Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Accuracy of post “Rape on film at Yale”

Presca Ahn has emailed a request to the dankprofessor concerning the dankprofessor post of March 6, 2008
on Rape on Film at Yale. Ms. Ahn who was quoted in that post has questioned the accuracy of the article that relied on the Yale Daily News article of February 18. At her request I am publishing the original Yale Daily News article. She has also requested that I publish her opinion piece that appeared in the Yale Daily News; her opinion piece follows the news article.

Yale Daily News

February 18, 2008


By Samantha Broussard-Wilson
Staff Reporter

Sex Week at Yale ran into more controversy Saturday night when porn director Paul Thomas, on campus to participate in the event, screened a graphic porn film that featured violent sado-masochism.

Coordinators said they were appalled by the film – which they had not watched before it was aired in front of an audience of over 200 students – but members of the gender-balanced crowd did not appear upset by the movie and reacted with disappointment when the Sex Week team ended the film early.

On Sunday night, Sex Week coordinators emphasized that they do not support the practices displayed in the film, which depicted fantasy rape, bondage and piercing. Colin Adamo ’10, Sex Week event coordinator, called the screening a grave mistake.

“We really dropped the ball on this one,” he said. “No one watched the movie before Paul showed it to the audience.”

But Sex Week Director Joe Citarella ’08 said he thinks the event was positive overall because it gave people the opportunity to speak out against violent pornography and the effect it can have on the public’s conception of women.

“Part of Sex Week is to challenge what’s being done,” he explained. “And I questioned Paul as to whether these graphic, violent images are OK, knowing that there is someone on the other end who is enjoying it.”

During the question-and-answer period that followed the screening, Adamo described the images as sexually unhealthy and disrespectful to women. But Thomas’ response insinuated that he was a prude and just needed to watch more porn, Adamo said after the screening.

Adamo said several students in the crowd booed when he made his comment, and during the screening there was a “sense of revelry” in the images being displayed among some audience members.

William Wong ’09, who was involved with the Sex Week tech team but not with events planning, said the crowd’s reaction was mostly supportive of the film. He said the vocal members of the audience were not offended by the material and appeared to be enjoying it. Like Adamo, he said the crowd was fairly diverse and was almost evenly divided by gender.

Wong said he himself was not shocked by the material in the film but was slightly taken aback that the Sex Week coordinators had chosen to screen that particular movie.

“It’s really the team’s fault for not pre-screening,” Wong said. “And I think it’s probably difficult for Paul Thomas to judge what’s appropriate and what is not because he’s been in the business so long.”

Wong said he thinks the debate is really over whether it is right or wrong to use those kinds of violent images for sexual satisfaction, rather than whether screening the film was a responsible decision on the part of Sex Week organizers.

Shazan Jiwa ’09, who attended the screening, said Thomas was unfairly attacked by members of the audience. Thomas’ intent was to showcase aspects of the porn industry that people are not familiar with, Jiwa said, and the director had provided a disclaimer before the screening in which he said the audience should be prepared for graphic images.

“He was trying to show us that not all porn is about happy sex or has a happy atmosphere,” Jiwa said.

Jiwa said it would have been interesting to hear the motive behind the movie rather than listening to Thomas defend himself.

The last Sex Week events will be held today.


Yale Daily News
Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2008

For Sex Week at Yale, pullout method fails
By Presca Ahn

On Saturday night, as part of a pornography-themed day, Sex Week at Yale held a porn screening in the Law School auditorium. The featured pornography was a series of trailer-type clips, chosen by director Paul Thomas from among his own films. The Sex Week team, however, didn’t preview all the footage Thomas chose. This is why, partway through the showing, graphic rape fantasies began to play onscreen.

Rape fantasies, bondage, the piercing of a woman’s nipples and the labeling of a woman as a “slut” who “deserved” violent sexual degradation – this was some of the footage played at one of Sex Week’s final events. Its inclusion, from the Sex Week organizers’ point of view, was an embarrassing mistake, and a potential public relationns disaster.

