and tweets have helped spread the word, which is a testament to how well regarded Tristan is in our community. And OSU has responded to emails about their decision:

Organizers of the upcoming Modern Sex Conference at OSU recently sought approval to bring in a speaker for that event by presenting a partial description of the speaker in question as a writer and sex advice columnist. However, as arrangements were being made to complete the contract for the speaker, it became clear to those providing taxpayer funding for the conference that the speaker, in fact, is also a self-described pornographer with a significant online business in video pornography and related material. A decision was made by Student Affairs leadership that using public funds to cover a speaking fee and travel expenses for the speaker constituted an inappropriate use of those funds, and the speaker’s appearance was thus cancelled.

OK, so now that you have the story, at least as far as I have it, here’s my take on it.

First, given that Tobi Hill-Meyer is doing a presentation called Porn as a Feminist Tool, it’s clear that it’s ok to talk about porn at this conference. So I don’t understand what it is about making it that’s a problem. If you object to someone who makes it, then you should object to people watching it, too. After all, there’s just as much ethical responsibility in the one as there is in the other.

But then, it’s common in academia and research circles to make room to talk about people as long as you don’t have to talk with them. There are plenty of conference presentation about men who have sex with men, or sex workers, or transgender people, or whoever, but they’re almost never by people who are of those communities (or at least, if they are, they’re in the closet).

It’s fascinating to me- imagine if your research is on the relationship between parents and their kids, and you’re told that your perspective is invalid because you’re a parent. Or what if someone wasn’t allowed to talk about the cultural influences of Italian food because they had been to Italy, or had worked in an Italian restaurant. In these contexts, we see how ridiculous it is, but it regularly happens when it comes to sex. All I can guess is that it’s the idea of sexual contagion- if you do those nasty things (that plenty of people do every day), there’s something wrong with you and we don’t want to hear from you.

Second, it’s not clear to me how making porn invalidates Tristan as an educator or as a speaker. She is a porn producer AND a sex educator. And from talking with her, I know that each informs the other. But if anything, that makes her a better speaker on the relationships between feminism, sex and porn than most people. (Which is absolutely not meant as any slam against Tobi Hill-Meyer, who is also one of the best folks to talk about these topics.)

Third, the justification that OSU offered is that:

‘general fee dollars’ include taxpayer dollars given to the University by the Oregon State Legislature to defray various costs. They differ from ‘student activity dollars,’ which are part of every student’s tuition and help fund student groups and activities.

Does this mean that “general fee dollars” are the sole source of funding for this event? This seems to imply that if Tristan’s payment was coming from “student activity dollars”, then there would be no difficulty. Is this really an issue of accounting? And if so, were the con organizers given the opportunity to get money from a different fund?

I totally get that the university might be leery of the negative impact that something like this could have on their funding. Legislators have certainly been known to slash funding in order to punish schools. But a university with over 23,000 students and an endowment of $469.2 million should be able to find a way to make this work, shouldn’t it?

I’ve been asked by one or two people if I’m still going to present at the con. And my answer is yes. The con organizers didn’t make this call and I don’t think it’s appropriate to back out because of the administration’s decision. But I have to ask the university administrators why they aren’t willing to find a way to make this work. And until they can offer an explanation, I can only assume that it’s because of their own sex-negativity and their unwillingness to stand up for sexual education. I’m deeply disappointed in the OSU administration and so are the students.

My hope is that this all gets worked out and that Tristan is allowed back at the con (assuming she’s still willing). If that happens, I’ll gladly move my presentations to accommodate it because I think she deserves it. And in the meantime, I think I’ll find a way to work this into my talk. After all, it certainly fits:

Sexuality, Shame, and Sex-Positivity
Sexual shame is one of the biggest challenges that many people face. We will discuss the roots of shame, how it can both serve and hinder us, how shame reinforces social rules, and the differences between toxic shame and pro-social shame. We will then explore socio-cultural dynamics of erotophobia, sex-negativity, and how to foster sex-positive responses.

Update: Apparently the comment below by Jason does describe what happened at OSU pretty well, at least according to one of the administrators, as quoted in this article by Sarah Estrella at examiner.com.

