OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY'S (OSU) Modern Sex conference next month will include lectures on "Culture of the Clit" and "Myths and Facts about Anal Pleasure." What won't be on the bill is "Claiming Your Sexual Power" by nationally known sex writer Tristan Taormino: Last week, administrators uninvited Taormino from giving the keynote address, saying it was poor use of state funds to pay the speaking fee of "a self-described pornographer."
The cancellation angered students and sparked calls of censorship.
Taormino is a well-known sex writer, educator, and, yes, feminist pornographer who has written several books and spoken at universities including Harvard and Yale. In October, she agreed to headline OSU's conference in exchange for $3,000 and travel expenses. The conference organizers planned to pay for the gig from the university's general fund, which is funded by tax money from the state.
But last week an administrator pulled the plug after checking out Taormino's website, which contains graphic content and a banner ad linking to a porn site.
"We're certainly committed to free speech and an open discussion on our campuses," says university spokesperson Todd Simmons. "But we decided that wasn't a good use of taxpayer funds to bring in a speaker who is a self-described pornographer and has a significant online business selling pornography."
The other conference speakers agreed to lecture for free.
"I've never had a school cancel like this before, and I've been speaking for 10 years," says Taormino, who estimates she makes 10 percent of her income from online sales of books, toys, and films. "I think this is censorship and hypocrisy."
Conference planner Rachel Ulrich says that she checked the school's policies to see if rules banned using general funds for certain speakers—there were none.
"Because there is no written policy, I believe this is a subjective decision from someone who had a problem with the content," says Ulrich.
Student Body President Andrew Struthers says that though some administrators don't want Taormino on campus, there's widespread support among students for re-inviting the sex writer.
"It's at the forefront of conversations: How can we get her to campus?" says Struthers, who helped circulate a petition asking students if they would be okay with using student activity fees to pay Taormino.
If the OSU students can't rally enough support, they can drive across Oregon to see Taormino speak at their rival school. Taormino confirmed that after the hubbub created over the un-vitation, the University of Oregon stepped in and invited her to give a talk on their campus instead. She is scheduled to lecture about feminist porn on the Eugene campus on Wednesday, February 16, at 7:30 pm.