So damage control came quickly. After a panicked powwow out in the hall, the Sex Week organizers stopped the screening and moved directly into the scheduled Q & A session. The next day, one Sex Week organizer asked to meet with the Women’s Center board to explain how it could be that rape pornography was shown as part of the program. He said there would be a panel discussion on Monday night led by the Sex Week team, which would address those shocked by the screening. He apologized, saying the Sex Week team had had a tiring week – if the organizers had vetted the film, they would never have allowed the rape scenes to be played.

I could only think that this Sex Week organizer had completely missed the point.

The lesson of the Sex Week pornography screening is not that the Sex Week organizers should have edited out the rape footage. The lesson is that editing jobs are necessary to make pornography – even the “high quality,” “mainstream” pornography touted by Vivid Entertainment – look inoffensive.

Better minds (read: Dworkin, MacKinnon) have addressed the far-reaching harm caused by the porn industry and the dubious empowerment that porn stars are claimed to, or claim to, attain. The conversation that we should be having at Yale is one that Sex Week failed to frame for us: how pornography and pornographic cultural products affect the way we have sex.

Debates involving porn stars and Q & A sessions with porn directors are not good ways to start this conversation. Besides, the question of “porn or no porn” is a fallacious one. Pornography is inevitable; to ban it is “censorship.” What we need to understand is the scope of pornography’s influence. Porn isn’t just what teenage boys watch in locked bedrooms (or, in this enlightened age, what lots of people watch on YouPorn.com). Porn and the sexual expectations it propagates – those of big penises and big breasts, violent intercourse, massive orgasms and so forth – infiltrate our culture, and our sex lives.

The overwhelming amount of Sex Week that was devoted to pornography created a false equivalence between porn and sex. Here’s the thing: Porn is not sex.

Sex Week glamorized pornography. Advertised via e-mail to all Yale students (subject line: “Day O’ Porn”), Saturday’s screening was followed by the Sex Week at Yale dance party, where (said the e-mail) you’d “[d]ress as a pornstar, party like a pornstar, with the porn stars.” The e-mail promised free Vivid DVDs and the chance (for “40 Lucky Yalies”) to pre-game with the “Vivid Girls.” Suddenly, you were invited into a context sexier than your own – the glamorous world of porn stars, who definitely have better sex than you do.

Pornography decontextualizes sex. Drawing the line between pornography and “racy” films with “sexy” content involves this realization: that in porn, the act of sex – including, but not limited to, intercourse – is translated into an alternate reality, or a distorted one. In porn, sex is not a normal, healthy part of normal, healthy lives; it’s fetishized, exaggerated or embellished. Porn isn’t honest. We need to talk honestly about it: It hurts women.

Presca Ahn is a junior in Branford College. She is the Amy Rossborough Fellowship Coordinator of the Yale Women’s Center.

If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration
to the same email address.

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

March 15, 2008 Posted by | ethics, feminism, higher education, rape, sex, sexual politics, Yale University | Leave a comment

Saudi psychology professor chained, beaten and to receive lashing and jail time for having “coffee” with a female “student”

A Saudi professor of psychology at UMM al-Qra University in the city of Mecca has been arrested, chained, beaten, and convicted for meeting in a public café where he supposedly engaged in having coffee with a woman who had claimed to be his student. He has been sentenced to eight months in prison and 180 lashes. However, it is reported that almost everyone believes that the professor is innocent and that he was set-up by the Saudi religious police. Religious police aka mutaween, patrol public places looking for persons in violation of the prohibition of contact between unrelated men and women.

Abdullah Al-Sanousi, the academic’s lawyer, told local newspapers that his client had drawn the ire of some of the Commission’s staffers for speaking at length during a training session about how important it was for them to be polite to the public. Some of the trainees also wanted revenge because they had failed the course while others were not happy with their examination results.