“The funding for the speaker in question was coming entirely from Educational and General funds, what we call E&G funds, which are public taxpayer funds allocated to the university by the state legislature and the governor,” said OSU spokesman Todd Simmons, Interim Vice President for University Relations and Marketing, when I called today to get the university’s perspective on the controversy. “It didn’t represent, in this case, any student fee funds, so all of the costs of bringing in Tristan were expected to be borne by E&G funds, ie. taxpayer funds, and that was the crux of the problem.”As Simmons explains it, Taormino — a respected sex educator and author and a popular speaker on the college lecture circuit, as well as an award-winning director of explicit adult films — would have been welcome to speak at the conference had the conference organizers planned to fund her speaking fee out of their own student fee-driven budget and not out of the E&G funds, or if Taormino was appearing as an unpaid speaker.

Simmons had more information to offer. I’d still like to know if there’s a way for the conference organizers to get funding for Tristan that doesn’t come from taxpayer money. If so, let’s get her back on the schedule. And I’d like to hear from some of the organizers to get their take on this.

Update #2: One of the con organizers emailed me this morning and asked me to include this:

I assure you, I investigated the rules and regulations regarding fund appropriation for invited speakers.

There is no publicly available policy or guidelines regarding which  speakers can be invited with which dollars. For months, we were encouraged  to continue with our planning strategy with a budget from the general fund.  Last week, I asked five or six times the basis under which Tristan was uninvited, and was met with blank stares and silence.

I’m graduating in June and I’m trying to find work in the sexual health field. We strategically invited Tristan knowing that she would help us recruit workshop submissions and attendees. And it worked! We have some *amazing* workshops from top names in this field! However, instead of supporting our success, the Oregon State University administration is casting our job skills in a negative light to our future employers.

In her book Sexual Shame: An Urgent Call to Healing, Karen McClintock describes the rules of shame. Although she wrote them about dynamics in religious congregations, the show up in many communities, families, and institutions.

  1. You don’t know what the rules are.
  2. There are plenty of rules, but no one names them.
  3. You’ll know you’ve broken the rules by the shame you receive.
  4. The rules don’t apply to everyone equally.
  5. You can’t confess and receive forgiveness because you are unworthy.
  6. No one talks openly about violations, but everyone gossips about them

While I don’t think that this description fits the OSU  situation perfectly, unspoken rules are often a marker of shame, which is one reason why there are so many of them around sex. If, as this person says, there is no written policy about “controversial speakers,” that is a sign that this decision is being made for reasons that the organizers could not have known about.

Update 3/15/12: After the events at OSU took place, I was interviewed by Lacey Mamak as part of her research for a case study that describes what happened so that researchers and educators can use this situation to stimulate discussion. It’s definitely worth reading.

20 Responses so far.

  1. Jason Riedy says:

    Ok. There are many people whose appearances are not to be funded with “general funds,” and those folks are both pro- and anti- various positions. “General funds” at public universities are never given to purposefully “controversial” figures, where “controversial” often means being well-known and having a strong opinion. Doesn’t matter if it’s sexuality, evolution, general politics, or what kind of salt is best.

    And quite often there are strict rules about mixing funding from different sources. If there’s any federal funding in the general fund, it’s not to be mixed with local fee-based funding by law. No wiggle room at all.

    As someone who has attended two public universities and works in a third, each in different states, I strongly suspect that Oregon State’s reasoning has very little to do with the *specifics* of her impressive resume so much that it *is* both impressive and potentially controversial.

    If she were less widely recognized, there likely would be no problems. Similarly, if this were entirely fee-funded (or gift-funded), there likely would be no problems.

    At least one person at Oregon State screwed up, but it’s not some movement to appease a particular side. It’s a (failed) decision not to draw attention from any side. That’s a major problem with public university’s “general funds.” Fee-based funding is slightly less risk-averse, and gift or other private funding is drastically less risk-averse.

    The lesson for organizers to take is not to rely on tax money for sexuality conferences. (Honestly, in any direction other than the quiet middle, and for any perspective and not just sexuality. Various “conservative” hosts also would be disallowed at the universities I know.) Also, be damned sure of your funding sources and rules regarding those sources *BEFORE* inviting anyone.

    Someone there should step up to refund expenses, although that requires not using any school-related funds at this point.

  2. Charlie says:

    @Jason

    Thank you for this. This is the missing information that makes the university’s actions make sense. If this actually is what’s going on at OSU (and it certainly sounds plausible), then this situation is unfortunate, but more likely the result of a planning error or someone simply not knowing about these rules than something more sinister or sex-negative.

    In that case, it really would have been helpful for the university to explain that. It’s the sort of transparency that could have avoided a whole lot of reactions. It’s good to remember that it’s not always about sex-negativity. And at the same time, it’s about sex-negativity so often, and in so many ways, that it’s easy to jump to that conclusion. I know that my confirmation bias leads me to sometimes see erotophobia in places where it isn’t. It’d be easier to not do that if it wasn’t so prevalent.

