On Campus

Keep Your Porn Off My Taxes

Should porn screenings be allowed at state universities? Relatedly: Why would anyone care?

Large_pirates

The ongoing battle between pornography and uptight legislatures has made its way to the University of Maryland, College Park campus.  If you haven’t been following this story, here’s the breakdown:

The University’s student union received a free copy of Pirates II: Stagnetti’s Revenge from distributor Digital Playground. The film, a sequel to the 2005 release Pirates, is basically Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, but with more horny wenches and, one hopes, a lot less of this guy. The student union voted unanimously to show the “XXX blockbuster” on campus, with an admission cost of $4 per ticket. The screening was scheduled for this weekend, but has since been cancelled by University officials after an uproar in the Maryland State legislature led to a threat to cut the school’s state funding if the film was aired.

As reported by The Baltimore Sun, “Sen. Andrew P. Harris, a Republican from Baltimore and Harford counties, suggested amending the state’s annual budget to deny any funding to a higher education institution that allows a public screening of a film marketed as a XXX-rated adult film, unless it is a part of an official academic course.” The proposed amendment was reportedly backed by the Senate President Mike Miller, a Democrat, who, “acknowledged the legislature shouldn’t get involved in censoring movies but said the General Assembly is not going to support screening hard-core pornographic movies on a state campus paid for by taxpayer dollars.”

Ah yes, taxpayer dollars, the almighty rebuttal to the First Amendment free speech argument. I know that whenever I submit my Maryland tax forms the first thought to run through my mind is “I wonder what damn movie I’m paying the University of Maryland to screen this time.” Except that in this case, tax dollars aren’t really an issue. The student union received the copy of the film for free, so no student fees (tax money) were used to purchase the film. The $4 admission cost would cover the expense of providing staff at the screening. Presumably some tax dollars would go to the energy costs of keeping the Hoff Theater open for the screening, but seeing as those costs would be incurred no matter what movie was being shown, there’s not much weight to that argument.

Which brings up my larger point. I understand that many people oppose the creation, distribution and viewing of pornography—I, for one, just don’t understand why anyone would bother to sit in a crowded theater watching porn when doing so in the privacy of your dorm room is both free and allows for a more productive use of that time—and that’s fine. But what if I oppose movies that portray black people in a very stereotypical way? Can I keep the University from screening Gone With The Wind because I don’t want my tax dollars paying for it? Or for that matter, why isn’t the Maryland State legislature forcing the University to block any and all websites with X-rated content from their network? Tax dollars could be allocated to covering the cost of a campus-wide wireless network—should we be paying for college kids to rub one out while looking at Internet porn?

The fact is we’ve reached a point in our culture where this issue is no longer worth debating. Pornography is not going to disappear. Pirates II, the most expensive porn film ever made, had a budget of $10 million. It was “based” on a Hollywood movie with a budget of $225 million that was the sequel of a movie that was based on an amusement park ride. Porn has come a long way since $22,500 brought us the story of woman whose clitoris was housed in her throat—a film that the University of Maryland’s student union screened four years ago without upheaval, by the way.

If you don’t like pornography, you don’t have to watch it. The Pirates II screening at the University of Maryland was entirely optional. No one would have been forced to attend and presumably, if those opposed to the screening wanted to protest, they would have been free to do so. For the Maryland State legislature to step in and cry about taxpayer dollars is a phenomenal waste of time and resources. Come to think of it, my tax dollars pay their salaries and I don’t appreciate that they spent so much time debating such a silly issue. Can I get my money back?

DISCUSSION
Add a comment
Register to leave a comment