Ruzaiz is said to have received a call from a girl purporting to be one of his students who asked to meet to discuss a problem that she did not want to talk about over the phone. The professor agreed to meet at a family cafe, provided she brought her brother along as a chaperone.

When he arrived, he was surprised to find the girl alone, and was promptly surrounded by religious policemen who handcuffed him and hauled him into custody. He was accused of being in a state of khulwa – seclusion – with an unrelated woman.

His lawyer insisted that because the two met in a public place frequented by hundreds of families, the question of khulwa, or illegal seclusion, never arose. The commission, however, insists that the family sections at coffee shops and restaurants are meant only for families and close relatives.

The professor is said to have taped a later conversation with the girl in which she admitted that she had been sent to the cafe by the religious police. The professor is relying on an appeals court to overturn the verdict. His lawyer has urged local human rights associations to back his plea for reviewing the case.

A local paper, Al-Madina Arabic published a detailed account of his defence. The academic in his account to Al-Madina Arabic daily, persisted with his charge that staffers of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice had framed him. Following are key excerpts from this article.

He claimed that he was the victim of a plot engineered by the staffers in revenge for issues he had raised with them during a 2006 training course…

The professor told the paper that he had seven pieces of circumstantial evidence that would prove his innocence. Besides, he said, he has another piece of evidence that would upset the entire course of the investigations but this he would reveal only when the time comes.

The professor claimed that the Commission had masterminded the incident in which he was seen meeting a lone and unrelated woman in the family section of a hotel.

The paper carried a narrative by the professor of his version of what had transpired.

The academic said while he was lecturing at the 2006 training course for men, a man handed him a sealed envelop containing a message from a woman, which claimed that she had a problem with her husband and wanted the academic’s help in solving it.

The message contained the woman’s telephone number.

At the bottom of the message was the woman’s telephone number.

“I called her for more details,” the professor told the paper, “and I requested her to tell her husband to contact me. This was so that I may hear his side of the story as well -since it has been my habit to listen to both sides.

“She told me that her husband was angry with her and had walked out. So I told her that a Mehram (a male relative) should come along with her to talk to me.”

“Thus, someone called me telling me that he was her brother. He asked me to come to the house to help his sister in solving her problem.

“But I apologized saying that I don’t call on people in their homes unless all the conflicting parties are present.

However, “Owing to his insistence and pressure, which was tantamount to pleading, we agreed to meet at a place to be determined later.

“The very next day he called after Dhuhr prayers and said that due to unforeseen circumstances he wanted me to see him after half an hour in a public restaurant that serves luncheon meals to families. He told me that the meeting would not last more than half an hour.

“In view of his circumstance and since I was on my way home after finishing from a training course which was close to the restaurant, I went to the restaurant.

“I stepped through the door into the restaurant and started looking for the person who had made me understand that he would be there waiting for me.

“But I was taken aback when a veiled woman appeared before me, asking for my name. I answered her, saying that I was the man she was expecting and that I had expected her to be with her brother.

In reply, she introduced herself, saying that she was the one seeking my help.

“Amazed, I asked her about her brother who had asked to see me. She replied that he was on his way.

“I spontaneously walked out to wait for the so-called person but was stunned when two of the Commission’s staffers tried to forcibly arrest me.

“One of them was in police uniform. They overpowered me and led me outside the restaurant where they forcibly seized all my personal belongings -papers, ID, mobile phone, keys, money and other things. Then they handcuffed me and pushed me to their van after they covered my face with my Ghutra.”

The professor said he was driven to the Commission’s detention centre and held for more than three hours during which he was exposed to all kinds of mental and psychological pressure.

For example, he said, they handcuffed him from the time of arrest until he was sent to police custody -more than three hours in all with the exception of five minutes when they removed the chain.

“They used all methods of deception and eventually made me sign some papers the contents of which I did not realize then because of my poor health and psychological condition. Not only this, but they also mocked and made fun of me and some of them offended me. They didn’t care about my health condition, that I am a diabetic.