    If this is what’s going on, I invite OSU to share that information. I know that it can be challenging to actually let people see what’s going on, and in this sort of situation, it’s often a great way to build credibility and it’s much less painful than what happens when you front. At least, that’s been my experience.

  3. Thank you for writing this, I was wondering what you thought about the whole thing. I wrote a post about it that didn’t make it on Tristan’s press page list:

    http://sexstl.com/thebeautifulkind/2011/01/sex-educator-tristan-taormino-uninvited-to-modern-sex-conference/

    Many times I’ve been excluded from something due to my sex positive mission, and it is frustrating and hurtful. They are projecting their shame, and that is why I do what I do, every day. I try my best to replace negatives with positives. It’s not easy, but I have people like Tristan to look up to and inspire me. I’m confident good will come from this and she’ll get more bookings and more support from the community.

  4. Jason Riedy says:

    Remember too that public universities have absorbed 5%-10% decreases in state funding over the past few years. They can’t lay off academic faculty, and have a hard time laying off instructors… That leaves the staff, the ones who know the rules and procedures. The poor folks left have enormous workloads in areas with which they’re unfamiliar.

    From the inside, my university has had similar issues in utterly non-sexuality areas. Expect to see many funding “scandals” over the next few years. Laws will be (and often are being) broken, but not intentionally. Explanations risk exposing a legal mistake…

    The situation sucks all the way around. And I’m sure discussing the issues with someone related to sexuality is given a lower priority than many others because of the subject.

  5. Tristan Taormino says:

    It is absolutely unfair to put this on the organizers. These general dollar funds were allocated to The Modern Sex Conference. If these funds are so “sensitive,” why were they given to a conference on sex? The organizer were empowered to spend that money, then disempowered when restrictions were placed on it after the fact. The organizers of the Modern Sex conference sought approval from Intercultural Student Services (ISS) every step along the way and never concealed who I was. The ISS had the opportunity to view my website since October and before they confirmed me as the keynote. Organizers have told me explicitly that they looked through the General University Policies, Procurement and Contract Services Policies, and the Intercultural Student Services website expecting to find a policy on speakers whose attendance on campus might be risqué or controversial. They didn’t find one, nor were they ever told there was any such policy. The organizers are not to blame here.

    This is an anti-porn statement. Larry Roper said the reason my appearance was cancelled was because of my involvement in pornography, which does make this a free speech issue. Quoting Larry Roper’s email:

    It became clear to those providing taxpayer funding for the conference that the speaker, in fact, is also a self-described pornographer with a significant online business in video pornography and related material. A decision was made by Student Affairs leadership that using public funds to cover a speaking fee and travel expenses for the speaker constituted an inappropriate use of those funds, and the speaker’s appearance was thus cancelled.

    Other conference speakers are being paid, and that money is coming from the same place: general fund dollars. OSU is clearly saying that Oregon taxpayer dollars allocated to Oregon State University should not be used to bring me, a pornographer, to speak. If they said that to organizers in November, then my appearance would not have been booked and a contract never would have been written, but they didn’t. Of course OSU has the right to spend its money how it sees fit. But it raises some thorny issues which I think are worth discussing. Reducing my life’s work to my work in pornography is a reflection of our anti-sex, anti-porn culture. It is a clear statement that a woman like me, who once performed in and currently produces and sells pornography, is not worth being paid for my time or expertise, regardless of my qualifications or what I have to say. It perpetuates the idea that working in the sex industry is shameful and negates all my other work outside the industry.

  6. [...] sex conference, Tobi Hill-Meyer also has a great post on the subject, as does notable sex educator Charlie Glickman. And Tristan’s post keeps a linked list of a growing count of articles speaking to feminism [...]

  7. Jason Riedy says:

    (My browser rightfully decided that my overly long, overly eloquent response to Tristan Taormino should be eaten. Here is a more efficient response.)

    Your perspective comes from the issues you face daily. I’m trying to provide a perspective based on the issues I face daily. Both are different perspectives on a complex mistake.

    That you were un-invited highlights the societal point: pornography is controversial. There is no denying the controversy, and (to me, at least) that controversy negates nothing of your work. Noam Chomsky holds extremely controversial political views, but his life’s work in linguistics isn’t reduced to his political views even when they influence each other.

