Pornography at Princeton

The undergraduate organization Let’s Talk Sex (LeTS) has presented itself as a group devoted to promoting “sex-positive” dialogue on campus. Through its discussion groups and various events, it attempts to provide a forum for free conversation regarding sexuality. But, as today’s article in the Daily Princetonian shows clearly, an upcoming event sponsored by LeTS goes well beyond the relatively harmless domain of mere dialogue: LeTS will be screening pornography on campus.

The pornography in question comes from the work of porn director, actress, and self-described “anal sexpert” Tristan Taormino, whom LeTS is bringing to Princeton to discuss her work at the screening. Far from being mere pieces of erotic art, her films depict highly explicit and hardcore sexual activities, designed for the visual gratification of the viewer. In other words, it is not as though a respected scholar will be coming to campus to discuss pornography in a reasonable way. Rather, a self-identified pornographer will be coming to show her pornographic works. And it is this that is deeply offensive and disturbing.
Now, that LeTS is holding such an event on campus is reason enough for an outcry – not only from Anscombe students and feminists, but from all of those concerned with the dignity of the human person. For pornography is not a matter of a woman using her sexual agency freely, in a liberating way. On the contrary, as the well-known feminist and anti-porn advocate Andrea Dworkin puts it, in pornography, the so-called “[f]ree sexuality for the woman [consists] in being massively consumed, denied an individual nature, denied any sexual sensibility other than that which serves the male.” Pornography, in other words, reduces women to the status of mere objects – bare pieces of flesh upon which predatory pleasure may prey.
The simple fact, then, that pornography is inherently degrading to women surely warrants unified student condemnation of LeTS’s decision to screen porn at Princeton. But what is even worse is that university funds will be used to support the event. This means that, inter alia, the student fees that all undergraduates must pay are being employed to fund the showing of pornography. So, not only is the university offending students by showing the porn; it is also using student resources to do so. This, too, deserves an outcry from the student body at Princeton.