Tristan Taormino talks to Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen about the recent HIV scare in the adult industry and her decision to go condom only. Check out the video piece here and the longer written article here.
Recently, three adult industry performers tested positive for HIV, and there are unconfirmed, conflicting reports that there may be other performers who’ve tested positive. My heart goes out to all of them because it’s a life-changing diagnosis. I’m not interested in debating whether they contracted it on or off set, and I’m dismayed that people within the industry continue to engage in assumptions and finger-pointing about the now HIV positive performers. The important thing is that in the (albeit short) window of time between contracting the virus and receiving a positive test, they could have exposed other performers. These revelations—along with the recent syphilis scare and rumors that a male performer with Hepatitis C has been working without disclosing his status—have once again stimulated the public discussion about condoms in porn. These events, along with feedback from performers who said they’ve felt pressured not to use condoms in the past out of fear of losing work, have caused me to rethink my position.
From now on, I will require all performers I work with to test for STIs according to industry standards and to use condoms in their scenes. Until now, I have adhered to industry standard STI testing and my sets have been condom optional, which, for me means that performers truly can choose to use condoms or not and I always have condoms available. I’ve shot several scenes with condoms (and other safer sex barriers), but the majority of the scenes have been condom-free. Because I want to empower performers to make decisions about all aspects of the work they do, I have respected their decisions in the past not to use condoms. I still want performers to have choices, and they can choose not to work with me if they don’t want to use condoms.
As a feminist pornographer, part of my mission is to support fair labor practices and create a positive work environment on my sets. The health, well being, and safety of the performers is my priority, and I believe that using condoms in addition to rigorous testing is the best way to prevent STI transmission. In the past, I have publicly spoken out against Measure B (as in this piece for The Huffington Post). I am still against mandatory condoms and government regulation of the adult industry. I still believe that the current fight is all about politics, not workers’ safety and rights. But my position on the use of condoms in my own productions has changed. I am not leveling judgment against producers, directors, or performers who choose not to use condoms. I am making the best decision I can based on my dedication to feminist and ethical production practices.
Condoms are not the only answer and not without issues. Performer, registered nurse, and activist Nina Hartley gives a compelling argument about why she believes that condoms can do more harm than good (briefly: she argues that condom use on porn sets causes “condom rash” leading to internal tissue damage that could increase the chances of STI transmission). Condoms don’t protect against every STI including herpes, chlamydia, and HPV, but they are an effective barrier for others STIs including HIV. Some people have latex allergies or sensitivities, and some can develop an allergy after repeated exposure to latex. There are several non-latex condoms, which many people report don’t have the same abrasive qualities as latex. Unfortunately, these alternatives don’t come in the range of sizes that latex condoms do, and, let’s face it, one-size-fits-most doesn’t apply to porn guys. I have always consulted with performers about what I can do to make their job safer and better. I will do the same when it comes to working with condoms. I will strive to find creative ways to decrease the amount of intercourse they have, thus decreasing wear and tear on their bodies (especially the bodies of female performers). I will consider requests by fluid-bonded couples who don’t want to use condoms. I will be a part of an open and ongoing dialogue and adapt as testing technology changes and safer sex practices evolve.
Safer sex issues have been a part of my professional life since I became a sex educator. But the news of HIV in the industry has a very personal dimension for me. My father, a gay man, was diagnosed with AIDS in 1993, and he died in 1995. That was before the good drugs, the cocktail, when AIDS was a death sentence. This hits far too close to home for me, and I’ve got to make a change as a result. Plenty of people say that no one wants to see condoms in porn. That no one cares about the safety of the people who make the images they masturbate to. I hope to prove them wrong, and I hope you, my audience, will help me do it.
P.S. On this subject, I’m quoted in this piece by Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen on CNN.
* * * * *
Because this is ultimately about the sex workers, their bodies, and their labor, I think it’s important to feature their voices in this discussion. This week, I publicly asked performers to anonymously respond to this question: If the choice was entirely yours—not a mandate, not law, not what viewers want, just completely up to you—would you use condoms when you perform? Why or why not? Here are some of their responses. Some of them have been edited and excerpted for length.
“Perhaps I was delusional, but there was a time where I really trusted everyone in porn. I thought we all had this secret handshake, like none of us would ever jeopardize each other’s health and we all agreed to the same code of conduct off camera. I will admit I was pretty sexually irresponsible before porn; I had a lot of partners and I rarely used condoms. Once I started doing porn, all of that behavior stopped. I knew I couldn’t do that anymore because I didn’t just have to think about myself anymore. For some reason, I assumed everyone else was the same way. I felt really safe in the industry for a long time and if anyone were to ask me about using a condom on set I would have laughed, and said they would be uncomfortable and unnecessary. Condoms to me were things that you used if you were having a one night stand with someone you didn’t know—not things you used with people you knew and trusted. Unfortunately, I don’t feel that way anymore. I think condoms are necessary now. I wish it wasn’t that way but it is. I blame a lot of this on piracy. All the tube sites and the torrent sites have made all the studios make less money. A lot of people feel less inclined to adhere to a certain code of conduct, because they just aren’t working that much or they are working for less than what they want, etc. It’s a bad domino effect. I don’t love the state that porn is in at the moment and perhaps these HIV outbreaks were a good wake up call to anyone who is irresponsible, but I think we have to adapt with the times, and now, I think condoms are necessary.”