    From the public university perspective, any controversy right now is dangerous. Anything that could make the state legislators appear in the news that isn’t utterly positive is being avoided. The specific topics don’t matter. Everyone without tenure is afraid for their jobs (myself included, even with relatively stable basic funding). The people at Oregon State are not likely to respond in depth, at least on the record.

    Please don’t take the un-invitation as too personal. My experience in similar (although non-sexuality-related) situations makes me believe strongly that many people feel lousy about this even in the part that had to demand your un-invitation. You may even have fans at that level, but people wanting to keep their jobs and not lose even more co-workers makes you generic in a sense. And (imho) decisions based on generic considerations shouldn’t be taken too personally or be seen as a reduction of all your work.

    But obviously, I’m an academic. Other people probably see this differently.

    There is one extremely hopeful point in all of this. Sexuality itself is now deemed less controversial than ignoring sexuality. Public universities can fund sexuality conferences from public funding. That’s huge and would have been unthinkable 10-15 years ago. Your and others’ works have been invaluable. Pushing further right now isn’t going to do much. I don’t mean that you shouldn’t push, but you shouldn’t expect immediate results.

    (And I if someone in Oregon State’s org chart finds means to reimburse your current expenses, you might want to be vague about it in later discussions. They’ll likely be breaking bone-headed funding rules. If their rules are like ours, they’re nastily complex.)

  8. Rick Umbaugh says:

    I am perhaps jaded a bit about how academe behaves in these kinds of controversies. I remember how confused the faculty members were in the face of the anti-war movement on campus as people who thought of themselves as liberals suddenly found themselves having to support a conservative administration in the face of strong student activism. I am not getting fresh information about what is going on at Oregon State, but this is the kind of thing that would have brought out the activists…faculty as well as student…out to protest.

    The sex negative depend on the fact that the sex positive are not as vocal or as activist as they are…probably some residual sex shame…and therefore are not going to make a big deal when the sex negative stomp on their rights. One of the lessons I have learned in my long years is that conservatives are going to do what they do until they begin to fear those who want to liberate society from the cold wet blanket of censorship that conservatives wield over the culture. I don’t know how appropriate this is to Oregon State, but is sex positive academics cave into a fear of a sex negative administration, then the sex negative forces have won this fight. We must not, in our quest to be good citizens forget that we are citizens and have the right to protest authoritarian actions by those who see themselves as above us.

  9. Jess says:

    Hey Charlie, I just saw you speak at Mills. I brought up this post in the Q&A session, but I don’t feel like my question was completely answered. I am glad you spoke eloquently about the current event to the Mills community; what I really want to know, though, is what community leaders, like yourself and others on the panel tonight, would like to see this generation do, regarding opening doors to important dialog about sexuality. Thank you so much for this post (and many like it!) and your presence tonight.

  10. Dr. Ruthie says:

    For the record, I’m a faculty member at a different university and I’m quite aware of how speaker/event funding goes from my time at public and private universities. Because I agree with Rick, I make sure to contact universities and colleges and let them know that when I’m disappointed in them. I always ask for how they are going to make things right and offer to brainstorm ideas, if they’re interested in the help. This is especially important at state universities, as they have a specificl duty to encourage and protect diversity of thought and free speech. Not just put up with it, but actively encourage, support and protect it. That is part of what the state is charged with supporting in its university, although quite a few politicians seem unaware of that. I don’t happen to teach at a state U anymore, but I still recognize that all college and university faculty and administration have a duty to keep censorship at bay. That doesn’t just go for speakers that I agree with, like Tristan. I have also worked to find creative solutions to offer counter events when someone I don’t like is coming, so both of our sides can be represented.

    I sincerely hope that others who support the field of sex education will recognize that when we stand by and let this happen to one of us, we’re giving free permission for it to happen to anyone. Teaching and direct outreach fields are sadly prone to this kind of group self sabotage. I look forward to seeing how we are able to work together, as a field and as fellow advocates, to ensure that Tristan is publicly treated with the appropriate respect by OSU from this point forward.

  11. “As someone who has attended two public universities and works in a third, each in different states, I strongly suspect that Oregon State’s reasoning has very little to do with the *specifics* of her impressive resume so much that it *is* both impressive and potentially controversial.”

    But why do I get the feeling that if it were Gail Dines, they would have no qualms about paying her out of said public funding. In fact, she seems to be a favorite of the university lecture circuit in spite of her set multi-thousand dollar speaker fees.

  12. Jason Riedy says:

    The issue is not public funds in general but the university’s general fund specifically. Different funding sources have different rules. Whoever advised them to apply for general fund support made the first mistake.

