Taormino’s Replacement Keynote Also Has Porn Connections

This story just gets stranger and stranger. After administrators cited her “significant online business in pornography and related material” as the basis of charlie.jpguninviting Tristan Taormino from the Modern Sex conference, the replacement keynote speaker is Charlie Glickman, an employee of Good Vibrations (a porn store). Also, the university is encouraging conference organizers to put guests up in the local Hilton – a company that makes millions off of in-room on demand porn.

Now to be clear, Charlie Glickman is by all accounts a great addition to the conference. He was initially booked as the closing speaker and took over the opening slot as he describes in his blog. But as more and more contradictions come to light, it’s clear that Oregon State University administrators don’t have a problem with men who work at porn stores or with large corporations that make millions off of porn. It leads us to wonder if what they really have is a problem with women and feminists.

To a certain degree, it’s possible to pass the buck upwards. I don’t know why OSU didn’t begin by coming out and saying that they are only concerned about the possibility of the state legislature taking issue with Taormino and withholding funding. But they didn’t. Instead they affirmed the sentiment that taxpayer dollars should never be spent on individuals with involvement in porn and passed the buck down, claiming that the fault lay with the conference organizers.

Organizers of the upcoming Modern Sex Conference at OSU recently sought approval to bring in a speaker for that event by presenting a partial description of the speaker in question as a writer and sex advice columnist. However, as arrangements were being made to complete the contract for the speaker, it became clear to those providing taxpayer funding for the conference that the speaker, in fact, is also a self-described pornographer with a significant online business in video pornography and related material. A decision was made by Student Affairs leadership that using public funds to cover a speaking fee and travel expenses for the speaker constituted an inappropriate use of those funds, and the speaker’s appearance was thus cancelled.

-Larry D. Roper, Vice Provost for Student Affairs. From a form letter sent to students who wrote to him about the issue

However, this attempt to shift the blame, according to conference organizer Rachel Ulrich is based on information that is flat wrong as she explains in her interview with the examiner.

I’m angry that the university administration has made statements that make the conference organizers look like we didn’t do our due diligence ahead of time. From the start I combed through OSU’s administrative policies to see what rules existed about funding for speakers, and there was nothing listed… any time I’d ask additional questions about the budget, the person in charge of delivering that information didn’t give it to us, or just evaded the question. I made sure the Intercultural Student Services knew who we were inviting. Nothing was deleted from Ms. Taormino’s biography; I used the biography that is on her website. They could have gone to her website at any time before this week to see who she was.

-Rachel Ulrich

It’s been hard to know what to say about the OSU administration as this week has been full of silence, misleading statements, and refusal to answer questions – as it sounds like the past few months have been for conference organizers as well. But yesterday university spokesperson Todd Simmons finally addressed the issue in detail and made it clear what the administrations concerns are.

I think, particularly now as budgets tighten, it’s incumbent on all of us to be careful about how we’re spending taxpayer monies, and to not call into question the institution or the actions of those who are funding us with allowing that money to be spent on things that people might rightfully criticize for being inappropriate uses of that money…

We do have other people who speak on campus who were brought in through public taxpayer dollars, but they tend to be academic speakers, tend to be scientists or others from academia. They particularly tend not to be pornographers…

— Todd Simmons, from the examiner

Claiming that taxpayer dollars must remain pure as a reason to reject payment actually brings up more concerns than it resolves. First, as Jiz Lee points out: “there is nothing criminal about pornography; it is legal and as statistics would imply, MANY taxpayers are porn consumers.” Secondly, Taormino herself contends that “Reducing my life’s work to my work in pornography is a reflection of our anti-sex, anti-porn culture. It is a clear statement that a woman like me, who once performed in and currently produces and sells pornography, is not worth being paid for my time or expertise, regardless of my qualifications or what I have to say. It perpetuates the idea that working in the sex industry is shameful and negates all my other work outside the industry.”

And third with no clear and transparent policies on what is okay and not okay uses of taxpayer money, we have to wonder what other litmus tests for purity future speakers or contractors will have to pass. What about lingerie models? Someone who did one porn scene two decades ago?

Or to move away from sex, what about religious proselytizers and the separation of church as state? Holocaust deniers? Communists? Convicted felons? Accused rapists? And so on. An unwritten policy holds infinite potential for selective enforcement and abuse.

As I understand it there are other sex educators who are speaking at the Modern Sex conference and that’s not the issue, the fact that people might be speaking about sex or sex education or even pornography. It was, I think, specifically her very public involvement as a pornography maker and somebody who describes herself as a pornographer that was the rub for the university, given that taxpayer dollars would have been used to bring her here.


With this it finally becomes clear why Glickman and the Hilton are okay and Taormino is not. Taormino has always been outspoken about her work, calling out problematic standards, challenging the existing power structures, trying to improving worker conditions, all the while honestly speaking to and being accountable about her own participation within the porn industry. Essentially, they’d be fine with her being a pornographer and probably never fear the issue coming up with the legislature if she wasn’t just so darn feminist in the way she does it.

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