Jan 192011
 

Being a sex educator is hard. I’ve spoken to this before; there is the choice about how you answer the “what do you do” question, there are stalkers and creepers who follow you workshop to workshop or won’t stop calling/emailing, there is the fact that the education I do is not considered “real education” (even sometimes by the professional sexuality organizations to who I belong), there are very few degree programs in the country, jobs can be tough to get and freelancing doesn’t always pay the bills, the list goes on. However, one thing that has always kept me going is people who lead the field, like Jamye Waxman, Midori and Tristan Taormino. These three incredibly strong women have been sex educators for years, and have figured out how to approach the masses in a way that they are more accepted (even if sometimes protested), through books, movies, educational films, workshops, college lectures, performance pieces and more.

However, this morning, I woke to this in my inbox. The great Tristan Taormino, sex educator extraordinaire, has been uninvited by Oregon State University, after they had asked her to speak AND asked her to buy her plane tickets with the promise of reimbursement. Not only did they un-extend their invitation, but they are now refusing to pay for the plane tickets she has already purchased at their behest. I’m surprised, but not shocked. One of my favorite gender activists was censored at a local college after some conservative students claimed her used of the words “tranny” and “fuck” were detrimental to their mental well being.

I love what I do. Almost every moment of every day. However, the fact that it is not only hard to book events, but now sex educators (who are far more well known and published than I am) are being uninvited? It’s ridiculous. According to them, it was due to her website and resume…which hasn’t changed since the booking. Because she shoots feminist/ethical pornography, they are turning her down.  Yet other schools bring in anti-gay speakers for “their side of the story” and porn legends like Ron Jeremy (who does not identify as being in the feminist porn or ethical porn genres).  Thank goodness for schools like Brown University, Hofstra, University of Arizona, Colorado College, SUNY–Purchase and more that have welcomed me (as well as other sex educators), as we are, with the understanding that lectures and workshops about healthy sexuality do nothing more than provide information to students, and can only serve to help improve their lives.

I say shame on OSU, and on other schools that are capitulating to conservative legislatures and mores. Education is about gaining knowledge and opening students eyes to the world, not about censoring based on social constructions of what is “appropriate.” It would be one thing if you chose to ignore her letter of interest; I sent out about 200-300 a year, and rarely hear back from a dozen schools; it’s part of being a sex educator. But to invite her, and then change your mind after telling her to buy her tickets, and now choose not to reimburse her? That is low, OSU, and it shows a lack of class, a lack of educational and open-minded spirit, and I am quite disappointed. I assumed a school in a place like Oregon would be a little more forward thinking.

With that said, I am currently booking schools and universities for fall 2011/spring 2012. I am sure other educators are as well.  If you (whether student, staff or faculty) are interested in learning more about sexuality, sex and disability, ethical pornography, kink, LGBTQA issues, communication, safer sex and more, please contact me. Fascinations has agreed to pay my airfare to college/university gigs starting in May, so I can be more affordable and accessible to schools with smaller budgets. I’d love to show OSU what immense good a sex educator can do on campuses.

-Shanna

SEX EDUCATOR AND SPEAKER TRISTAN TAORMINO, SET TO GIVE CONFERENCE KEYNOTE, UNINVITED BY OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY BECAUSE OF HER ‘RESUME AND WEBSITE’

January 19, 2011

Contact:
Tristan Taormino
tristan@puckerup.com

Award-winning author, columnist, sex educator, and filmmaker Tristan Taormino was set to be the keynote speaker at Oregon State University’s Modern Sex conference, scheduled for February 15-16, 2011. Yesterday, she was uninvited by a university representative, who cited her resume and website as the reason.

On October 28, 2010, organizers of the OSU Modern Sex conference booked Taormino to give the keynote talk; they confirmed the date and agreed to fees, and Tristan’s management received a first draft of the contract on November 1. That contract was incomplete and sent back to OSU for revisions. As with many negotiations, the contract was pending as all the paperwork got done, but in late December, OSU again confirmed Tristan’s appearance and conference organizers told her manager to purchase airline tickets, for which OSU would be reimburse her.

