Author, columnist, pornographic director and occasional actress Tristan Taormino’s lecture Wednesday night about feminist pornography was so anticipated by University students, professors and community members that people were turned away 10 minutes before the speaker took the floor.
Taormino was brought to campus after her keynote lecture at Oregon State University’s “Modern Sex Conference” was canceled. Three weeks before she was scheduled to give her keynote speech, Taormino was informed Oregon State would not honor the contract because it could not justify paying her with general fund money from taxpayers.
“They operated under the assumption they know how Oregon taxpayers want their money spent,” Taormino said.
Oregon State spokesperson Todd Simmons said there were several issues in bringing Taormino to campus involving funding and because she is a renowned pornographer.
Robert D. Clark Honors College adjunct instructor Jennifer Burns Levin said she was troubled by the controversy because Taormino also plays an important role as a sex educator.
The University’s Center for the Study of Women in Society; the Clark Honors College; ASUO Women’s Center; Oregon Humanities Center; the Sexual Wellness Advocacy Team; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Alliance; and the departments of women’s and gender studies, sociology, comparative literature and cinema studies all played an important role in convincing Taormino to hold her lecture on campus.
“I came because it sounded really interesting,” University junior Madeline Allen said. “It was a cool look at a taboo industry. She was very frank and open about everything.”
Taormino wrote her first sexual education book, “The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women,” in 1997 and decided to make an educational movie after giving several workshops related to the book.
“I thought to myself if I was going to make a sexual education video I didn’t want it to be boring,” Taormino said. “I want it to be hot, so hot that you’d go out and have anal sex.”
The director shot her first film with no prior experience and talked about how she tried to change porn by making the actors wear condoms and giving them control over the scenes.
“I wanted to prove that the girl next door could enjoy sex as much as a porn star,” Taormino said about her decision to appear in her own movie. “I wanted to diversify the concept of porn for women.”
Though Taormino took a hiatus from making pornographic movies between 2000 and 2006, she remained involved in sexual education through her work as an author and editor. She returned to the industry in 2005 to make a difference in the porn industry by creating content for women, a concept that had not evolved since 1985.
“I want the performers to tell me what they like and what they don’t like,” she said.
Taormino said empowering the performers will create a more open environment, making the sex fun, mutual and consensual, which is a positive way to promote healthy sexual encounters.
The author and director also said as a feminist she decided not to advocate against what she viewed as bad porn, but to add her voice to the mix in a predominantly male-dominated industry and to embrace it.
“I went to Catholic school so (porn) was never addressed,” University junior Jackson Wong said. “It was really cool to hear her talk.”