“I don’t think this question can be answered in a vacuum. If you were to ask me whether I prefer to have sex with condoms in general, the answer would be, ‘No.’ It’s not even the sensation. I don’t like the smell. That said, I’ve had plenty of condom sex. Prior to porn becoming a significant part of my life, I always used condoms. They were never a deterrent from sex. I feel like porn has allowed for condom-less sex as a sort of privilege. I’ve gotten used to it. It’s been over three years since I’ve had sex with someone who wasn’t a recently tested, industry performer. As a man who has sex almost exclusively as a top (at least in regards to who is penetrating who) at this point in his life, I’m honestly not too worried about contracting STIs like HIV or Hepatitis. However, I understand that my partners may feel differently. Women who do boy/girl scenes in straight porn (and men who bottom in gay porn) are at a higher risk of contracting non-curable, potentially life-threatening STIs like HIV. So I have to ask myself whether using condoms is going to benefit the industry as a whole. I don’t honestly know the answer to that question. The industry is in flux and many things have yet to play out. All I can say is that I’m happy to use condoms when it is an option and my partner feels safer with them. I don’t believe hot sex and barrier protection are mutually exclusive. However, I don’t see a direct correlation between a lack of barrier protection and the current problems plaguing the adult industry. STI exposure incidents will continue to put a hold on production regardless of whether condoms are used or not. It is my opinion that economic disruption of adult media is driving many performers to unregulated forms of sex work that put them at higher risk for contracting STIs. The testing system is doing its job to keep these performers—once infected—from re-entering the talent pool. It just so happens that major flaws were discovered in the system over the past six months. As a result, testing protocol has become increasingly strict. While the kinks are being worked out, I commend producers who will allow performers the option to use condoms.”
“I’m not interested in performing with condoms, though I occasionally do so, whether it’s my scene partner’s preference, the producer’s rule, or (rarely) because I don’t trust my partner’s lifestyle choices. In that case, or if she doesn’t seem well, or depending on the freshness of her test, I have requested condoms, and I have never experienced pushback from a director on my choice. All-natural sex on camera is more intimate, exciting and trust-based. That’s what I look for in a scene as a viewer and that’s what I try to create as an artist. I want to be a safe place for my scene partner to let her sexual instincts express themselves. With condoms there is literally something between us, and the instinctual fantasies are dulled. HIV is not a major concern for me. In 500-plus scenes, I have never contracted an STI, though I tend to shoot with established and/or professional, safety-conscious scene partners…We need standards. Agents and producers are betraying their talent when they promote performers who don’t respect the work we’re doing. I think performers doing privates/prostitution and heavy drug use is a far bigger issue than this current condom debate.”
“If the choice were completely mine, I would use a condom for EVERY scene/performance. I believe that it is safer for performers to use condoms, period. I do not accept the arguments put forth by FSC and other industry leaders/lawyers that condoms are more dangerous to a performer’s health. I do not accept that condoms being used in our industry would significantly hurt sales, in fact I believe it would benefit our industry’s image. The only reason I do not request condoms, outside of Kink.com or Wicked (who support condom use), is because I know I will not be rehired IF they even honor the request at the time. I have witnessed talent blacklisted by companies because the girl has asked to use a condom. I think it would be more responsible for our industry and our industry’s reputation to promote safe sex practices to the general public. Personally, I don’t feel that the anti-condom sentiment expressed by the industry reflects the true feelings of the performers, especially female performers.”
“If the choice was mine and when the choice is mine, I choose to use condoms. I still think testing is critical and that testing should be much more frequent. An STI test that was taken the week of the production coupled with condoms and gloves would be ideal and would be closer to mirroring what I want from a new partner in my personal life. I think condoms can be sexy. Safer sex can be sexy. I want condoms and a test when I’m having sex with a partner on or off screen. A couple of reasons play into this including greatly reducing risk of STI transmission, doing what I feel is necessary to protect my body, feeling confident and turned on by the fact that we are being healthy and aware of our bodies, feeling turned on by communicating, stating boundaries, and sticking to boundaries and limits that are set to protect both myself and my partners, and lastly feeling a certain obligation knowing that the sex I’m having will be viewed by others and that if I can make safer sex sexy then I can encourage the use of gloves and condoms (on cocks and toys) for the general viewing/porn consuming public.”
“My ideal situation is presenting a clear, basic STI test of 14 days, being able to communicate with my co-star about any other known sexual health concerns, AND the use of safer sex barriers such as condoms and gloves. I prefer testing AND condoms, and I want this preference to not only be the choice made by me and my co-star, but also be a choice that is fully supported by the production team. My experience with the majority of productions that were “okay” with condom use for heterosexual scenes have demonstrated to me that condom use is uncommon in porn at best, and discouraged/prevented at worse. I’ve shown up on sets where no condoms were available, and once a crew member offered one of his own, stored in the hot glove compartment of his car. (For obvious reasons, I immediately started bringing my own safer sex kit to shoots.) In queer/feminist-minded (what I’ll simply call “GOOD”) porn environments, condoms were not only allowed, not only encouraged, but actually SUPPLIED…Ultimately, how I shoot is up to me, yet I often have to compromise safer sex practices due to perceived marketability. It has always been a disappointment. I would appreciate the opportunity for myself—and anyone else—to work the way I want.”
“Most mainstream companies are not willing to allow performers to chose whether or not they use condoms in their scenes. Burning Angel has decided with all of the recent unfortunate happenings in the industry, that it should be at performers’ discretion as to whether or not they want to use condoms in their scenes…I am super appreciative that they have made this choice to benefit their performers’ health and safety at any cost. I feel that this choice demonstrates a lot of what I stand for in this industry, which is to promote boundaries, consent, and healthy sexual choices.”
