Friday, April 03, 2009

Breaking News

Cultural Politics Edition

Iowa Supreme Court rules the state's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional!

Historiann demands that Roxie's World weigh in on a controversy at Queer the Turtle U over cancellation of a screening of Pirates II: Stagnetti's Revenge, a porn film that was to have been shown this weekend at the student union. The issue made news because a conservative state senator introduced an amendment to the state budget to "deny any funding to a higher education institution that allows a public screening of a film marketed as a XXX-rated adult film, unless it is part of an official academic course," according to a report in The Baltimore Sun. (A spokesperson for QTU claims the university had decided to cancel the screening before the budget amendment was introduced, according to the report on Inside Higher Ed, but who knows?)

We dutifully left a comment over at Historiann's, but the bottom line is this: Roxie's World thinks porn is icky and generally degrading to women, but the state senator our fem blog pal praises for having the guts and good sense to shut down the film is a right-wing, home-schoolin' homophobe who should not be encouraged to think he can use the power of the purse to intimidate the university into toeing his incredibly conservative party line. We don't necessarily think the film should have been shown, even with the pre-screening discussion by Planned Parenthood on safe sex, but it's unnerving, particularly in a moment of economic crisis, to see this kind of pressure brought to bear. We don't trust state legislators to be especially nuanced in recognizing the difference between so-called legitimate and illegitimate uses of porn (whatever that might be) on a college campus. If they feel emboldened by their (possible) success in getting Pirates II tossed out of the union, what's to stop them from thinking they ought to get Tongues Untied out of the LGBT lit classroom? Indeed, what's to stop them from thinking they ought to de-fund any university with an LGBT Studies Program? It's a slippery slope, Historiann, and we're not sure we want to slide down it with the likes of Senator Harris. Just sayin'.


  1. As a professor at Queer the Turtle U who knows some of the students who brought the film to campus and knows just how virulently homophobic this state senator is, I will say that I think canceling the film did at least two things that are not good and are in fact counterproductive to education and fostering free speech:

    first, whatever our administration says, that cancellation does appear to be at the behest of the senator (appearances matter here and all of the local news agencies think that is the case, as did terrific Historiann) and so makes it appear that any nutbar state senator who decides we're doing something at QTU with which he or she disagrees can bully QTU into doing what he or she wants;

    second, it called far more attention to this film than it would have ever gotten. Planned Parenthood was doing a presentation before the film so it's not as if it was being shown as part of a pornfest.

    So I agree, Rox: why do we think this senator and his ilk will stop at this? What if they say my salary should be cut because I'm showing TONGUES UNTIED in my American Poetry class on Tuesday afternoon? What if they say QTU deserves no funding because of the LGBT Studies program?

    Censorship is never a good idea, even if material is offensive and degrading to women. I simply turn my eyes away from that stuff and refuse to look at it. Others can do what they wish--I have no right to tell them they can't view something like that. Certainly there's plenty of misogyny in the great Western literature I read and teach and we don't censor that: we contextualize it.

    Freedom of speech creates many an uncomfortable situation. That's a fact.

    Always yours,

  2. Thanks for your thoughts, Roxie and Goose. I'm not in favor of censoring speech or movies--I just don't think that it's right to show pr0n for entertainment purposes on a college campus, where the victimization and sexual objectification of women is already an issue. Moreover, it was scheduled for midnight Saturday night, not during the daytime when faculty could presumably lead discussions with students and make it an intellectual exercise. Clearly, it was meant to be shown uncriticallly for entertainment purposes--I just don't get how it's entertaining to see at least half of the students at Maryland (or any other college campus) degraded like that.


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