    The rules for funding sources can be absurdly complex. I had no appreciation for them until dropped in the middle.

    I feel for everyone involved. This kind of thing is happening more often not out of malice but because of inexperience. And students get the sharp end of the stick, defeating the entire declared purpose. sigh.

  13. Charlie says:

    @Jess It depends on your situation. There’s a limit to how much influence students have over administration, especially when it comes to issues (or fears) around funding.

    But here are some things that I think are important. Keep getting the word out, though. Talk about sex, talk about sex-positivity. Create a culture that doesn’t shame people for their sexual or gender expression. Model it, live it. The more we do that, the easier it is to challenge these sorts of reactions.

    At the same time, I think we also need to have compassion when people are acting out of shame. We don’t need to coddle them or excuse them, but I do think it’s good to remember that defensive reactions are simply a part of being human and almost everyone does it sometimes. It’s easy to demonize people when they do it, but that doesn’t help them change. And it also doesn’t offer much room when we do it ourselves.

  14. Rick Umbaugh says:

    I have to respond to all this. While I agree with what you said about sexual shame and all that, I really don’t think the motivations for the cancelation of Tristran’s cancellation are particularly relevent here. The people who initiated this action, who used their power over the convention organizers, do indeed suffer on some level from sexual shame, but the real question is, are they aware of this and was sexual shame, and not political fear or ideological beliefs, the motivation for this action. No amount of psychoanalyzing what is going on here is going to cancel out the fact that the forces of sexual negativity won this one because the forces of sexual positivity simply caved. I’m sorry to have to put it that way, but it is a fact, and it has been a fact in other cases for a long time.

    There is a reason, I think, for this fact. Sexually negative people have a cause that is easily articulated and which can command action. They want sexual expression swept under the 1950s carpet which the last 60 years have been about coming out from under that carpet. This puts the sexually positive in a weaker position as sex positivism is really more about being let alone. If you look at the TES Creed (www.tes.org), the oldest expression of the sex positive position, what you find is that it is not about changing society or in any way expecting others to accept a sexually positive lifestyle, but rather about those who are sex positive being able to define themselves as they choose, and being able to act on that definition. No pornographer has ever told someone they even have to watch porn, but there are plenty of moralists out there who are telling us not to watch porn. This is the difference. This is why we have to fight, even the small indignities that the OS situation represents, because small indignities lead to larger things and one only has to look at the history of the early 20th Cent. to see what closing one’s eyes to this kind of thing leads to.

    Unfortunately, I have no answers to this issue. My impulse would be to commit some kind of intellectual outrage, but that is my impulse and I know that Charlie will not do something like that. Asking people to boycott would be letting those who object to the event, and I’m sure there are plenty even if they are hiding behind academic bureaucracy, have their way. It is always the connundrum facting the activist.

    Good luck with the event, and Charlie, good luck with your speech. I know that you are only doing what you think is best, but I would like you also to think a little differently about what is going on at OS.

    Rick Umbaugh
    qui bene amat bene castigat

  15. Charlie says:

    @Rick
    I’m not sure why you think that the motivations behind the university’s actions are irrelevant. In my experience, trying to create change without taking account the reasoning, emotions, and thoughts of the people you’re trying to affect is often limited or ineffective. I’m certainly not suggesting that we coddle people’s sexual shame and allow them to continue to attack sexual freedoms. I agree that exploring people’s motivations is insufficient, and I’d still argue that it’s useful.

    I’m also not clear on exactly how you’d like me to “think a little differently about what is going on at OSU, ” especially since you’re not offering a suggestion. I think that you’re mostly accurate in your description of what makes it easier for people to articulate sex-negativity, and I also agree that it can be helpful for activists to raise awareness through what you’re calling “intellectual outrage”. It’s not my style, so it’s not what I do. And I also think that we need multiple strategies in order to deal with these sorts of things. So feel free to do whatever you feel moved to do, I’ll do what I feel moved to do, and as long as we’re pulling in the same general direction, I think that’s cool.

  16. Rick Umbaugh says:

    I have issues with taking the motivations of our sex negative opponents because I don’t think that they are aware of or take into account the sexual shame that you point out. The call their sexual shame “morality” and “American values” and try to shove these things down out collective throats because they think that they are making the country stronger by having their religious ideology bless their repressive impulses, which comes with their sexual shame. In short, they are not aware of their psychological condition (sexual shame) and indeed think it is a form of greater sanity, moral certitude. If they don’t take their psychology into account in the discussions, then our trying to analyze them will just be dismissed as “psychobabble”.

