Ivy League porn leaves me cold (National Post, March 17, 2004)

What do women want? I know I am not the first or last to ask -- Pfizer Pharmaceuticals (makers of Viagra) are frantically seeking the answer, for example -- but even Freud never got to the bottom of this pressing question. What Freud would have made of the latest trend -- undergraduate women publishing porn magazines -- I really couldn't say.

It seems only yesterday that campus feminists were focused on women as exploited sexual objects. If memory serves, Women's Studies students were all atwitter about "the male gaze" "objectifying" women, especially in porn magazines. In radical feminist discourse, men were predators and rapists.

But what have we here, male gaze-wise? In May, two Harvard women are inaugurating a "porn magazine" (The Harvard Crimson's words) called H-Bomb that will "showcase sexual content and nude photos of students." Young publishers Katherina Baldegg and Camilla Hrdy insist H-Bomb is simply "a magazine that deals with sex and the issues surrounding sex for men and women of all sexual orientations."

The university's Committee on College Life approved the magazine after some internal wrestling. Their statement read that while the committee was aware that the content might be offensive to some, "to deny recognition would deny free speech." The publisher of H-Bomb said that the committee had simply "got past their fear of porn."

Got ... past ... their ... fear of porn. Lovely. Note the LeftSpeak locution: not :got past their moral revulsion" or "got past their visceral contempt" or "got past their standards of taste, decency and appropriateness" -- or even "got past their understanding that Harvard's sterling reputation as a citadel of higher learning might be debased by such a project." No, they caved at the prospect of being labelled "phobic" about pornography. Phobic is liberal code for "conservative" -- and in campus life "conservative" is code for leprosy ...

But it's a bit unfair to reproach Harvard alone. H-Bomb comes rather late into the campus porn business. In fact H-Bomb is modeled on Squirm, a Vassar-run erotic magazine, which their Web site describes as "an intelligent and provocative exploration of sex and sexual pleasure." Then there is Yale's Rumpus newspaper, which has a section called "Bed Humping." Swarthmore College students publish an erotic magazine entitled Unmentionables (what could that possibly mean in 2004? One shudders to think). And finally there is Smith College with its online porn site featuring "photos of what guys imagine happens at all-girl schools." Welcome to Feminism: The Sequel.

Modern feminism began in the '60s with the goal of women's empowerment (those were the good first years, with worthy ideals), but was unfortunately hijacked by special interest groups nursing extreme-grievance agendas. Feminism's public face became dominated by angry lesbians and psychically damaged man-haters. They renounced all things heterosexual, especially sexual modesty in man-woman relationships, traditional marriage, and parental influence over children. Ultimately radical Marxist/feminists came to dominate both Women's Studies programs in the universities and the social agenda politically. Their latest initiative is vociferous support for traditional-style gay marriage -- a seeming paradox, since they routinely subvert the institution of traditional heterosexual marriage. Happily for radical ideologues, their own inconsistency never troubles them in the least.

Sexuality is a case in point. At the same time as they were censuring men's aggressive sexuality, feminists were insisting on women's freedom to explore their own: at any age (almost literally), in any place, at any time, with any man, woman or object they fancied -- as long as women were the initiators and the arbiters of progress from first kiss to orgasm. When a woman wanted sex and said so, it was liberation and equality. When a man wanted it and said so, it was harassment.

If H-Bomb were a Harvard man's initiative, it would be considered exploitation of women by men and roundly condemned. Since it is exploitation of women by women, it's OK -- no, not OK, it's fabulous. In any case -- what else is new? -- it's the men who benefit, since most women have no need of, or real interest in, pornography for their own arousal. Women running porn mags is the university-level equivalent of 11-year-old girls offering boys oral sex on demand -- voluntary self-humiliation in freedom's name.

Moms, dads, are porn mags what you had in mind when you mortgaged the house for your daughters' $50,000 a year sojourn in the Hallowed Halls of Ivy? I am guessing that you were thinking more about the propositions of Euclid than of Playboy. She's too old for spanking (and apparently enjoys having that done by men for the camera anyway), but she's still not too old to have her allowance cut off. That's freedom of speech too, but you will need to "get past your fear" of your children to enjoy it.

© National Post 2004