Debating Porn: Ron Jeremy v. Susan G. Cole

Feb 10, 2010 9:44am

ABC News on Campus reporters Morgan Demmel and Andrew Mach blog from the University of Nebraska:

It was a packed house with no empty chairs.

In all, more than 1,000 people crammed together in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s student union to hear the evening’s headliners – former porn star Ron Jeremy and author and activist Susan G. Cole – in a debate on pornography.

The pair was in town last week debating the multi-billion-dollar industry that Cole criticizes but that made Jeremy a star of more than 2,000 films. Last fall they faced-off at Memorial University in Newfoundland and Central Connecticut State University. The two are members of a speaker’s bureau sponsored by Wolfman Productions, and they visited Lincoln on a request from the University Programming Council, the student group that organized the forum.

Many students admitted their purpose for attending the event was just to see what Jeremy was like in person.

“It was pretty surprising to see that one of the most famous porn stars of all time is short, bald and fat,” said Kenny Edwards, 19 and a freshman political science major.

Junior Winston Ostergard, 21, called Jeremy “a legend.”

But not all the students were impressed with Jeremy or with the arguments he presented about pornography.

“I was born and raised to not touch it, not to look at it, not to think about it all together,” said freshman Abby Lingo. “I was disgusted at times. I was shocked, shocked,” added the 18-year-old speech pathology major.

The format of the debate went like this: Each speaker had 12 minutes for opening remarks, with Cole going first. After that, Jeremy and Cole opened the forum up for questions from the crowd.
In her opening, Cole argued that contempt, subordination and hatred of women are obvious in the porn industry.

“I really believe we can do better,” Cole said. “I really believe we can find something that isn’t so cheap, that isn’t so tawdry, that women aren’t used and used up.”

And Cole wanted to be clear about one thing. “The first thing that’s always said about anti-porn activists is that we’re anti-sex,” she said. “That is not the case with me.”

Cole has been an activist in the gay and lesbian community and was a member of the first lesbian political organization in Toronto. She has written books against pornography including “Power Surge: Sex, Violence, and Pornography” and “Pornography and the Sex Crisis.”

“I find it pathetically ironic that consuming pornography is seen as an exercise of freedom when what really is happening is that your freedom is being taken away from you,” Cole said.

Jeremy countered that porn is an extension of the entertainment industry.

“I’m a firm believer that porn should be seen recreationally – not too much, just as something to do,” Jeremy said. “I mean, you have a fancy dinner or you go to McDonald’s. You watch a Spielberg film or watch a porn. It’s junk entertainment, alright?”

He did draw a line, though, saying porn was just fine – but only for adults.

When Jeremy made this clarification, Cole stepped in to ask the crowd how many had viewed pornography before the age of 18.

The majority of hands in the room went up.

The University Programming Council said turnout was the largest for any event in several years – even larger than a debate on the legalization of marijuana last fall.

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