Anals of Education: College disinvites sex educator to Modern Sex conference

Tristan Taormino, an author, sex educator, and adult film director, learned yesterday that Oregon State University had disinvited her to its upcoming Modern Sex Conference, at which Taormino says she had been scheduled to deliver a keynote speech. The reason? Taormino’s “resume and website.”

For a conference featuring several dozen workshops, speakers, and facilitators covering a diversity of topics far afield of mainstream sexual culture (e.g. no breakout sessions on seducing ladies at clubs or 10 things to surprise your man in bed), the only thing about Taormino’s resume and website that sets her apart from her former conferencemates is her work in porn.

  • Scroll down on this page to read the current conference schedule

Taormino released a press missive in which she stated that she’d been booked to speak at OSU since October 28 of last year, for a conference beginning on Valentine’s Day.


on Tuesday, January 18, 2011, Steven Leider, Director of the Office of LGBT Outreach and Services contacted Colten Tognazzini, Tristan Taormino’s manager, to say that the conference had come up short on funding. Tognazzini told him that since the travel was booked and the time reserved, they could work with whatever budget they did have. Leider said that would not be possible: “We have to cancel Ms. Taormino’s appearance due to a lack of funding. It has been decided that OSU cannot pay Ms. Taormino with general fee dollars, because of the content of her resume and website.”

Taormino has been speaking at colleges for more than a decade, and it simply does not make sense that a conference as thoughtfully planned as Modern Sex—at an institution as progressive as Oregon State—would be so tacky as to boot Taormino after she’d booked her flight.

It would be one thing if OSU operatives, with a clear understanding of the way state-administered general funds are divvied as well as the caprices of local politics, chose to never invite Taormino at all; the conference seems well-stocked with people who could ably deliver her message. But to revoke her invitation one week after her glorious AVN Best Educational Release win is just tacky.

Furthermore, Taormino commands an army of social networkers who are in a froth about this, going so far as to retweet their disappointment with the Twitter hashtag #OSUantisex. To be clear, Taormino is not Sex personified and there will be plenty of sex-positive philosophy to chew on in Corvallis next month; the hashtag should be #OSUantiTristan.

Taormino was to be one of two keynote presenters at the conference. The other remains Charlie Glickman, a PhD. and sex educator known for his work with Good Vibrations magazine. Glickman told me that he’d just heard about Taormino’s removal with the latter’s press release, and if there was any internal turmoil among other conference presenters, he hadn’t heard about it.

I wrote Taormino to ask if there was an ideological divide in the sex educator world that drew a line at “porn,” and if other porn-affiliated sex educators, such as Nina Hartley, Jamye Waxman and, more recently, Dylan Ryan, to name a few, might suffer similar discrimination. I haven’t heard back yet.

But it is hard not to think that something else isn’t going on here. Surely Taormino’s work was available for all to see on October 28; why the sudden turnaround?

UPDATE: Taormino representative Sarah writes me that OSU had publicized Taormino’s expected participation in the conference and that “There actually was several drafts of the contract in hand, and the event was well advertised on their website – which speaks to intent to fulfill the pending obligations.”

Sarah stresses that it was a campus office, not a student-run one, that disinvited Taormino. “…according to our contact on campus, yes this would have happened to Nina or Dylan too.”

And, consistent with my feeling that something seems fishy about the whole affair, “There is a lot more to the story that could all be fit into the press release.” /UPDATE

UPDATE 2: The Examiner’s Sarah Estrella writes a detailed article quoting a frank OSU official who confirms that the difference between “private” student funds and the state funds covering Taormino’s travel and honorarium are wholly different animals. Glickman also offers insight on why it seems OK in academic circles to talk about sex and its applications but not present as someone actively involved in it. But no one is clear on why OSU invited Taormino in the first place—was there ever a question about what fund would pay her? /UPDATE 2

If it was her porn C.V. that did in the keynote of Tristan Taormino, it is ironic that OSU engaged in the same kind of last-minute flaking (even after they said it was fine for Taormino to book her airfare!) so common to the porn world.

Previously on Porn Valley Observed: Annie Sprinkle invites the moon into her marriage; What does Jamye Waxman know about love?; Five women get at your urethra, heart
See also: Tristan Taormino, OSU’s Modern Sex Conference

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1 Comment

  1. How rude! Fuck OSU.
    “To be clear, Taormino is not Sex personified….”
    Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, uh, your opinion, man.

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