Pornography Sparks Debate
ASUCI hosted “A Debate on Pornography” featuring adult film actor Ron Jeremy and feminist author Susan G. Cole on Wednesday, April 20 in UCI Student Center’s Pacific Ballroom.
Over 500 students attended the debate to watch Cole attack the values encouraged by pornography and Jeremy defend pornography and its place in society. Safe sex, protection and education were points of agreement for Cole and Jeremy.
Jeremy has appeared in over 1,800 adult films spanning his 27-year career. Jeremy has also appeared in non-pornographic films such as the “The Boondock Saints.” Jeremy holds bachelor’s degrees in education and theater, and a master’s degree in special education.
Cole has been a prominent figure in the anti-pornography movement since the 70s, with her 1993 book “Pornography and the Sex Crisis.” Cole was born in Toronto and is an aluma of Harvard University.
Cole clarified that although she is anti-pornography, she is not anti-sex. “I think people should start doing it early and often,” Cole said. “Chastity is a scam.”
Porn, however, is not an empowering medium through which to experience sexuality, according to Cole. To girls, she said, “You don’t have to feel good and be trashy women at the same tim e.”
Jeremy countered that porn is not looked at as the mainstream standard most women seek to emulate. “More girls will look at role models in the music industry,” Jeremy said. Jeremy maintained that, as a form of entertainment, the porn industry operates as a microcosm of Hollywood and should be analyzed that way. He said viewers have the right to choose what they want to see.
Cole expressed concern about the archetypal portrayals of women in the porn industry, “an industry,” she said, “where you can’t imagine the female equivalent of Ron Jeremy.”
Cole claimed porn antagonizes female empowerment, promoting violence and force against women.
“Porn makes it difficult to do anything about violence against women,” she said. “Rape is harder to take seriously. People believe that women like force in sex.”
Jeremy countered that female domination of males is also a theme in porn, noting the popularity of the dominatrix scenario. Jeremy also claimed porn could be used to promote healthy relationships in couples.
“Studies say that porn can be good for longevity and monogamy in marriage,” Jeremy said. “Some star husbands and wives instructing husbands and wives.”
Cole denounced porn for its instructive capabilities, claiming it teaches viewers a kind of “plastic” sexuality that is branded on billboards and on the screen.
“Porn is colonizing your sexuality and taking it from you,” Cole said.
Jeremy defended the industry and its influence on viewers.
“The industry caters wholly to an 18 and over demographic,” Jeremy said. “It’s not like Camel cigarettes being pushed on kids in school parking lots. The mind isn’t as impressionable over 18, you can choose to die on a battle field, and you can choose what to watch.”
Jeremy added that the porn industry cannot teach one kind of sexuality because of its sheer diversity. “Porn has all types of fetishes — all ages, sizes, types.” Ron noted that the Mature Women genre is the fastest-growing genre in the industry.
“There are lots of things in porn I do not like,” Jeremy said. “Chauvinism existed long before porn. You can’t blame the industry for that.”
When asked how porn has affected his personal life, Jeremy responded, “It’s tough to have a relationship. There is a distinction between recreational sex and making love.”
Visiting Professor of sociology Eric Anderson stood to ask a question and stated he was disappointed with the “poor academic quality to the debate.” With the proliferation of online pornography, Anderson said, “We are pornography, the industry is under assault by us … One of my grad students posted their own porn and has over 26 million hits.”
“There was a lack of academic research in the field, there was speculation, feelings, not outcomes of research,” Anderson said, specifically charging Cole. However, Anderson said he was pleased ASUCI and UCI students had the opportunity to engage in the debate.
“It’s fabulously entertaining, now wasn’t it? I think it’s great for the students to attend and see it, certainly that was wonderful. But it didn’t have the bite I expected,” Anderson said.
“I’m not saying pornography is awesome, but I’m siding with the points Ron Jeremy made in terms of it’s happening, people engage in it, it’s their own choice, their own consent,” said Chirag Bharati, an anthropology major.
Phoebe Dedman, a mechanical engineering major, said she was surprised to learn about the issues surrounding LBGT porn. Dedman said that an unexpected moment of the debate was “[b]ringing up the fact that there should be pornography for LBGT groups and letting them express their sexuality … because there’s not enough in mainstream media.”
“I think it was about time we do something that made a few people a little uncomfortable,” said Steve Scifo, academic affairs vice president who spear-headed the event. “This school has a reputation of being very conservative, very middle-of-the-road, and I’m glad that so many people were open-minded enough to come out and hear about this issue that is a big thing in our society.”
“[The tour is] the kind of thing that’s been discussed before,” Scifo said, “let’s be the first year that’s brave enough to have it.” Scifo also noted that most of the ASUCI staff welcomed the event, while the greatest resistance came from students opposed to the controversial content of the event.