On Tuesday, January 18, 2011, Steven Leider, Director of the Office of LGBT Outreach and Services contacted Colten Tognazzini, Tristan Taormino’s manager, to say that the conference had come up short on funding. Tognazzini told him that since the travel was booked and the time reserved, they could work with whatever budget they did have. Leider said that would not be possible: “We have to cancel Ms. Taormino’s appearance due to a lack of funding. It has been decided that OSU cannot pay Ms. Taormino with general fee dollars, because of the content of her resume and website.” At OSU, ‘general fee dollars’ include taxpayer dollars given to the University by the Oregon State Legislature to defray various costs. They differ from ‘student activity dollars,’ which are part of every student’s tuition and help fund student groups and activities.

Taormino’s resume includes her seven books on sex and relationships, the 18 anthologies she has edited, numerous television appearances from CNN to The Discovery Channel, and her award-winning adult films. She was a columnist for The Village Voice for nearly ten years and has given more than 75 lectures at top colleges and universities including Yale, Princeton, Cornell, Brown, NYU and Columbia. Her website, puckerup.com , includes sex education information, advice, and information about the films she directs for Vivid Entertainment, one of the largest adult companies in the country.

“In my ten years of booking Tristan at colleges and universities, of course there has been some controversy. But I have never had a university cancel like this last minute,” says Colten Tognazzini, Taormino’s manager. “It’s not unusual for contract negotiations to drag on. Once they confirmed we should book her travel, I felt comfortable the event was a done deal. I continued to work with them in good faith that a signed contract would be forthcoming. I believe that the conference organizers’ hands are tied, and this decision came from much higher up. They have cancelled with less than a month’s notice during Tristan’s busiest season. She gave up other opportunities to go to Oregon. Without a signed contract, we may have no recourse, and were told we will not be reimbursed for her travel.”

Tognazzini spoke to a source at OSU who speculated that the University feared that when it went before the legislature in regards to future funding, legislators would use OSU’s funding of a “pornographer” on campus as ammunition to further cut budgets. This source, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Tognazzini, “I think they’re uninviting Tristan because they don’t want to have to defend her appearance to conservative legislators.”

“I’m extremely disappointed that OSU has decided to cancel my appearance. I’ve been protested before, but never uninvited. I have never misrepresented who I am or what I do. I am proud of all the work I do, including the sex education films and feminist pornography I make,” says Taormino. “The talk I planned to give at this conference, titled “Claiming Your Sexual Power” has nothing to do with porn, but the porn is such an easy target for anti-sex conservatives and censors. I find it ironic that one of the missions of the conference is to understand diverse perspectives of sexuality. Apparently, my perspective—one of educating and empowering people around their sexuality—isn’t welcome at OSU.”

If OSU students and others still want to hear Taormino speak, she will be teaching two workshops at She Bop in Portland on February 13 and 14. “She Bop supports a healthy perspective on sex and sexuality and we are proud to have Tristan Taormino present two years in a row at our shop in Portland. Tristan is a leading educator paving the way for others to help break down the stigma around sex in this country. It is part of our mission as a female friendly adult shop to support sexual empowerment and growth,” say co-owners Jeneen Doumitt and Evy Cowan.

Oct 222010
 

This post is part of the Scarleteen Sex Ed Blog Carnival.

Scarleteen.com

When I was 10 or so, I discovered the wonders of the internet. It was back in the mid-90s, before most people had access, but my father was a computer scientist, and I was rocking out on Mosaic, way before IE or Eathlink or Netscape or AOL made their brands so popular. I didn’t use it for much, as there wasn’t that much info out there pertaining to me, but I did have an email, and learned how to search.

Around the late 90s, I was in my “oh em gee, want to learn everything possible about puberty and sex” and after my parents exhausted the info available at the local library, I was lucky enough to discover Scarleteen. It was still quite young back then, but it was knowledge, and that was something I was desperately hungry for. More importantly, it was more than just information; it was interactive. I could learn from older teens, from educators, from people my age. I became obsessive about checking the forums every day. It was a way for me to connect, to get information, to teach myself about sexuality, to have my questions answered, and to get to know my body.