“If the choice was entirely mine, I would not use condoms when I perform. Condoms and my vagina don’t get along so well. I always get very irritated internally after shooting a scene with a condom. From what I understand, this makes me more, not less, susceptible to STDs and infection. Also, I don’t completely trust condoms to prevent STDs. Condoms break and fail. I would never have sex with someone, on or off camera, with just a condom and no test.”
“To me, the idea of using condoms—or not—is a very personal choice. When used correctly, condoms do lessen the spread of HIV and certain STIs, but they don’t protect against everything. While there are a select number of companies that will “allow” talent to use condoms (and one company that has been 100% condom ONLY for 14 years) many companies discourage the use of condoms because their sales will suffer. I also think it is VERY important to realize that no one entity can possibly be the voice for all performers and say that ALL talent wishes they were condom only. For example, even on a condom-only set, performers complain about having to use condoms and try to remove them during the softcore portion of the filming, citing discomfort for both players, as well as a struggle for the male performer to stay erect. I would like the choice to use condoms without the government mandating what I must do with my body while I am engaged in a very intimate act. I think that educating performers will be the key to enabling them to make informed decisions about their personal safety.”
“If the choice was completely up to me, I’d use condoms in porn with almost everyone, and use my discretion with the partner I’m fluid bonded to. Frankly, I’d *still* want to get tested, and have any sexual partners get tested (condoms break, after all); but hormonal birth control messes my body up and I’d rather use condoms as a form of barrier. Plus, I like to be an example to others and prove that safer sex can and is hot in the context of sexual experiences! I honestly find it sexy and want to demonstrate why on film so others can see that for themselves. I wouldn’t want to be forced to wear condoms without testing being required, which is what could happen, or have porn companies not hire me because I prefer to use condoms, which is what happens now. I’d prefer to make my own decisions.”
Industry standards for testing are constantly evolving. Currently, a performer must test negative every 14 days or less for gonorrhea, chlamydia, Hepatitis A and B, syphilis, trichomoniasis, and HIV. The testing period was decreased from 30 days to 14 days just this week.
SAN FRANCISCO (June 28th, 2013): Good Vibrations, the trusted San Francisco Bay Area based multi-channel retail company that takes pride in providing accurate information on sexuality and quality sex toys for grown-ups, is delighted to announce a new partnership with Tristan Taormino. Taormino is an award-winning author, sex educator, speaker, filmmaker, and radio show host.
Good Vibrations and Taormino have joined forces, inking a one year deal to collaborate on several projects including Good Vibrations as the exclusive sex toy retail sponsor for the second season of Taormino’s popular radio show, Sex Out Loud.
Taormino will act as a brand ambassador for Good Vibrations for the next twelve months. In this role, Taormino will promote Good Vibrations during public appearances and college events, write original content for the Good Vibrations online magazine, promote exclusive kits and her favorite recommended toys for the stores and website, and spearhead Good Vibrations’ annual campaign about ‘backdoor’ pleasure- Anal Pleasure Month in August.
“Good Vibrations is the original sex-positive sex toy store that dramatically changed the sex education landscape. I’ve recommended them for years because of their commitment to quality products and exceptional customer service. I’m thrilled to have Good Vibrations be the presenting sponsor of Sex Out Loud, and excited to represent such a wonderful company,” says Taormino.
Good Vibrations Executive Vice President, Jackie Strano had this to add: “We are so pleased and elated to be working together. This is a perfect partnership of two brands that deeply care about people’s pleasure and sexual health. Besides being a wonderful human being, Tristan is a powerhouse sex positive feminist mover and shaker. It’s going to be a fun year!”
About Tristan Taormino®
Tristan Taormino® is an award-winning author, sex educator, speaker, filmmaker, and radio host. She is the author of seven books and has edited 25 anthologies. Taormino is the producer and host of Sex Out Loud®, a weekly radio show on the VoiceAmerica Talk Radio Network. She has directed and produced twenty-four adult films that have won more than a dozen awards. She has appeared on Melissa Harris-Perry, Joy Behar: Say Anything, HBO’s Real Sex, The Howard Stern Show, Loveline, MTV, CNN, NBC, MTV, Oxygen, Fox News, and The Discovery Channel.
Sex Out Loud premiered in 2012, and is the top-rated show across the entire network. It airs live every Friday at 5:00 pm Pacific time and 8:00 pm EST.
ABOUT GOOD VIBRATIONS
Good Vibrations is the San Francisco Bay Area based retailer trusted for more than three decades to provide a comfortable, safe environment for finding sex-positive products and educational materials to enhance one’s sex life. Good Vibrations offers its products through its retail stores and website. Stores are located in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland, CA and in Brookline, MA.
Justin Timberlake returned for his fifth hosting gig on Saturday Night Live this past weekend and he ended the evening with a historic pop culture reference. In the “Moet & Chandon” skit, Timberlake played porn star Ricky V.I.Penis in an infomercial for Moet & Chandon champagne hosted by two former porn stars. He said, “I do feminist porn because I know how to treat a lady right.” The writers of Saturday Night Live routinely incorporate current news, events, and trends into their skits, and the show itself takes the pulse of popular culture. Not only is this the first ever reference to feminist porn on Saturday Night Live, it’s the first time the term has been said on a non-news program on network television. And it happened just three weeks after the release of The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure, which was published last month by The Feminist Press. Coincidence? I think not. Finally, the door is open to accomplish what my co-editors and I hope this book can do: bring awareness about feminist porn to a mass audience.
