Answers to the controversy
To the Editor:
The appearance of the Sex Workers’ Art Show on this campus for the past three years has brought a number of fascinating questions to light — not the least of which are issues of free speech and censorship: When do charges of obscenity trump first amendment rights? What is obscenity, anyway? What exactly is art? Should speech be censored when it is offensive?
Other questions are of community standards and the purpose of university programming: Is a college the appropriate place for a show like this to occur? Should programming be censored or banned to protect the reputation of the College? Should university funds be allocated to controversial events? Should the state be allowed to step in if it objects to programming at public universities?
Many questions about the performers’ intentions and experiences came up in the course of hosting this show as well: Why the hell would anyone become a sex worker? What’s the intent of these performers in making “art” out of their experiences? Are these performers glorifying sex work in a way that belittles the experiences of sex trafficking victims?
This Sunday, I would like to challenge critics, supporters and apathetic but curious people alike to come participate in what I think will be a provocative and enlightening discussion.
At 5 p.m. in Washington 201, Jill Brenneman will speak on campus. Brenneman is the executive director of the Sex Workers Outreach Project-East, and she will be talking about her experiences as a sex worker and as a sex workers’ rights advocate. It is her contention that “sex workers’ rights are human rights,” and that decriminalizing prostitution in the United States is a necessary step towards ensuring that sex workers gain access to health, legal and other services afforded to other types of workers.
— Constance Sisk ’08