“Because of their inhumane treatment, I suffered from hypoglycemia and developed sugar-coma more than once during that period.

“One of them dressed in a police uniform stood close overbearingly. He humiliated me and brutally treated me.

“After several pleas he agreed to give me water to quench my thirst and alleviate my suffering. The very same person had refused to unchain me when I needed to go to the toilet, which affected my bladder. I am still suffering from pain in my bladder.

They questioned in a manner characterized by deception, threat and cunning…

“In addition, they overpowered me and forcibly took my car’s keys and searched my papers. They seized my laptop and tampered with its contents. They also forcibly seized my cellular phone and also tampered with its contents.

“Thus, they encroached on my privacy as a human being.”

The professor went on to make his defence, listing point by point, his arguments.

“I would like to acquaint the readers with a dangerous violation committed by the commission’s staffers,” he said, “as manifested in the Ministry of Interior’s circular dated 2-7-2007 based on the Royal Order dated 3-12-81, which clearly states that the role of the Commission ends upon arresting a person and directly handing him to the police.

“The circular also strictly prohibits transfer of any person, female or male, to the Commission’s centres regardless of the circumstances.”

“And any staffer found sending the arrested person to any of the Commission’s centres shall be immediately stopped from working and also be referred for interrogation,” he said, citing the circular.

“The staffers who appeared before the judge admitted that they had interrogated me as well as the woman. Doubtless, this dangerous attitude explicitly shows that they adamantly ignored the instruction, which therefore nullifies all their actions on the basis of the legal principle that ‘What is based on falsehood is false.'”

The academic then narrated part of the testimony of the staffers before the judge, which was recorded in the charge sheet.

According to the academic, the testimony says: “We received a call from a keenly religious person reporting a man in illegal seclusion with a woman who is not her guardian, sitting in the family section of a restaurant … in a compromising position.

The academic said the charge sheet also said that “the man entered from one door and the woman entered from another door.”

The academic claimed that the testimony proves premeditated intention, an engineered plot to defame him.

The professor then raised several questions that can be reviewed at the paper’s website.

The paper also published the The Woman’s Alleged Letter Pleading for Help

This is the letter that was allegedly sent in a sealed envelope to the professor through a messenger. It was published by the Arabic daily Al-Madina. To His Excellency Dr ……..

After greetings

I am writing my problem to you hoping to find a solution for it.

Sir, I am a married woman aged 24. I am married to a businessman and I have a girl child who is the light of my dark life.

My marriage was a traditional one; thus I didn’t see my husband or talk to him until the marriage, which took place in haste.

But after the marriage I discovered that he was not the man I had dreamt of, nor did he have the qualities I was looking for. I didn’t find in him a warm heart that I was dreaming of, who would be close to me or lend an ear to my pains. In addition, he frequently travels abroad because of the nature of his business. How this made me feel miserable and sad. This has created a huge vacuum in my broken heart. This is why I go out a lot, roaming the markets and amusement parks and attending all wedding parties.

I made a lot of spontaneous friendships and became addicted to chatting on the phone in order to fill the vacuum caused by my husband’s absences. I am suffering from pain in my ears due excessive use of the mobile phone, which compounds my pains.

Despite all my suffering, I am still missing the warm company of my husband, which consoles me and takes me away from my illusions. He never ever enquires about my pains, delusions or even about the family affairs.

This made me suspect that my husband has dubious relations and affairs with other women. I sat with him several times to find a solution to this peculiar situation but all my attempts were in vain.

Sir, I want you to guide me in order to save my life from destruction.

With all my due respect and appreciation.

The dankprofessor will attempt to find out how persons living in the West can support the professor. Of course, public support could hurt the professor by inciting the religious police. So if such occurs, it must be done with great care.

For more details on the case do click on the link to the Al-Madina Arabic article.

If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration
to the same email address.

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

March 15, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, Islamic law, Saudi Arabia, sex, sexual policing, sexual politics | Leave a comment


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