Modern Sex Conference: Communication or Old-Fashioned Silencing?

Oregon State University is hosting a conference on Modern Sex: Privilege, Communication, and Culture. They invited the eminent Tristan Taormino to be keynote speaker. Great choice!

Then — after she had bought plane tickets, which they are now refusing to reimburse — they canceled her appearance. Why? Does it turn out she isn’t actually an internationally known and respected sex educator? No. Everybody acknowledges her impressive CV: the decade as a sex columnist for the Village Voice, her dozens of appearances at college campuses to lecture about sex, her many workshops and television appearances, her fine films, her well-crafted, thoughtful, intelligent writings.

In fact, all those things that make her an expert are the reason they’re canceling. Because she does know and write about sex, and makes films about sex, and gives advice about sex on her wonderful website, and probably even has sex herself. (OK, I’ll be honest. They didn’t actually say that it’s because she might not be a virgin, but I bet they’re thinking it.)

I realize this sounds insane. It is insane. It’s also incredibly stupid.

The problem is this:

On Tuesday, January 18, 2011, Steven Leider, Director of the Office of LGBT Outreach and Services contacted Colten Tognazzini, Tristan Taormino’s manager, to say that the conference had come up short on funding. Tognazzini told him that since the travel was booked and the time reserved, they could work with whatever budget they did have. Leider said that would not be possible: “We have to cancel Ms. Taormino’s appearance due to a lack of funding. It has been decided that OSU cannot pay Ms. Taormino with general fee dollars, because of the content of her resume and website.” At OSU, ‘general fee dollars’ include taxpayer dollars given to the University by the Oregon State Legislature to defray various costs. They differ from ‘student activity dollars,’ which are part of every student’s tuition and help fund student groups and activities.

Just let that soak in, friends. OSU refuses to pay an expert because the taxpayers might be bothered by her specialty. Yeah, I know: we’re living in an era that is positively psychotic about sexuality, when it’s fine to use the hint or promise or exploitation of a natural urge to sell everything but Bibles, but honest, open discussion about sex and its pleasures leads to screaming hysteria that we’ll all end up pregnant and syphilitic in hell.

Dear OSU: 99% of taxpayers have sex, had sex, will have sex, obsess about sex, and could use some education about sex. You had a chance to be a leader and stand for the university’s intellectual freedom. Now you look like timid fools. “Fools” because just paying Taormino out of the general fund would have been fine, and now you have a major scandal on your hands.

How You Can Help

Tristan Taormino says:

If you support free speech and my mission of sexual empowerment, here’s how you can help:

—Twitter: retweet my original post and make sure to include the hash tag #OSUantisex:

Keynote by @TristanTaormino canceled by OSU admin b/c of resume & website RT in protest #OSUantisex

—Twitter: reply to Dean of Student Life @deanmamta and @oregonstateuniv

—Email or call: voice your opinion about OSU’s decision to cancel my appearance at the last minute and not reimburse me for travel expenses to the following people (read press release below for details)

Larry Roper, Vice Provost for Student Affairs
632 Kerr Administration Building
Corvallis, OR 97331-2154
541-737-3626 (phone)
541-737-3033 (fax)

Dr. Mamta Motwani Accapadi
Dean of Student Life
A200 Kerr Administration Building
Corvallis, OR 97331-2133
541-737-8748 (phone)
541-737-9160 (fax)
twitter: @deanmamta

Dr. Edward J. Ray
600 Kerr Administration Building
Corvallis, OR 97331-2128
541-737-4133 (phone)
541-737-3033 (fax)

3 comments for “Modern Sex Conference: Communication or Old-Fashioned Silencing?

  1. January 19, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    Actually, they sell a good few Bibles by twisting around sex and banning pleasure. That’s the end goal of the campaign.

  2. January 20, 2011 at 2:34 am

    Perhaps a collection to pay for the tickets and hire a nearby venue so Ms Taormino can speak anyway? I bet she’d get a bigger audience than whoever they replace her with.

  3. Catherine Raymond
    January 21, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    You’re missing the real villain here.

    You just reported that OSU said they can’t use money *from the state legislature* for sex-related activIties. Yes, OSU should have realized that from the get-go, but it’s the state legislature that’s guilty of “twisting sex and banning pleasure.”

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