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

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