Jan 282011

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



January 19, 2011

Tristan Taormino

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

Larry Roper
Vice Provost for Student Affairs
632 Kerr Administration Building
Corvallis, OR 97331-2154
541-737-3626 (phone)
541-737-3033 (fax)
email: larry.roper@oregonstate.edu

Dr. Mamta Motwani Accapadi
Dean of Student Life
A200 Kerr Administration Building
Corvallis, OR 97331-2133
541-737-8748 (phone)
541-737-9160 (fax)
email: deanofstudents@oregonstate.edu
twitter: @deanmamta

Dr. Edward J. Ray
600 Kerr Administration Building
Corvallis, OR 97331-2128
541-737-4133 (phone)
541-737-3033 (fax)
email: pres.office@oregonstate.edu

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