Listen, I realize the skit is very problematic. Its portrayal of porn stars as drunk, illiterate bimbos is typical, callous, offensive and anti-sex worker. Plus it’s not that funny. But it was thrilling nonetheless to hear the words ‘feminist porn’ come out of Justin Timberlake’s mouth. When SNL makes fun of you, you know you’ve arrived. I don’t know if the writers have seen The Feminist Porn Book or followed the media coverage surrounding it, but getting on their radar is a huge honor. Want to read what all the fuss is about? Check out The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure.
UPDATE! The show is currently re-airing, here is a full schedule:
January 22, 9:00 pm; January 26 at 3:00 am; January 28 at 8:00 am; January 31 at 9:00 pm; February 3 at 3:00 pm; and February 5 at 9:00 am
Bestselling author and sex educator Tristan Taormino is a featured expert in “The Real 50 Shades of Grey,” the latest edition of the E! Special series, which premieres on E! Entertainment Television on January 22 at 9:00 pm. This documentary special looks at the lives and relationships of real dominants and submissives and features commentary from BDSM experts. Taormino is a sought-after speaker and commentator on a range of sexuality issues, including alternative sexual practices and communities. Her groundbreaking collection The Ultimate Guide to Kink: BDSM, Role Play and the Erotic Edge published by Cleis Press in 2012 features the work of leading kink experts from around the country. Dan Savage calls it “more than just a guide to kink, more than just a sex manual…everyone can learn from this collection.” Her latest book (also from Cleis Press), 50 Shades of Kink: An Introduction to BDSM, offers readers practical advice and techniques based on real world experience about how to eroticize power, cultivate deeper connections and incorporate kink into your sex life.
Here’s the full show description:
Whether shock, excitement or simply curiosity, it seems that everyone has a strong reaction to the bestselling erotic book trilogy that includes Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed. Having sold more than 60 million copies worldwide, the series set the record as the fastest-selling paperback of all time. What is it about the provocative lifestyle of the protagonists that has readers throughout the world riveted? Is it the non-traditional sex, the excitement of the unknown, or simply the story of love between two people expressed in a unique way? Hosted by E!’s Alicia Quarles, this one-hour special features commentary from therapists, authors and other experts about the practice, and also profiles the real-life experiences of couples who follow this lifestyle. Don’t miss a fascinating look at what used to be a very secret world in the E! Special “The Real 50 Shades of Grey” premiering Tuesday, January 22 at 9:00pm ET/PT, only on E!
In this special, real-life practitioners open up about the BDSM lifestyle. Viewers find out how they got involved, what the challenges of this lifestyle are and what they tell their families and friends about their choices. The show also looks into a high-profile case in which the sex game turned dangerous for the players, and experts weigh in on the risks and dangers of the lifestyle, and what participants must do in order to remain safe, both physically and psychologically. Find out how the “business” of bondage is growing too, as an instructor discusses the popular classes that are filling up with individuals and couples eager to enter this sexually-charged world. E! Entertainment Specials explore the hottest trends, the biggest stars and breaking stories, and “The Real 50 Shades of Grey” is part of its White Hot Winter programming in January.
Media has an enormous impact on how we view and engage in conversations about sex and sexuality. Broadly defined erotic media can be a tool for social change but can also reinforce stereotypes and promote a sex negative cultural backlash. Whether it is a porn film, a book of erotica, mainstream news coverage of sexual issues, social media bringing together sexual communities, or a sexy picture from a photo archive illustrating a news story, it is clear that the intersection of sexuality and the media is rapidly changing both discourses on sexuality and the media landscape itself. SWELL is a conference devoted to critical conversations about these forms of media, conversations that need to be dynamic, challenging, and creative. This meeting is meant to be a space for discussion, synthesis, and collaboration, a praxis on erotic media which in which we share both broader theoretical frameworks and practical skills. We invite presenters who engage with erotic media in any way: in their business, in their activism, as a side project to other callings and disciplines, or as their central passion and life’s work.
SwellCon is a project hosted by The Smitten Kitten, a progressive sex toys and supplies provider and community resource located in Minneapolis, MN, USA. We are organizing this conference in honor of our 10th anniversary. It is very important to us that under-represented voices and communities be able to present and attend SwellCon. To that end, we will be offering honorariums on a sliding scale to cover travel and lodging costs as well as to pay you for your unique contribution to the success of SwellCon! We especially encourage people of color, differently-abled people, sex workers, LGBTQUIA folks, people of faith, and non-academics to send proposals and attend!
Deadline for Submissions: February 28th, 2013. Details are below or the link to the submission guidelines is here: http://swellcon.com/category/
You may propose either an individual presentation or a pre-constituted panel. Please note that because of limited time and space, we will be unable to accommodate all proposals, and we reserve the right to reconstitute some panels for reasons of time, space, and non-duplication of topics.
Please send us a proposal with the following information:
Equipment Needs and Special Considerations (AV, room layout, etc.):
What topic(s) of interest does your session address?
In a paragraph, describe your session topic:
What is the main thesis of your presentation? What do you hope to achieve during the session? What is the take away?
How would you describe the format of your proposed session? (roundtable discussion, lecture, small group work, skill share, etc.)
What learning styles will your session utilize (visual, oral, tactile, etc.)?
Please note that we are unable to accommodate live, explicit demonstrations in the conference area. Please contact me directly if you would like to discuss alternatives spaces.
