“Let’s talk about porn,” Tristan Taormino, a controversial sex educator, said to the audience at LaSells Stewart Center on Tuesday night. She paused for a beat before adding, “Kidding!”

Conference organizers invited her in October to be the keynote speaker at OSU’s Modern Sex Conference, scheduled this week through today.

However, the OSU administration, concerned about public reaction at using taxpayer dollars to pay for travel and fees of the New York-based self-described “feminist pornographer,” essentially withdrew her invitation Jan. 18

Students at OSU subsequently agreed to pay for her trip through student fees, and on Tuesday an audience of more than 200 showed up to a free public lecture to hear what she had to say.

For all the national media attention focused on Taormino, whose website is graphic and who has both filmed and produced pornographic material, she delivered a talk that was more R-rated than X-rated.

Taormino explained that sex is an important but often misunderstood part of every person’s life. Messages in advertising and pop culture create unrealistic expectations of what “normal” sex is, she said.

“Normal doesn’t exist,” Taormino said. “You shouldn’t aspire to be normal. You should aspire to be you.”

Instead, Taormino encouraged the audience to become sexually empowered by having confidence to know their own needs and boundaries and learn to communicate these with intimate partners.

She said it was important to understand the importance of both physical and emotional protection when with a partner.

“Talking about sex is important but no one teaches us how to do it,” she said. “You’re not going to get the sex you want unless you open your mouth and talk.”

She also addressed — sometimes with the aid of large, frank imagery projected behind her — the value of sex without a partner.

Taormino did briefly address the concepts of feminist pornography in reply to a question from the audience, explaining that both the well-being and the sexual wants of the actors are taken into account during filming. She said traditional pornography often objectifies both men and women and creates unhealthy work environments for actors.

She ended her talk with a jab at members of OSU administration who made the decision to refuse to pay her with general fund dollars.

“All that comes down to judgment,” Taormino said. “And judgment backed by power creates silence.”

Taormino’s talk was co-sponsored by the Associated Students of OSU and the Memorial Union Program Council, and is not affiliated with the Modern Sex conference. However, she fully endorses the conference as great assistance for sex education.

Many sessions of the free, public Modern Sex conference are scheduled today at OSU.

Taormino thanked conference organizers for their October invitation to have her be the keynote speaker.

Tab Dansby, the external coordinator of SOL, the LGBT Multicultural Support Network, was on hand after the Tuesday talk to announce a new scholarship fund it would oversee that was established in the wake of the discussion surrounding paying for Taormino’s lecture.

Taormino said she would donate a portion of her student-sponsored appearance to the new scholarship fund.

Taormino is scheduled to speak at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in room 180 of the Prince Lucien Campbell building at the University of Oregon, 1415 Kincaid St. in Eugene. Her talk there will be titled “My Life as a Feminist Pornographer.”

Contact reporter Gail Cole at 541-758-9510 or at gail.cole@lee.net.

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