MD Legislature Censors Porn at University

Just to show how out of touch I am with local news, the Hoff movie
theater at the University of Maryland was going to show a porn film,
Pirates II: Stagnetti’s Revenge
(Wikipedia link; should be SFW), preceded by a talk by a representative of Planned
Parenthood
(Washington Post,
UMD
Diamondback
coverage).

Then the Maryland General Assembly heard about this, and pushed
through an amendment to a budget bill denying the university state
funds if it showed a XXX-rated movie. The university pulled the film,
and the amendment was withdrawn.

As you can imagine, this has caused a certain amount of discussion on
teh Intertubes.

The Post says that the state funding that would have been withdrawn
amounted to $424 million. I haven’t managed to find the current
budget, but in
FY2003, the
total budget for this campus was $1.16 billion, of which $633 million
(54%) came from the state. Assuming that the current year’s budget is
comparable, clearly this amounts to a threat by the legislature to
cripple the university, if not shut it down entirely. I’ll leave it up
to the courts to decide whether this is legal or not, but clearly it’s
an attempt at censorship.


The Diamondback quotes Vice President for Student Affairs Linda
Clement as saying,

We thought it was an opportunity to have a dialogue revolving around pornography as a film genre and promote student discussion

and in that spirit, the Mod +1: Insightful award of the day goes to
commenter Stephanie,
responding to another comment:

“Psychological studies have shown that pornography creates a subconscious idea of what sex should be and how females should behave, and generates anger.”

This is exactly why we need to have conversations about pornography instead of just relegating it to a private space.

One thing to bear in mind is that the movie in question isn’t Jamaican
Amateurs 19
or Asian Cum-Shots 116 or some similar
piece of Extruded Pr0n Product. Evidently Pirates II had a
budget
of $8 million,
sets,
(NSFW), costumes, CGI effects, and even a
plot.
It was released both as a hardcore porn movie, and also in an
abbreviated R-rated version.

So presumably it would have served as an illustration of what porn can
be, not what it usually is (something like what Moore and Gebbie did
with
Lost Girls).

Of course, I haven’t seen this movie, so I’m probably assuming too
much. But if you were going to have a conversation about pornography,
and show a movie so that everyone’s talking about the same thing, this
movie seems like a reasonable choice.

I wouldn’t mind exploring questions like, does porn degrade women? If
so, is this a necessary feature of porn? Does it set unrealistic
expectations about sex?

I can understand the latter objection. But on the other hand, one
might also argue that romance novels and “chick flicks” set
unrealistic expectations about love and romance. And why doesn’t
anyone complain that action movies set unrealistic expectations about,
well, a whole slew of things? Does anyone think they can jump out of a
fourth-story window while dodging a hail of bullets, roll behind a
parked car, and fire back at one’s attackers? Or engage in a 60 mph
car chase through crowded city streets without wrapping oneself around
a streetlight? In these cases, we understand that what’s on the
screen, while grounded in reality, frequently takes flights of fantasy
because it looks cool. Why can’t we take the same approach to porn?
(The first piece of advice that I saw on cunnilingus, possibly in
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex but Were Afraid
to Ask
, basically said to forget how it’s done in movies; if
you’re doing it right, you’re blocking all the action with your head,
so it doesn’t make for good cinema.)


Another comment that caught my attention was
this one
by Jor:

The screening wasn’t intended to be recreational but rather educational.

which brings to mind the words of Tom Lehrer:

I do have a cause, though: it is obscenity. I’m for it.

Unfortunately, the civil liberties types who are fighting this
issue have to fight it, owing to the nature of the laws, as a matter
of freedom of speech and stifling of free expression and so on, but we
know what’s really involved: dirty books are fun, that’s all there is
to it. But you can’t get up in a court and say that, I
suppose.

I have to ask: what if this screening were purely
recreational? How would that change anything? The Hoff theater
shows
plenty of movies just for fun, without a lecture or discussion
attached. It’s at the student union, fer cryin’ out loud. Downstairs,
there’s a bowling alley with pool tables and video games, but no one’s
suggesting that those should be frowned upon unless you can tie them
to a talk about newtonian mechanics or computer graphics. Across the
street is a football stadium; I’ve never heard the slightest inkling
of a suggestion that it be used only to teach about game theory or the
dynamics of competing groups.

So how is a screening of Pirates II different? Well, it’s
got sex in it, obviously. But why is sex always
the great exception?

In recent years, I’ve seen the term “porn” applied metaphorically to
non-sexual content. E.g., The Passion of the Christ has
been called
biblical porn“,
and the Left Behind series has been called
Armageddon porn“.
The idea is that the point of the œuvre is quite
obviously to show some subject (Jesus’ suffering and pre-tribulatin
suffering, in the examples above), and everything else is there to
allow that depiction to happen. There are plenty of videos that fit
that description, usually filed under “special interest” at the video
store.


Then there’s
this gem:

Pornography IS the largest industry on the internet … why try to draw MORE viewers to it by attempting to make it publicly acceptable? Check out Patrick Carnes book, “Out of the Shadows”. Sex addiction is right up their with alcoholism and food addiction. But it’s worse because the shame of it is often carried by the addict alone, while the addict destroys his world trying to keep it a secret. I’m speaking from experience. Please don’t dismiss this as fun or educational.

The argument here seems to be “porn is not socially acceptable, so
people feel ashamed when they watch it in private. But if it were
socially acceptable, more people would watch it, and would feel
ashamed”. Obviously a circular argument, along the same lines as “gays
should stay in the closet, because otherwise they’ll be made to feel
miserable by homophobes like me”.

Okay, there’s the other argument, that some people have a real problem
with sex addiction. This may even be true. But hiding porn and trying
to pretend that it doesn’t exist doesn’t solve anything, any more than
Prohibition helped alcoholics.

And no, I’m not denying that 90+% of porn is crap, and that many of
the prudes’ allegations may be true. But can we at least face the
problems head-on, openly, like adults, and not try to sweep them under
the rug?

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2 Responses to MD Legislature Censors Porn at University

  1. Bob says:

    I thought the shame of alcoholism (and possible food addiction) was also often carried by the addict alone.

    Like

  2. Troublesome Frog says:

    Sex addiction is right up their with alcoholism and food addiction.

    Depending on who you are, the latter two are usually a lot easier to get when that craving starts up.

    Like

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