Letter to the Editor
Sometimes covert sexism reveals itself on campus, and I saw posters advertising Pirates as another manifestation. But then I stopped myself. Porn isn’t always degrading. Sex-positive and relationship-positive porn is out there. I had never seen Pirates, and since I am a first-year student, I realized that I didn’t know what the campus climate would be like during a pornographic film showing. So I attended the 12:30 am screening to better assess campus climate.
Covert sexism describes sexist behavior when the perpetrator does not intend or realize that s/he is being sexist. Psychological studies have shown that there are real negative social effects attributable to pornography, and they can manifest as covert sexism. Making fun of pornography does not make its social consequences lighter. At worst, making fun of pornography makes its social effects invisible. I am concerned for audience members that think the entertainment value they gain from porn (even if all they do is make fun of it) has no psychological influence on them and is not couched in larger, troublesome, social attitudes. A pornographic film screening, devoid of critical context, reinforces whatever entertainment value viewers receive from these films.
Many of my concerns were confirmed. Audience reactions ranged from playful to insulting, and though disruptive audience members made up the minority, they were very vocal. Since insulting, disruptive audience behavior was accepted, I believe covert (if not overt) sexism is perpetuated by members of our student body.
My viewing experience leads me to question the intended outcome of showing porn on campus. Is it to generate revenue? Is it to generate controversy? Is it to expand students’ horizons and give them a safe space to view porn? Is it to give fraternities a campus-sized venue for one of their own events? Is it something else? Once the intended outcome is identified, it should then be scrutinized. Was the outcome achieved? If so, is the intended outcome something we want to foster? I hope that the institution will revisit this issue in earnest, as this is a prime example of an educational moment waiting to happen.