We are interested in a wide range of topics for SWELL. These include, but are not limited to:
Media Skill Share
examples of topics that may be covered:
DIY Erotic Media, DSLR Photography and Videography, Editing in Free Software, Photoshop, and Final Cut Pro, Writing, Blogging and Web design, Podcasting and Internet Radio
Finding the Erotic Muse in Your Media
examples of topics that may be covered:
Writing Erotica, Humor and Comedy in Sexual Media, Innovation and Idiosyncrasy in Erotic Video, Performance and Sex Education, Crafting a Public Persona
Erotic Media and Social, Cultural, and Economic Change
examples of topics that may be covered:
Historical Perspectives on Erotic Media, Technological Change and Perceptions of Sexuality, Second Wave Feminism and New Media, Future Perspectives on Erotic Media
Censorship and The Politics of Erotic Media
examples of topics that may be covered:
Sex Work and Media, Education and Erotic Media, Censorship and Online Payment Technologies, Age-Appropriate Educational Media, Media and Sex-Positive Parenting
The Business of Erotic Media
examples of topics that may be covered:
Erotic Media and The Law, Making Money While Making Erotic Media, Using Media as a Tool of Your Business, Accounting for Your Media
Consent Culture and Media
examples of topics that may be covered:
Privacy and Social Networks, Fetlife, Privacy and Photo/File Sharing, Is Anyone Up?, Instagram, Facebook Posting Guidelines, Online Sexual Bullying and Harassment
Self-Distribution of Media Content
examples of topics that may be covered:
Sex Education and New Media, Podcasting, You Tube, eBooks, Digital Piracy, and the Artisanal Media Maker
Diversity and visibility in sexual media
examples of topics that may be covered:
Interlocking Oppressions and Erotic Media, Sex, Identity, and Bodily Autonomy in the Erotic Media age, ability, race, gender identity, Representing Kink and Non-Monogamy
Sexual media and the mainstream
examples of topics that may be covered:
Daytime Talk TV, Portrayal of Porn and Sex Work in Hollywood and Indiewood, News Coverage of Marriage Equality, Sex Worker Rights, California’s Prop B and Prop 35, Sexual Panics and Right-Wing Media Backlash, Pop Culture and Erotic Media
Please email question and submissions to Clare Jacky at email@example.com
My head is still spinning from my first appearance on Melissa Harris-Perry on Saturday. Watch it below or at these links—Segment 1: Porn in America and Segment 2: The Business of Pornography. I’ve done a fair amount of television appearances, and I have mixed feelings about them. In the past, I feel like many TV producers shy away from difficult topics, don’t allow for complex, nuanced analysis, and often want me to “dumb it down.” This time, none of that happened. I was excited when a producer for the Melissa Harris-Perry show on MSNBC contacted me last week about a show about female sexuality and porn. We had a spirited conversation where I feel like she really listened to me, rather than attempted to fit me into a quasi-script she had already written. When I found out that one of my co-panelists was author and activist Jaclyn Friedman, I felt relieved to have a sex-positive feminist sister there.
Segment 1 of 2 “Porn in America”
Fun fact: Jaclyn Friedman and I were both in the class of ’93 at Wesleyan University, and we were fellow activists and friends during college. Although we’ve followed and supported each other’s careers since then (I blurbed her newest book What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame Free Guide to Sex and Safety and she appeared on my radio show Sex Out Loud), we hadn’t been in the same room since the late 90s. We had dinner the night before, and Jaclyn reminded me we wouldn’t talk about the show, so that everything would stay fresh for the next day. We had plenty of catching up to do, so it didn’t matter!
At every stage of the booking process, the folks behind the scenes at MHP were competent, respectful, and, well, have their shit together. In the green room before the show, Jaclyn and I met Zephyr Lookout (author of Mousepads, Shoe Leather, and Hope: Lessons from the Howard Dean Campaign for the Future of Internet Politics) who sat on the panel for an earlier segment and would be joining ours. She is a law professor at Fordham. I liked her immediately, and we bonded over our love of the children’s book Tuck Everlasting. She admitted she was “probably the most anti-porn of everyone on the panel,” which I appreciated her saying up front. It’s actually refreshing to engage with someone who really wants to dig into the topic and isn’t just ready to shut you down (like Gail Dines and crew are). After being fitted with our mics and mic packs (during which Jaclyn had her hands all the way up my dress to assist the sound guy), the three of us sat down at the table. That’s when I met the fourth panelist, Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson (author of Holler If You Hear Me), and I truly had no idea what he was going to say about porn. I was pleasantly surprised to discover he knows quite a bit about it (he name checked Lexington Steele and Mr. Marcus!) and had smart things to say.
Segment 2 of 2 “Business of Pornography”
MHP introduced me as a feminist pornographer and showed the cover of my new book The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure, co-edited with Celine Parrenas Shimizu, Constance Penley, and Mireille Miller-Young and forthcoming from The Feminist Press at CUNY in 2013. The two segments just flew by so fast, and suddenly, she was doing the closing of the show (naming activist teen Julia Bluhm the Foot Soldier of the Week for petitioning Seventeen magazine).
Afterward, we all stood in the hallway, continuing the conversation, and I got to meet several more of the show’s producers including Jamil Smith and Executive Producer Shirley Zilberstein. Melissa Harris-Perry is so smart, it’s actually intimidating. But in a good way. Obviously, we barely scratched the surface on some pretty important topics. I have a whole lot more to say about race politics in the porn industry, shifting representations of sexuality in porn, today’s porn economy, queer porn, and on and on. But this was definitely a start, and great one.
