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The Dartmouth
April 15, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Panel discusses pornography

Dartmouth students, College Provost Lee Bollinger, and adult film star and director Nina Hartley discussed pornography at a panel sponsored by the Dartmouth Film Society last night.

The panel was part of this term's "Sex in the Cinema" series and was preceded by a showing of pornographic film and video excerpts.

Defending her work, Hartley, a self-declared feminist, said she grew up in "an age when people were encouraging women to explore their sexuality."

"I adhere to the credo that it's my body and I can do what I want," she said. "I like taking my clothes off and having sex in front of other people. I'm weird that way? Okay, fine, but that's my right."

"Humans are visual creatures," she said. "We mate based on visual stimuli ... and I do believe that people have a right to see images that speak to their sexuality, barring the use of underage people."

Jennifer Collins '94, the former co-chair of the Dartmouth Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Organization, now the Dartmouth Rainbow Alliance, also said that people have the right to view pornography if they wish.

Pornography "is something that if you want to do, you should have that right," she said.

Collins said she was "not coming at this from a women's studies or theoretical point of view. I have seen pornography and enjoyed pornography."

Bollinger, a renowned First Amendment scholar, discussed some of the legal and constitutional issues concerning pornography and censorship.

"The Supreme Court has made constitutional exceptions for obscenity, but not pornography. As it stands, you can not constitutionally ban pornography," Bollinger said.

Sarah Johnston '97, who led the drive against Playboy's visit to campus last spring, said pornography causes problems because "as much as people say that pornography is for adults, it does come into the hands of children."

But she said, "I don't have any solutions to porno filtering down to kids."

Other panelists disagreed with Johnston's view.

"It is unfair to say the industry can't do this [make pornographic films] simply because the parents slipped up and their kids got hold of it," said Christopher Kelly '96, one of the organizers of the DFS' "Sex in the Cinema" film series.

And Hartley said "It's not up to me and my industry to keep porn out of the hands of children."

"However, I don't think that all these things should be available to kids. Before sexual maturity, these images can be confusing, and then there's the added mystery, guilt, and shame associated with them," she said.

She added that she thought censorship is not the answer to the question of pornography, either from a legal or a moral standpoint."A simpler solution to this kind of problem [pornography reaching children] is more dialogue, so we can demystify sex," Hartley said. "I don't think it's practical or advisable to keep children separate from sex until they are 18. We are all sexual beings long before that age."

Collins said she would like to see "more honesty and discussion, so that if a kid has questions, he or she feels free to come and ask them."

Another panelist, Pamela Chandran '90 said, "I don't think censorship is the solution. Censorship has never helped the people it was supposed to protect."

But Bollinger said, "It is an oversimplification to say that censorship can do nothing." He said he believes that "restrictions on racial and sexual harassment have had positive effects."

The discussion was moderated by Giavanna Munafo, the director of the Women's Resource Center.