Porn discussion fills up Hewitt

Ron Jeremy signs autographs for students during a meet and greet session after his debate with Susan Cole.  (Ronel Puello | The Oswegonian)
Ron Jeremy signs autographs for students during a meet and greet session after his debate with Susan Cole. (Ronel Puello | The Oswegonian)

Former porn star Ron Jeremy and feminist author and activist Susan G. Cole debated the virtues and vices related to pornography on Wednesday to a packed crowd in the Hewitt Union ballroom.

The debate, presented by the Student Association Programming Board, is one of a series called “Great Debates” on social issues sponsored by Wolfman Productions.

When the news first spread that the actor with more than 1,800 X-rated films under his belt was coming to Oswego State’s campus to debate pornography, social network buzz led to the event being a smash hit, with attendance of close to 1000 students and observers waiting in line to get a chance to see the debate.

The debate began with preliminary remarks by Cole and Jeremy to allow the audience to understand their viewpoints on the issues related to pornography. Cole began by stressing to the audience that she isn’t anti-sex, anti-masturbation or pro-censorship of porn and is actually in favor of legalized prostitution. Cole stated that she opposes the porn industry because it is a predatory business that perpetuates the values associated with rape culture.

Jeremy opened his side of the debate by citing various scientific articles that asserted pornography aids relationships, that pornographic films help curb the urges of violent sexual offenders and that a link between violent crime and pornography could not be produced.

He went on to address supposed exploitation.

“We’re all performers,” Jeremy said. “How can we be exploited if we all know what we’re getting into from the beginning? There’s more exploitation of people and sex in mainstream things, like in ads and movies.”

The floor was then opened to the audience for questions for both Cole and Jeremy to debate and answer. The moderators of the debate made it known that no offensive questions or comments would be tolerated toward the speakers or in response to an audience member’s questions. This did not stop the large crowd from making its voice heard at times, but ultimately the crowd was respectful of one another and the speakers.

“I’m surprised students are this engaged and mature about their questions and the material,” junior creative writing/film major Elmer Beriguente said.

Questions from students ranged from the rights of sex workers, to personal responsibility with regards to the consumption of pornography, to the speaker’s personal opinions on the best-selling erotic novel “50 Shades of Grey”

“That’s the crappiest book ever,” Cole said. “It’s just so badly written. I’m sure anyone in this room can write a much better story than that.”

One student asked Cole if she thought that Michelangelo’s David was pornographic in nature, with Cole rebuffing her assertion and Jeremy joking that the difference between art and hardcore pornography is “all in the lighting.”

The final question posed to both Cole and Jeremy was how they would react if their son or daughter told them they wanted to work in pornography.

“That’s the hardest question that I get asked every time I do one of these things.” Jeremy said. “There’s a double standard at play here, definitely. It would be much easier to hear my son say that to me than my daughter, that’s for sure. But if she’s 18, there’s only so much I can say or do.”

At the conclusion of the debate, both speakers left themselves available for a meet-and-greet where fans could take photos, buy memorabilia, and get autographs.

Jeremy ended by remarking that he has been doing these debates for ten years and always enjoys them.

“You might not think it, but Susan and I are actually good friends,” Jeremy said. “Tyson and Lewis might not have shook hands, but they really liked each other. That’s a lot like me and Susan.”