    Rather, I think that we need to admit that we are in a political fight, the way that the Woodhull Freedom Foundation (WFF) does. Their goal is to get the country to admit that sexual liberty is a fundamental human right, in the OSU situation, that Tristran has a fundamental human right, beyond free speech (which is a concept that would require an entire blog to explain), to make porn. This may be beyond where we want to go with OSU, but I suspect that in the end that will be what we need to do.

    What I meant by thinking differently about these things is precisely what you identified…I think you are too nice and too understanding. Perhaps it is because I am closer to the repressions of the 1950s and have a direct memory of them. Perhaps it is because I participated in the cultural wars that swirled from the 1960s through the 1980s, but I really don’t think being “nice” is going to work very well. I realize that confrontation is not your style, but again, if you don’t confront the person or organizations which are repressing you, how do you move them, particularly when they are so convinced of their own righteousness? Now it seems that OSU and the organizers are putting the use of student funds to bring Tristran to the conference. Perhaps that is a good compromise, unless the sex negative students organize and outvote the students who were going to the conference (minority rights never stand up well to a vote requiring a majority)but if it gets her there, then so be it.

    Beyond this, I think that it behooves those who are speaking at the conference to keep this issue in front of their classes and audiences. The worse thing would be for the university to get away with this without people talking about it. The book I am working on is called “Sex and Politics: Things we don’t discuss at dinner”. As the subtitle implies, one of the themes is going to be about how artificial manners and politeness has kept the discussion of sexual issues in places which are decidedly hostile to them.

    Anyway, good luck in Portland!

    Rick Umbaugh
    qui bene amat bene castigat

  17. Charlie says:

    I don’t think this needs to be an either/or. There’s nothing in anything I’ve written that says that this isn’t also a political fight. Calling people out on their sexual shame certainly doesn’t keep anyone from engaging in a political fight. In fact, I think it makes it easier because it takes away the justifications and shows that when it comes down to it, the sex-negative folks are trying to make everyone else as ashamed as they are.

    I also wouldn’t say that confrontation isn’t my style. It’s not what I do on my blog, mostly because I don’t see any value in it since I assume that the folks who need to be confronted aren’t reading it. But if you asked the people in my life, I’m sure that they’d tell you about my confronting them about stuff. Different venues, different strategies.

    You seem to think that there’s a nice/confronting dichotomy. If that works for you, fine. I don’t see it as having to be one or the other. I prefer to approach it from the perspective of personal power, which allows me to both challenge someone AND continue to see them as a person. After all, can you honestly say that you’ve never acted out of your own pain, shame, fear, or grief? I know that I have. I don’t excuse people who transmit their sex-negativity, but I can certainly acknowledge that for many (or even most) of them, it’s at least partly the result of someone doing the same to them. Being able to call someone on their stuff while also recognizing that they’re usually simply being human, with all the flaws and defenses inherent in that, is what works for me. I don’t feel the need to demonize them, even as they demonize me. That just leaves me feeling crappy.

    Ultimately, I think there’s room for us each to find the strategies that work for us. These issues exist on different scales and they need to be addressed on different scales. In my opinion, therapy can be just as much an act of activism and social justice as creating legislation. I can support you if you want to engage in this on a political level. Can you support my work to help create clarity around our attitudes and beliefs?

  18. Rick Umbaugh says:

    Again, this might be a generational thing. One of the things I’ve learned from having younger friends is that they have managed to absorb the values and concepts of we boomers without the baggage that we took on in fighting the fights we had to fight. That may be what is going on here, and I most certainly accept the idea that this is not an either/or situation here. We are both fighting the same fight in our own way.

    It was not a matter of criticizing your efforts that I wrote this, but rather a matter of pointing out what I think I know about trying to point out things that I know from fighting this fight for 30 some years. Your approach may work where mine has not as yet worked…I don’t pretend to know. It may take both of our approaches, good cop/bad cop, but it is important to know one’s opponent and how he or she thinks in order to overcome him or her. Know that you have my support, if you want it.

  19. Jason Riedy says:

    It’s not a generational thing. The same split between careful negotiation and protest are working for the free software movement. Each has a role. Often (in my experience) it’s important not to start with the protest before somewhat understanding what is happening on the other side.

  20. Charlie says:

    @Rick

    Thanks- I certainly appreciate both the support and the knowledge that other people are using other strategies to deal with the same basic issue. I’m pretty sure that we need as many different approaches as we can create if we’re going to change things.

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