Jan 202011

Yesterday I woke up to a very sad press release in my inbox. It announced that Tristan Taormino, sex educator and feminist pornographer extraordinaire, has been uninvited from giving a keynote at Oregon State University’s Modern Sex Conference in February. Why? Oh, only the same reason people get booked to do keynotes: “the content of her resume and website.” Probable translation: “what, she makes porn?!” Even worse, OSU will not be reimbursing Tristan for her travel expenses. Classy.

Tristan’s keynote was called “Claiming Your Sexual Power,” and its description was as follows:

What does it mean to be sexually empowered? How is our sexuality affected by the mixed messages we get from the media and other cultural institutions? How can we make sense of it all, shed sexual shame, and develop sexual confidence? Tristan Taormino shares what she has learned on her journey from law school reject to sex expert with stops along the way as author, anal sex guru, Village Voice columnist, and feminist pornographer. Regardless of your gender or sexual orientation, you’ll learn how to decipher who you are as a sexual person, figure out what you want, and communicate it with others. She’ll explore the concepts of sexual health and erotic power, discuss why they are important, and share her unique recipe for how everyone can become sexually empowered.

I can only imagine the depth of harm Tristan would have inflicted on students if she’d given this talk. They’d be scarred for life, always feeling empowered and in charge of their sexualities. I shudder to think.

It would be silly to point out why Tristan deserves better than this. How many awards she’s won. How many colleges she’s spoken at. How much of an impact she’s made. How sex-positive she is. Everyone knows this, because she is one of the most well-known sex educators around.

What I would like to point out, though, is the ridiculous amount of hypocrisy involved in snubbing Tristan and continuing to hold other suspiciously-titled talks and workshops at the conference. For starters, Tristan’s keynote has been replaced by a keynote entitled… wait for it… “Sexuality, Shame, and Sex-Positivity.” Oh god, the irony, it burns:

Sexual shame is one of the biggest challenges that many people face. We will discuss the roots of shame, how it can both serve and hinder us, how shame reinforces social rules, and the differences between toxic shame and pro-social shame. We will then explore socio-cultural dynamics of erotophobia, sex-negativity, and how to foster sex-positive responses.

Sounds like a talk that the higher-ups at OSU need to be forced to watch, Clockwork Orange-style (if they are capable of comprehending it, that is).

But my favorite presentation at the conference is entitled “Porn as a Feminist Tool.” The speaker is Tobi Hill-Meyer, the creator of Doing it Ourselves: The Trans Woman Porn Project. The bio on Tobi points out that she won a Feminist Porn Award. So has Tristan. Nearly every year. The description of the presentation reads:

In response to the sexism and other oppressive themes in porn, some create porn to fit how they think it should be. In this workshop, watch clips and examples of feminist, queer, and counter-culture porn, and hear about the ways this body of work is influencing people for the better.

Wait a sec. They’re gonna be watching porn? As opposed to Tristan’s planned keynote, which features no porn whatsoever? How is this even happening?

There are a couple other hilarious presentations during this conference. Someone is putting on a sex toy workshop for morons, which asks in its description, “Have you ever wondered about the curious lives of sex toys. How exactly does that rabbit vibrator even work?” Yeah, how?! I don’t get it!?

And a presentation focused on the clitoris promises, “Learn how keeping women in the dark about their sexual power Keeps women from realizing their fullest potential both in and out of the bedroom.” Sexual power. Yes. Good idea.

I don’t care what bullshit reason OSU pulls out of their ass for why Tristan is no longer welcome. It will never make sense, especially alongside these other workshops. So I am particularly enraged.

OSU has been creepily silent on this whole thing, of course. Visit Tristan’s press release for ways to get in touch with the powers that be and tell them they’re acting like 5-year-olds.

  • Conrad

    Sex Week at OSU isn’t very exciting. The turnout is often 5-15 people, per event. It’s definitely stupid of OSU to pull out of their agreement, but Tristan isn’t missing much.

    Corvallis, for being a college town, is pretty conservative. OSU is an Agriculture school, lots of loggers and farmers. Lots of old school mentalities of sex and sexuality. We have an adult toy shoppe, but it’s seedy and disappointing. Most people buy their sex toys online, or from the local Pure Romance people that tout misinformation of sexual activities.

    Corvallis is a poorly run city, that is only now realizing it’s potential. A night life is slowly emerging, but it isn’t a young hip town that can handle serious front runners in the sex-positive industry. She should definitely think about setting up her own talk at UofO in Eugene. She’d get a huge reception there.

  • Might want to update, it looks like they will be reimbursing her travel expenses (thankfully).

    But yeah, nothing about their decision makes any logical sense at all, ugh.

    Also, I made this for you about two seconds after I read it.

  • @Conrad: “Tristan isn’t missing much” — I see your point, but this is not really true, especially since she turned down other offers to speak in order to take this one. Ultimately, it is a blow to her financially, and during her busiest season no less.

    @Cand86: AMAZING.

  • i really don’t get this…. surely they knew who Tristan Taormino before they asked her to be keynote, wouldn’t that be why they asked her to be keynote!?

    i would have thought a positive feminist porn producer would be exactly what a modern sex conference needed

    ~ Fae

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  • Absolutely appalling. She deserves better than this. As Fae said, there’s no WAY they didn’t know who she was when they booked her. Makes me wonder if someone trying to be sex-positive got leaned on by conservative higher-ups or something.

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  • It is appalling. I’m sure it’s merely driven by ignorance, rather than by actual concerns.

    I think it’s interesting that OSU just released this study…

  • Pony

    @Cand86: I rofled. That was my first thought too!

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