I didn’t really get any sort of sex education from school until I was a Junior in High School (age 14), and accidentally ended up in a Parenting and Child Development class (amusing, since I definitely didn’t want and don’t want children). In that class, we spent a good week or two on birth control and contraception. I got 100% on every assignment, and impressed the teacher, as I already had learned most of this info from Scarleteen.

High school was hard for me. I graduated at 16, so I was always about 2-3 years younger than most of my peers, and that caused endless taunting and worse, being ignored. I had my inner circle of friends, of course, but more importantly, I had the knowledge that on Scarleteen, I was equal. My questions and answers were just as valid as a popular cheerleader, or another braniac. To me, sex education was my great equalizer. I might not be cool, or popular, or the social ideal of beautiful, but because I had information that no one else had, I was still interesting. I might get teased, but people still wanted what I had (knowledge) and so I wasn’t the brunt of as much hate as I might have been.

Sex education made me a better person. I understood my body more, and I chose to respect myself more. Not in the “I’m going to wait till marriage” kind of way, but in the “I’m going to do what I want to when I’m ready, and not when everyone else is” kind of way. I was sexually assaulted when I was 17, and my knowledge of sex education, paired with what I was learning in my Human Sexual Behavior class, and then compile all that with my info and ability to talk to others on Scarleteen, and I made it through. It was so easy to just curl up and want to die, but my knowledge of sexuality made me want to live again.

I wanted to learn more, and to teach others in order to help them know more, and love themselves more. I joined the sexual assault prevention and hotline group, V.A.T. I trained on how to talk about sex with others. I drove friends up to Denver to buy their first vibrators. I bought book after book, searching for more knowledge. I experimented a bit on my own, and wrote a lot about virginity — what was it, why the hell did it exist, what did it mean to “lose” it and so on. Because of all of my background in sex education, by the time I chose to have intercourse (what many people define as “sex”), I had just turned 20, and although I later realized I wasn’t really interested in men, it was actually quite a good experience. It didn’t hurt very much, we used lube (as I had learned to do) and pillows to prop up my hips. I went in really WANTING to have sex, with knowledge about how to protect myself from STI transmission and pregnancy, and tips on how to make it as comfortable of an experience as it could be. I have met few people that had such a communicative and fairly enjoyable first time. While that friend with benefits didn’t last long, I’m forever grateful to my sex education (and his willingness to cooperate) for helping to create such a positive experience.

Sex education made me feel powerful. Knowledge IS power, and even more so when it is about your own body, choices, options, etc. Sex education made me feel as though I belonged, as though I was just as good as everyone else. Scarleteen made my life so much better than it could be. It made me more confident, it helped me to know myself and respect myself more, and to make the healthiest decisions for ME about myself and my sexuality.

I actually did my thesis on sex education in middle and high schools, and how it helped college women to view their bodies. Not shockingly (back in 2005, although I doubt much has changed), the more information on sex education that the subjects I interviewed received in their teens, the more confident they were about themselves and their bodies, and of course, their sexuality. It is proven, and not just by my tiny study, that sex education is crucial to our society. People with sex education are armed with the power to make the best decisions for themselves — whether that is waiting to start sexual activity, providing protection for their own activity, education their friends, and exploring their sexual identities. Without sex education, we leave youth without the tools for good decision making, and take their agency away.

Sex education should be available for everyone. Scarleteen is such a place where EVERYONE can learn, can share, can ask questions, and can be an equal. Scarleteen saved me from some dark places, and I know it has helped countless others as well. So please, if you can spare something, ANYTHING, please keep Scarleteen going. Even $5 or $10 can help to create change.  I donated what I could. It wasn’t a lot…but if it means not eating another cupcake until 2011, it was worth it to support such a great site. And if you can’t afford anything, then please, spread the word about this amazing and FREE resource we have in our community.

Let me sweeten the deal. If you donate a minimum of $5 to Scarlteen, and forward your donation email to me at ShannaKatz at gmail dot com, I will send you a rocking safer sex kit, complete with condoms, dams, lube, gloves, etc. Every single one of you that donates at least $5. Not a contest — an automatic “donate money and I will send this to you.” You (obviously) must be willing send me your address so I can ship it. How’s that for trying to continue to support sex ed? Donation must be during the duration of the blog carnival (Oct 15th-Nov 15th, 2010).

-Shanna

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