Porn is not the problem

Porn: slang for pornography, n. printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity.

Porn: the subject of intense censorship for reasons not limited to destroying child innocence, crumbling social order, causing the objectification of women, displaying gratuitous sexuality, encouraging sexual assault, etc.

Porn: present at Queer Bash until spring 2010; back for Queer Bash 2012.

Queer Bash is coming back. It is coming back with a fierceness unseen by half the current Williams student body. By this, I mean the party that, before spring 2010, blew up Goodrich with glitter, glam, insane dancing and outrageous costumes, is bringing back the tradition of porn.

The decision to reincorporate porn into Queer Bash was fiercely debated in the Queer Bash Planning Committee, which is staffed by Queer Student Union (QSU) board members, Rape and Sexual Assault Network (RASAN) members (the RASAN members do not represent the opinions of the organization but rather their own individual opinions) and other members of the College queer community. Some firmly believed that allowing porn to be projected on a big screen in Goodrich contributed to the high rate of sexual assault at this event. They believed that keeping porn out of Queer Bash was necessary to maintain a safe environment. But ultimately, it was decided that the porn had to come back.

A few things must be clarified before this decision can be explained.

It is true that in the years before 2010, the rate of sexual assault at Queer Bash was higher than at the average Goodrich party. This is absolutely inexcusable. Porn, however, was not the root cause. Queer Bash also happens to be a party where students are more inebriated than on average. Entries encouraged first-years to get wasted as a kind of initiation, and upperclassmen got drunk because the party was so extreme.

Sexual assault is not caused by what a person watches on a screen. It is caused by what an individual chooses to do. If an individual chooses to get so drunk, he or she forgets his or her basic human decency and pressures another into a sexual act. Porn is not to blame. The individual assaulter is to blame.

It is also true that many members of the College’s LGBT/queer community felt uncomfortable because of their peers’ reactions to their decisions at the event. Seeing queer people, especially non-normatively gendered people, express their sexual desires caused some students to react with voiced disgust. For a LGBT/queer person, hearing someone shout things to the screen like “Ew, look at that heshe” caused anger and sometimes even fear for their safety.

What a person watches on a screen does not cause disgust at others. The porn shown at Queer Bash merely brought the hidden (or not so hidden) bigotry of some out into the open. Porn did not cause the reaction; the individual chose to react.

With those things clarified, here are some tips for handling porn at Queer Bash:

1) If you are so drunk you can’t manage to ask someone for consent, take a step back. Get a drink of water. Get a friend and ask them for help. Consider going home if you continue to struggle with asking for consent. It is much better to go home alone or with a friend than to commit a crime.

2) If you are horrified by what you see on the screen, rather than shouting your disgust, think about why you are horrified. What exactly are you afraid of? If you continue to be appalled, please leave. No one will be offended by your absence.

3) Most importantly, let the beauty and bravery of others inspire you.

In this puritanical political time, sex is the most stigmatized act. Politicians, religious leaders and family members all have an opinion on what we should do with our bodies. Sex, we have been told, is for procreation, for the preservation of the nuclear family unit.

Queer sex absolutely breaks that maxim. When LGBT/queer people have sex, they are inherently transgressing society’s rules of appropriate conduct because their sex is entirely about pleasure. Whether an individual LGBT/queer person intends to make a radical statement or not, the nature of their identities being policed and degraded by the state and others shows that their choice to have sex is radical. It is an act of radical love.

All the members of the Queer Bash Planning Committee recognized this fact, and it was this thinking that ultimately turned the tide of the debate. Queer Bash was originally created to claim the most heterosexually charged environment on campus – Goodrich – in the name of queerness. For one night out of the year, Goodrich was a celebration of queer love and sex. The Queer Bash Planning Committee decided that porn featuring genuinely queer identified people, porn that allowed the performers to choose their own sexual partners, porn that encouraged performers to design their own scenes, porn that showed real bodies, would bring that celebration back better than before. The porn is not simply meant to titillate but to give an example of the range of queer love and bravery. Baring the most intimate parts of your body to another individual is terrifying, but partaking in a stigmatized form of sex on screen is even more paralyzing. People with that much courage are worthy of our respect.

Queer Bash 2012 is about being authentically queer with a superhero twist. People of all sexual orientations (yes, even heterosexuals) are invited to take part in the experience, but remember: Porn is not the enemy. The only villains at Queer Bash are fear and self-repression.

 

Emily Nuckols ’15 is from Minnetonka, Minn. She lives in Armstrong.


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