Rape Films at Yale

Newsweek magazine recently celebrated the latest trend in elite Northeastern colleges: sex magazines, complete with highbrow titles - like "Boink." In applauding the shifting sexual mores of American youth, reporter Jennie Yabroff noted that these enterprising students "no longer see a distinction between their bedroom behavior and their publishing activities," and consider their sex-magazine careers in college to be building blocks for the business world.

"I continually tell my mom this is a great résumé builder," says Alecia Oleyourryk of her career publishing "Boink" magazine at Boston University. Newsweek now needs a sociologist to affirm the wisdom of these "young sexperts." Cue Pepper Schwartz, a sociologist at the University of Washington. "Maybe their generation will take this a lot less seriously than we do," she says.

Isn't it strange how some sociologists (and, one assumes, some writers at Newsweek) applaud this generation for its liberated views toward sex, expecially compared to the last generation? So what if the last generation danced naked at Woodstock? How far do today's college students have to go to be less serious? It's not a pretty picture.

Newsweek tries to have fun with the reader-titillating premise of young elite-college co-eds writing endlessly about their sex lives, and how "In the age of MySpace and Facebook, sex may be just one more way to network." But the ethics end up sounding pretty twisted. "To me, talking about sex and one-night stands is superficial. What I keep out of the column is the intimate stuff," says Jenna Bromberg, a sex columnist at Cornell University, adding that she wouldn't write about a serious relationship.

Doesn't Newsweek wonder about how young people swim in a culture where superficial one-night-stand sex is championed and the value of intimacy isn't fit to print?

But let's consider what our media trend-sniffers don't want to talk about, a story that might ruin the celebration of deliciously naughty amorality on campus. Newsweek mentioned the magazine (and the tradition of) SWAY, for Sex Week at Yale, but didn't mention how the spirit of Anything Goes can go very wrong.

The Yale Daily News reported that at about the same time Newsweek was putting its saucy story on the presses, the organizers of Sex Week at Yale were throwing a porn-movie screening in the law school auditorium. Hardcore pornographer Paul Thomas was invited to show films and have a question-and-answer session (and plug sales for his Vivid Entertainment DVDs). Unfortunately for Yale, Thomas brought footage of graphic rape fantasies and the labeling of a woman as a "slut" who "deserved" violent sexual degradation.

Oops. Apparently, when you run Sex Week, you don't think of pre-screening anything. After all when does the concept of "inappropriate" porn arrive with this crowd? Everyone wants to be "cavalier," because anything less makes you Jerry Falwell. But there's a force at Yale far more powerful than Christianity.

Enter the feminists at the Yale's Women Center, who were not pleased. Presca Ahn, who is the "fellowship coordinator" there, declared: "In porn, sex is not a normal, healthy part of normal, healthy lives; it's fetishized, exaggerated or embellished. Porn isn't honest. We need to talk honestly about it: It hurts women."

The film clips were abruptly ended, and the session went right into the Q&A. Sex Week coordinators made it very clear to the Yale Daily News they do not support the practices displayed in the film. Colin Adamo, Sex Week event coordinator, called the screening a grave mistake. "We really dropped the ball on this one," he said. "No one watched the movie before Paul showed it to the audience."

Unsurprisingly, that was not the pornographer's opinion. The Daily News reported that Adamo described the images as sexually unhealthy and disrespectful to women. But the pornographer's response "insinuated that he was a prude and just needed to watch more porn, Adamo said after the screening." Thus the solution to having any moral qualms about pornography is to drown yourself in more pornography.

No one in this controversy asked: Where are the grownups? Isn't there a one questioning his return on the annual $45,000 investment in "education"? Where are the administrators? Is there anyone at Yale who can provide students with a more rational voice than a hardcore pornographer? This whole controversy gives off a whiff of the inmates running the asylum.

To expect the Ivy League to reflect traditional values is to dabble in fantasy. But it's a sad cultural signpost when it's considered a prudish traditional value to object to films that seek to encourage men to build fantasy scenarios about violent sexual assault.