Tobi Hill-Meyer

Taormino's Replacement Keynote Also Has Porn Connections

Filed By Tobi Hill-Meyer | January 23, 2011 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Media, The Movement
Tags: Oregon State University, OSUantisex, Todd Simmons, Tristan Taormino

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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I'd argue that Charlie Glickman is a feminist as well. He isn't as well known, though and therefore less likely to rock the boat.

Yes, but does the OSU admin know that he's a feminist? I'm guessing they don't know much about him and are happy not to know much about him so long as he's not outspoken enough about sex work that a google search of his name shows up explicit or "controversial" material.

My point wasn't so much that he isn't feminist as much as that a common feminist response to being in or making porn is to engage in discussion, being accountable to wider feminist conversations, and pushing for change in the industry -- and the resulting visibility seems to be what the administration really seems to be concerned about.

Well, the issues seems more likely to be related to 'female' than 'feminist'.

And she actually performed in porn apparently, while perhaps he didn't? I don't have any discussions along these lines with ppl (esp uptight uni admins), but I wonder if the double standard applies here, too--if a guy fucked a lot of women in movies, he's a stud and a lucky motherfucker; if a woman does, she's a dirty slut?

Sexually liberated women intimidate conservatives; they are afraid of what their wives would do if the condition proved to be contagious

Running a sex conference while trying to appease trustees and funders for a university has to be a nightmare.

Education interruptus can be a very frustrating experience especially for someone just about to matriculate.

Good Vibrations is not a porn store.

Where did you ever get such misinformation? It would not have taken but a simple hit on their website & a check of what they sell.

I guess you consider vibrators for women pornographic, but many women do not. Their customer base is primarily lesbians, bachelorettes & straights.

Theresa Sparks, a prominent transexual here in SF, was CEO of Good Vibrations for a period of time. She is now the Executive Director of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission. Do you think she got that position based on her experience running (a porn store)?

Would you prefer "a store that sells porn"? Similarly, it should be noted that Taormino's website also sells a variety of books, vibrators, dildos, other toys, and lubes. But that didn't stop OSU administration from describing it as "a significant online business of pornography and related materials."

I'm not sure if there's some characteristic that you've invested into the phrase "porn store" which you are offended to have applied to Good Vibes, but trust me that there's no negative attributes intended. While "porn" might be a term they don't use in their marketing, I'm somewhat doubtful that it's a term they would vociferously reject -- it seems kind of sex-worker phobic to do so.

After all, it's a much stronger position to defend that there is nothing wrong with porn (especially the feminist variety) than to awkwardly disassociate yourself from it by claiming it's only one of the things they sell, even though Good Vibes has created a sister company, Good Releasing, which produces porn.

And yes, I do believe that being the CEO of a community oriented business of any type is excellent preparation for being an ED of a non-profit. One of the first things they teach you in non-profit management is that non-profits are still technically businesses and should be run like businesses with minor adjustments to priorities. My experience in the non-profit industry has been excellent preparation for running a porn production business and I imagine it would be true in the reverse. Or do you think that such a qualification should be negated if the business someone ran was a porn store?

I realize now that I am wrong about what makes a porn store. I think of a porn store as a place that sells gay sex videos, poppers, Latino Fan Club magazines, and fire-hydrant sized butt plugs. I work in a gift shop that is literally located between two porn/sex stores on Castro Street. When I went into Good Vibrations, it was all pink, fluffy, feathery, & filled with women & straight couples. I never made the connection between Good Vibrations & a porn store. Dildos are as pornographic as gay sex videos. If you see a vibrator or sex toy, it is a porn store. I stand corrected.

Considering Theresa Sparks resume, I don't think that any skills Theresa learned in her position with Good Vibrations contributed to her outstanding success & achievements in business & community service as President of the SF Police Commission, President of the SF Human Rights Commission, Co-Chair & member of the board of the largest Democratic Club in northern California, Member of the Board of the Horizon Foundation, and the list goes on......

Good Vibrations benefitted from her leadership more than she benefitted from collecting her salary & bonus. Theresa Sparks had many successes in business before she took the job to turn Good Vibrations around & make it sound & profitable.

Also, I fail to see the connection or relevance between Charlie Glickman and his job and OSU withdrawing Tristan's invite to give the opening talk.

No, I do not work for Good Vibrations, and I'm not a customer. I've never met Charlie Glickman either.

I do patronize the two porn stores on either side of the shop where I do volunteer work. I have no problem with porn stores.

I could imagine Tristan was uninvited because she is an actress in her porn videos & that the content of her webpage was too sensational for the average Oregonian & OSU Administrator. As you said, Good Vibrations has a very subdued site, and Charlie isn't featured as an actor in any videos.

It was fear of the possibility the press would crucify the University administration with a headline like "USO Administrators use your tax dollars to fly porn star from east coast to tell our young students how to have good sex." I think the same fear would have existed if Ron Jeremy had been invited.

I totally agree they were wrong to not have the chutzpah to stand by the invite. They should have allowed the students to use money from their own pockets to keep her as a speaker if that was what they wanted. We don't know if that was a possibility because we are not privy to either of their budgets for these events.

You can use Charlie Glickman or anyone else as you please in your writing. To me, it came across as he should be uninvited so there is no appearance of discrimination based on gender. Saying he is qualified to be a speaker did not negate that inference. Look see, this guy works in porn too. Why is he not uninvited?

Tristan Taomordi can sue USO for any lost money as a result of the cancellation. I'm sure they will reimburse her for her loss if there is a possibility of a law suit. The same fear principle/motivation applies, fear of bad press.

I hope it is a successful conference, and that the students learn something that will make their lives better.

Yes, my post is way too long & convoluted considering the subject.

See, when I inferred the question "Why is he not uninvited?" it was not meant as a rhetorical question implying that he should be (we need more of what he, Taormino, and others have to offer, not less). My curiousity around examining politics and power leads me to want an answer to that question and better understand the issue.

Towards the end, I answer that question and come to a similar conclusion as you do. I didn't mention the obvious difference of being in porn vs selling it vs working for someone producing and selling it, but agree it is certainly worth breaking down. For this I focused on the issues stated by OSU: being "outspoke" and a "self-proclaimed pornographer" -- is it just me or does that remind you of "avowed" or "admitted homosexual"?

And the point I'm trying to make here is that being outspoken, visible, explicit, and honest about being in porn is a feminist response to working in porn -- especially when compared to corporate porn sellers like the Hilton who make decisions based on what will make them the most money (including downplaying their association with porn)