Student Assembly votes for sex

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January 18, 2008

9:22 AM

__Finance committee allows funding for Sex Workers’ Art Show__

The Student Assembly Finance Committee voted last night to provide funding for the Sex Workers’ Art Show, which features performances by workers from the sex industry. The committee voted 5-1 in support of the show.

Present at the meeting were S.A. President Zach Pilchen ’09, physics professor John Delos and the senators on the committee.

According to Pilchen, the sex industry, represented in this show, is an important, albeit unknown, industry.

“In reality [the sex industry] is bigger than all professional sports in this country combined,” he said.

Pilchen remarked that the show has been approved twice before, each time drawing more students than the maximum capacity. He added that the show has been expanded to include a discussion panel and a question-and-answer session.

“I know at the end of last year’s show there were a lot of questions I would have liked answered,” he said.

Delos spoke to the committee on behalf of education professor John Foubert, the founder of non-profit rape prevention group One in Four, about the negative sociological and psychological effects of pornography and rejected claims of the show’s merits, citing 16 studies that find a correlation between viewing pornography and violence, especially toward women.

“The claim that this show contains artistic genius is preposterous,” Delos said. “This is as far from healthy sexuality as one can get.”

Pilchen defended the show, claiming that it has creative value.

“It was actually genuinely substantive,” he said. “This is performance art, not people coming and doing things, like, ‘sex, ha ha ha!’”

Delos argued that many of the performances are nothing more than pornography, citing one act in which a woman swings her breasts in a circular motion. Pilchen defended the show and that performance specifically by revealing the act contained social commentary on materialism.

Pilchen also argued that the show has educational value, saying, “I think it’s an important thing that should be included in a liberal arts education.”

Many students have also spoken out. According to Zach Pilchen, a Facebook group supporting the show was created Wed., Jan. 16, before advertising for the event has begun. As of press time 220 students were members of “I Support the Sex Workers’ Art Show.”

Some senators expressed discomfort with the show’s content but cited the first amendment as a reason not to stifle free speech.

“Sex workers have the right to speak in a public forum,” Senator Ray Ciabattoni ’10 said.

The motion ultimately passed, providing $1450 towards the show. More funding comes from a variety of student organizations and ticket sales. A further $750 was approved in last year’s budget for this year’s show, and the Women’s Studies department, which in the past has financially supported the show, has not yet decided if it will again this year.

College President Gene Nichol can now strike down the show, although in the past he has approved it. Nichol stated last year that although he personally disagreed with the show’s subject, he was uncomfortable stifling free speech on campus.

Senator Matt Beato ’09 said that if Nichol and the Board of Visitors vote against the show, they will be hypocrites because they have supported it in the past and have already given some funding to this year’s show in last year’s budget.

According to Delos, Nichol faces a difficult decision.

“If [Nichol] lets the show go through it is the end of his academic career,” Delos said.

The Sex Workers Art Show is scheduled to come to campus Feb. 4. The location has not yet been announced.

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