A Porn Controversy Distraction

A university professor recently showed a film about pornography in her class, and was suspended. As reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Dr. Jammie Price showed The Price of Pleasure: Pornography, Sexuality and Relationships, an anti-pornography documentary, and that showing formed part of student complaints against her. How significant a part is uncertain – there were a number of complaints against her, and Dr. Price seems to suggest the university, Appalachian State, was simply looking for a way to get rid of her:

Ms. Price told The Chronicle she believes the administration is punishing her because she has spoken out about things on the campus, including what she describes as a male-only poker club that includes administrators and faculty members.

“Men in the poker club gain more power, privileges, and income than others on the campus, and protection from student charges,” she said. “Since I started speaking out about this poker club, I have been bullied and harassed.”

This seems like a blatant case of sexual discrimination, however The Chronicle focused on her dismissal and suggested censorship with the misleading headline “Tenured Professor Is Placed on Leave After Showing a Film About Pornography.” A blog post by another professor noted the misleading headline, but ignored the discrimination accusation, instead worrying about the lack of due process (a valid concern).

Meanwhile, writer Gail Dines, author of the anti-pornography book Pornland: How Porn has Hijacked our Sexuality (which I criticized in an earlier posting), has written that this incident shows that universities are only interested in supporting pornography, and claims that Dr. Price is being punished for daring to criticize porn.

Dines is making the common mistake of confusing studying with enjoying. As some one who has studied pornography at university, I often explain that simply because you study something does not mean that you support it. If I had written university papers on toxic waste, people would not assume I was hoping to live in a sewer. And Dines is assuming the pornography was the cause of the suspension, because it suits her goal of promoting her book. Dines writes, appropriately, that porn is big business, but fails to note that there is also money in opposing porn.

But these errors are minor, compared with overlooking the accusation of discrimination. For all the progress in gender equality that has been made, the old boys club is still very much in evidence at many institutions. That’s not as interesting a story as writing that a film may have upset some students and/or the porn industry, but it is a much more important one.

2 thoughts on “A Porn Controversy Distraction”

  1. I imagine, if you wrote a paper on toxic waste, you would not be expected to wade knee deep in it, or make comments about its artistic merit. I think sometimes universities want to be avant-garde and so promote “banned films” with the point of luring paying students (and being able to watch such films themselves) as if they are guaranteed to hold some secret. However, sometimes a cigar is not just a cigar…Porn dehumanizes. Period. I think this controversy is more over an uppity female who dared challenge the status quo than a movie about porn, as you pointed out. Sexism is still rampant, and getting more so.

  2. Here’s an interesting if confusing update:

    Gail Dines, a professor of sociology and women’s studies at Wheelock College, was a senior consultant for “The Price of Pleasure” and was interviewed in the film. She travels the country showing the film to college students and is a critic of pornography.
    While she said professors should warn students about the content of the film and tell them they can leave without any repercussions (something Price didn’t do), she can’t understand why Appalachian State is taking action against Price. “This is what education is,” Dines said. “You expose them to the reality of the world they live in and you use that exposure to develop a critical scholarly discussion in class, which is exactly what she did.”

    Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/04/23/professors-criticized-after-showing-sexually-explicit-videos-class#ixzz1tTTt7vdO
    Inside Higher Ed

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