Very few mainstream media outlets, and even fewer, if any, television news shows are willing to look at porn in an intelligent or balanced way. I am so impressed that Melissa Harris-Perry and her producers took a risk and really broke down a barrier. I know they have already gotten flack about it from conservatives and anti-porn feminists. So, if you want to show your support for the topic of this show, applaud Melissa Harris-Perry and MSNBC for making space for this conversation, you can do so in a number of ways:
Comment on the blog about the segments
Email the MSNBC network with your support
Author, Sex Educator, Filmmaker Tristan Taormino to Host Show on VoiceAmerica Radio Network
Tristan Taormino, internationally acclaimed author, sex educator, college lecturer, and feminist pornographer “Sex Out Loud” on VoiceAmerica Talk Radio Network. The show debuts June 1 at 5 pm Pacific Time, 8 pm Eastern Time.
PHOENIX, AZ, May 21, 2012 – VoiceAmerica Talk Radio Network, Internet broadcasting pioneer, producing and syndicating online audio and video, today announced the debut of Sex Out Loud, hosted by internationally acclaimed author, sex educator, college lecturer, and feminist pornographer Tristan Taormino on the VoiceAmerica Variety Channel on Friday, June 1, at 5 pm Pacific Time, 8 pm Eastern Time.
Sex Out Loud explores the world of sexuality from every angle. Tristan Taormino will interview leading authors, educators, artists and icons and give listeners an uncensored, inside look at alternative sexual practices and communities. She’ll delve into topics from the popular to the taboo, including sex education and sexual health, erotic fantasies, BDSM, non-monogamy, the adult industry, and more. Tristan and her guests will also answer listeners’ questions live. Her first guest will be Dan Savage, sex advice columnist, author, co-creator of the “It Gets Better” campaign, and star of MTV’s “Savage U.” Upcoming guests include Kate Bornstein, Buck Angel, Jaclyn Friedman, Jessica Valenti, Bobbi Starr, Susie Bright, and her daughter, Aretha Bright.
Tristan has been educating and entertaining people for over fifteen years. A former columnist for “The Village Voice,” Tristan’s sex-positive attitude and sharp wit have made her a sought after guest on radio and television shows across the United States and abroad including “Howard Stern,” “Loveline,” “Ricki Lake,” and HBO’s “Real Sex.” Most notably, she was a recurring guest on “Ricki Lake” for two seasons, gave sex advice to Danny Bonaduce and the late Dick Clark on the NBC talk show “The Other Half,” and debated Dr. Drew Pinsky and Joe Scarborough on MSNBC. She is a widely recognized expert on sex education, GLBT issues, alternative relationships, and feminist pornography. She frequently lectures at top colleges and universities, including Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Princeton, Columbia, Brown, UCLA, and NYU.
“Tristan Taormino is known around the world for her honest, down to earth, sex-positive advice, books, and films,” says Karen Dana, Executive Producer of Sex Out Loud. “We are so thrilled that she’s joining the VoiceAmerica Network, and her show is sure to inform and inspire our listeners.” Sex Out Loud follows Sex with Jaiya, the Variety Channel’s most popular show, giving listeners two hours of exciting, informative sex education.
Sex Out Loud is sponsored by The Smitten Kitten, an award-winning progressive sex toy retailer; Astroglide, one of the leading personal lubricant brands; and We-Vibe, the most popular rechargeable vibrator for couples in the world.
Sex Out Loud airs live on Fridays at 5 pm Pacific / 7 pm Central / 8 pm Eastern on The VoiceAmerica Variety Channel. To read more about the show, go to sexoutloudradio.com. To access the show, log on at http://www.voiceamerica.com/show/2096/sex-out-loud. All shows will be available in Tristan Taormino’s Content Library on The VoiceAmerica Variety Channel for on-demand and podcast download.
I’m quotes in Your Tango’s piece, “How to Have Anal Sex For the First Time.” Man, the reader comments are totally insane and anal-bashing!
Notable media response to the cancellation of funding for Tristan Taormino’s appearance at OSU:
Keiko Lane on LGBT POV: “I think the crucial questions embedded in Tristan’s dis-invitation are exactly about pornography, about why porn matters, and about why people are so afraid of it. Specifically, why the kind of pornography that Tristan produces matters.”
Jessi Fischer on The Sexademic: “The thing is, pornography is not illegal and there is no statute I am aware of in Oregon state law that restricts the use of taxpayer fees in this way.”
“Why should public university students have a choice in their education? That right is apparently reserved for private university students. The way social hierarchies and privilege play out in every aspect of our lives never fails to amaze me. Private high school students can have unquestioned access to issues about sexual orientation, gender, pleasure and agency while programs in public schools are vulnerable to moral panics and content restrictions. This serves to reinforce a sense of access and privilege in the world.”
Elizabeth at SITPS: “When experts are rejected because their work is controversial, we should be worried not only about sexual freedom but also about academic freedom more broadly. Sexual freedom is a fundamental human right. Education is an important component of protecting that right.”
Charlie Glickman on his blog: “The upshot of all of this is that it doesn’t really matter whether the underlying motivation is an administrator’s squeamishness or an anticipation of a backlash from the legislators who fund the school. It’s still comes down to a reaction to sexual shame…Silencing a conversation that makes you uncomfortable or that you think is “inappropriate” is usually about shame. And I have to wonder what it is about a presentation called “Claiming Your Sexual Power” that makes it more controversial than, say, having Playboy recruit on your campus.”
**UPDATED** 1/28/2011, 4:30 pm EST
Here is some of the coverage, thanks to everyone who blogged, commented, posted, etc. about it!
OSU STUDENTS: Please Email the ASOSU In Support of Me!
Press Release from The ASOSU:
CORVALLIS – In regards to Tristan Taormino’s presentation for students at the 2011 Modern Sex Conference, her controversial advocacy in the fields of sexuality, gender and media have led to discussions about accessible resources and funding. The Associated Students of Oregon State University would like to give students an opportunity to utilize student fees in bringing her to campus for the conference. As it is our mission to represent students, we will not take any action until we have gathered student responses. If students want to see Ms. Taormino at this conference, in collaboration with other student groups on campus, we will do our best to ensure her attendance. Students with concerns, opinions, and ideas on the issue may visit ASOSU representatives in Snell 149 or email womens.affairs (at) oregonstate.edu or asosu (at) oregon.edu. For more information please contact ASOSU Executive Director of Public Relations Caity Cagle.
Want to know what the Twitterverse is saying? 700+ TWEETS Check out this and this and this and this.
KEZI 9 News: OSU Cancels Keynote Speaker for LGBT Conference
Keiko Lane on LGBT POV and Oakland Local: Why Good Porn Matters: Tristan Taormino, Oregon State University, and Sexual Empowerment
Portland Mercury: OSU vs. Sex
The Daily Barometer: Controversy Lingers Around Modern Sex Conference
Corvallis Gazette-Times (Editorial): OSU Dustup Over Sex Speech Raises Sensitive Issues
Corvallis Gazette-Times: OSU Students Asked for OK to Fund ‘Feminist Pornographer’ Visit
Charlie Glickman: Oregon State’s Decision to Drop Tristan Taormino is About Sexual Shame
Our Porn, Ourselves: Oregon State’s Modern Sex Tainted by Feminist Porn Hypocrisy (This is a Safe For Work link)
Exploring Intimacy: Support Tristan Taormino: Call OSU and Tell Em What’s What
Practical Polyamory: Oregon State University Uninvites Tristan Taormino As Keynote Speaker
Where is Your Line: We Support Tristan Taormino!
Sex in the Public Square: State Budgets, Higher Education, and Sexual Freedom (brilliant must-read piece!)
Jiz Lee: A Lesson on Sexual Shaming
Hot Movies for Her: Oregon State University Disses Tristan Taormino
Made of Words: Support Ms. Taormino
Sugar by Jacq Jones: Porn: The Scarlet P
Daily Barometer (OSU Student Newspaper): Too Sexy for OSU?
Tobi Hill-Meyer on Bilerico: Taormino’s Replacement Keynote Also Has Porn Connections (oooh the hypocrisy!)
Examiner.com: Tristan Taormino, Modern Sex Conference Organizers Weigh In on OSU Controversy
The Sexademic: The Privilege of Pleasure: OSU and Tristan Taormino (fantastic piece about why this is not just about porn but intellectual freedom)
Violet Blue: Tristan Taormino, Ann Coulter, and the Disgrace of Oregon State University
Portland Mercury: OSU Students Petition to Get Sex Writer Back to Campus
Portland Mercury: OSU in Hot Water After Canceling Sex Writer’s Talk
Corvallis Gazette Times: Too Sexy for Oregon State?
Jezebel: Oregon State Cancels Conference Keynote Over Porn (9000+ page views & lively comments section)
Fleshbot: Tristan Taormino Uninvited From Oregon State’s Modern Sex Conference (Note: NSFW)
Charlie Glickman: (fellow sex educator and confirmed speaker for Modern Sex) Oregon State U Shuts Tristan Taormino Out
Tobi Hill-Meyer: (fellow pornographer who’s giving a workshop at the conference): Sex Conference Un-invites Keynote Speaker for Being Too Racy?
SEX+STL: from Kendra Holliday: Sex Educator Tristan Taormino Uninvited to “Modern Sex” Conference
Divergent Dance: For Shame, Oregon State
Examiner.com: Oregon State University Cancels Tristan Taormino’s Modern Sex Keynote Lecture
AVN.com: OSU Invites, Then Disinvites Tristan Taormino as Keynote
Hey Epiphora: Tristan Taormino and the Hypocrisy of OSU
Sinamatic Salve-ation: Silence=Death (to Feminism & Sexuality)
The Mistress Manual Blog
Lusty Lady from Rachel Kramer Bussel: Tristan Taormino Keynote Speech at Oregon State University Modern Sex Conference Canceled Because of Her Website & Resume
Smut & Sensibility: Last-Minute Uninvitation: Shame on OSU
Center for Positive Sexuality Blog
Self Serve Blog
Vivane’s Sex Carnival
Sarah Sloane, sex educator
Shanna Katz, sex educator
Facts and Friction
UPDATE 1/21/2011, 11:00 am EST:
I’d like to respond to Todd Simmons’ comments to Examiner.com. Sarah Estrella writes:
While Taormino and the blogosphere have been portraying this as an anti-porn act of censorship from the university, it may actually have been more about a misunderstanding on the part of the conference’s organizers about which pools of available money were appropriate to use to bring controversial speakers to campus.
Simmons is re-writing history in order to put this all on the organizers, which is unfair. 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 organizers 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.
Furthermore, 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.
I’m thrilled that students are organizing to bring me to campus anyway, because in the end, this is about the students. I support their right to bring whatever speakers they want to campus.
UPDATE 1/20/2011, 6:00 pm EST:
The university is responding to email letters in support of me with the following form letter, which several people have forwarded to me:
Thank you for writing to Oregon State University. As an institution of higher education, Oregon State University is committed to free speech and an open discussion of ideas on our campuses. However, as a public university, OSU and its representatives must be careful and judicious stewards of how we allow taxpayer monies allocated to the university to be spent in service of such discussions.
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.
Travel costs already incurred by the speaker in preparation for her appearance at the university will be reimbursed.
OSU regrets the communication issues that created confusion and difficulties for all parties concerned in this matter. The university’s long history as an institution that has provided fora for speakers and ideas of all kinds speaks for itself.
Larry D. Roper
Vice Provost for Student Affairs
Oregon State University
Please note the following INACCURACIES IN ROPER’S LETTER as well as some additional information:
–The organizers NEVER mislead administrators about who I was or what I do or provided a “partial description of me.” They are being thrown under the bus here unfairly.
–I do not have a “significant online business in video pornography” but even if I did, who cares? Pornography is LEGAL.
–The student organizers of this event and staff people are being told not to speak to me or anyone else about the matter. All have expressed to me privately that they fear retribution if they do speak up, including losing their jobs (some of the students also work for OSU, and that work makes it possible for them to attend the university). The university hopes that by intimidating people into not talking to the press, the story will not be covered.
–There is at least one other pornographer speaking at the conference (Tobi Hill-Meyer, see Tobi’s blog post). An OSU spokesperson claims that because Tobi isn’t being paid—and none of the other speakers are being paid—it is not an issue. So, OSU is happy to let the other pornographers/other “unsavory sex types” speak, they just will not pay them to do so. Further sex-negative bullshit, devaluing my work, and the work of others, precisely because it’s about sexuality. Plus, some of these presenters are being compensated for their time, so the spokesperson is lying.
For Immediate Release
SEX EDUCATOR AND SPEAKER TRISTAN TAORMINO, SET TO GIVE CONFERENCE KEYNOTE, UNINVITED BY OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY BECAUSE OF HER ‘RESUME AND WEBSITE’
January 19, 2011
Award-winning author, columnist, sex educator, and filmmaker Tristan Taormino was set to be the keynote speaker at Oregon State University’s Modern Sex conference, scheduled for February 15-16, 2011. Yesterday, she was uninvited by a university representative, who cited her resume and website as the reason.
On October 28, 2010, organizers of the OSU Modern Sex conference booked Taormino to give the keynote talk; they confirmed the date and agreed to fees, and Tristan’s management received a first draft of the contract on November 1. That contract was incomplete and sent back to OSU for revisions. As with many negotiations, the contract was pending as all the paperwork got done, but in late December, OSU again confirmed Tristan’s appearance and conference organizers told her manager to purchase airline tickets, for which OSU would reimburse her.
On Tuesday, January 18, 2011, 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.
Taormino’s resume includes her seven books on sex and relationships, the 18 anthologies she has edited, numerous television appearances from CNN to The Discovery Channel, and her award-winning adult films. She was a columnist for The Village Voice for nearly ten years and has given more than 75 lectures at top colleges and universities including Yale, Princeton, Cornell, Brown, NYU and Columbia. Her website, puckerup.com , includes sex education information, advice, and information about the films she directs for Vivid Entertainment, one of the largest adult companies in the country.
“In my ten years of booking Tristan at colleges and universities, of course there has been some controversy. But I have never had a university cancel like this last minute,” says Colten Tognazzini, Taormino’s manager. “It’s not unusual for contract negotiations to drag on. Once they confirmed we should book her travel, I felt comfortable the event was a done deal. I continued to work with them in good faith that a signed contract would be forthcoming. I believe that the conference organizers’ hands are tied, and this decision came from much higher up. They have cancelled with less than a month’s notice during Tristan’s busiest season. She gave up other opportunities to go to Oregon. Without a signed contract, we may have no recourse, and were told we will not be reimbursed for her travel.”
Tognazzini spoke to a source at OSU who speculated that the University feared that when it went before the legislature in regards to future funding, legislators would use OSU’s funding of a “pornographer” on campus as ammunition to further cut budgets. This source, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Tognazzini, “I think they’re uninviting Tristan because they don’t want to have to defend her appearance to conservative legislators.”
“I’m extremely disappointed that OSU has decided to cancel my appearance. I’ve been protested before, but never uninvited. I have never misrepresented who I am or what I do. I am proud of all the work I do, including the sex education films and feminist pornography I make,” says Taormino. “The talk I planned to give at this conference, titled “Claiming Your Sexual Power” has nothing to do with porn, but the porn is such an easy target for anti-sex conservatives and censors. I find it ironic that one of the missions of the conference is to understand diverse perspectives of sexuality. Apparently, my perspective—one of educating and empowering people around their sexuality—isn’t welcome at OSU.”
If OSU students and others still want to hear Taormino speak, she will be teaching two workshops at She Bop in Portland on February 13 and 14. “She Bop supports a healthy perspective on sex and sexuality and we are proud to have Tristan Taormino present two years in a row at our shop in Portland. Tristan is a leading educator paving the way for others to help break down the stigma around sex in this country. It is part of our mission as a female friendly adult shop to support sexual empowerment and growth,” say co-owners Jeneen Doumitt and Evy Cowan.
Note from Tristan:
Don’t Let the Anti-Sex Conservatives Win!
If you support free speech and my mission of sexual empowerment, please voice your opinion about OSU’s decision to cancel my appearance at the last minute (and not reimburse me for travel expenses) to the following people. I would really appreciate your support —Tristan
Vice Provost for Student Affairs
632 Kerr Administration Building
Corvallis, OR 97331-2154
Dr. Mamta Motwani Accapadi
Dean of Student Life
A200 Kerr Administration Building
Corvallis, OR 97331-2133
Dr. Edward J. Ray
600 Kerr Administration Building
Corvallis, OR 97331-2128