In light of our recent commentary on Sex Week at Brown, we publish the below letter which draws attention to two other related events held earlier this semester. We think the author raises a number of important points.
Dear President Simmons,
I am writing to you as a Brown alumna, as a professor and academic leader, and as a parent to bring an issue to your attention that could seriously impact Brown’s reputation, its safety, and its future.
Over the last month, Brown student groups have organized two sex-related events that were advertised to the community. The first, Kink for All, was held in Wilson Hall on February 6. The second, Get Your Heart on Sex Educator Showdown (part of an Iron Slut Sex Educator Showdown series), was held in Solomon Hall yesterday on February 14. (Click here and here for more information.)
I expressed my objections regarding both these events to Brown administrators and to Brown legal counsel. I provided supporting documentation within those emails as well. All of the information I found is freely available on the Internet. I have not met, nor do I personally know, any of the individual organizers. Please note my summary concerns below:
• the Kink for All presenter’s written statements that sexual materials can be presented to children as young as 9 in the interest of promoting what he calls “age diversity”
• the promotion of BDSM activities which can be inherently unsafe for students (for example sadism and bondage)
• the possible inadequate Brown University supervision or responsibility at these events, which I believe were open to all, even sex offenders
• an unsafe structure called “unconference” where no one is responsible for content, outsiders can attend and use pseudonyms
• the lack of qualifications and concerns about the ability of presenters to handle discussions in a safe and respectful manner
• the videotaping and broadcasting of Brown students at a BDSM event which could adversely impact students’ future employment opportunities
• the organizers’ use of derogatory slurs such as “slut” to demean women
• the possible use of Brown students for sex “demos” at College-hosted events
• the potential harm to Brown’s reputation for being the publicized host for such events, which could result in fewer alumni donations and reduced numbers of applications to Brown.
Despite my communications to senior Brown staff and legal counsel, it appears that both the Kink for All and Sex Educator Showdown events were allowed to run.
I understand there are issues of free speech, and that these events were organized by Brown student groups. As someone who did her dissertation in the field of law and economics, I understand the issues surrounding free speech. I also understand what it’s like to run an undergraduate student group at Brown, having served as president of one myself at Brown in 1980-81.
I am not in any way saying that Brown faculty cannot speak about controversial subjects like BDSM within their own classes or at a campus forum. I expect that a Brown faculty member or permanent staff member teaching about this subject would be knowledgeable about the content, be sensitive to students’ needs and feelings, be aware of Brown’s sexual harassment policies, and be accountable if university policies were in some way violated.
However, the recent Kink for All and Iron Slut events are a different type of situation. These are run by individuals who are not Brown employees, whose credentials are questionable, who are here-today-and-gone-tomorrow, and who have a profit motive.
While these outside individuals may be arguing that they have a right to free speech, please note that they are free to speak elsewhere. Brown is not required to provide outsiders with the use of its facilities and its name. Allowing external, profit-driven groups to offer sex-promoting events such as these at Brown University could bring the university in a direction that is detrimental to its other goals and its mission.
Consider that Sex Week at Yale has just wrapped up, and over the past week there have been many events and talks related to topics like pornography, polyamory, and sex techniques. See today’s headline stories in the Yale Herald: Mirth and jiggles: My first time at a gentleman’s club and Back to a time when lawyers watched porn together. Please see this YouTube video and story about what was happening in the Yale frats this week. Please also read this piece, which talks about lube and wrestling event, and also a Senior Seminar entitled “Feb Club: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Alcohol.” Nathan Harden provided day-by-day description of events at Yale published in the National Review.
From these and a number of other related news stories, it appears that Yale has become a highly-sexualized environment. Is this what Brown University wants to become? It will certainly do so if Brown student groups are allowed to set the agenda by continuing to organize campus events such as Kink for All and the Sex Educator Showdown.
And if Brown does go down this road and allow the institution to become a platform for radical sex groups to promote their products and services, then please be aware that this choice is inconsistent with Brown’s other institutional initiatives, such as offering summer programs for middle and high school students.
How can parents be expected to send their children to Brown’s pre-College and SPARK summer programs if the university brings in speakers who call women sluts, even in jest, or where someone speaking from a podium in Wilson Hall is allowed to tell women they must be subservient to the men who hit them? How could parents send their children to Brown summer programs when there’s even a chance that they could see violent pornography while they’re on the Brown campus?
Brown can’t have it both ways. A highly-sexualized, anything-goes environment is inconsistent with setting up programs to bring middle and high school children for campus programs. In addition, a campus environment that is perceived as a hotbed for uncontrolled sexual activity and potential sexual harassment will attract fewer undergraduate applicants, particularly women. There are long-run implications for alumni giving as well.
It’s one thing to have a well-structured classroom discussion or campus debate on a controversial issue like BDSM, with capable full-time Brown faculty/staff moderating the discussion. It’s another thing to hand the microphone to unqualified outsiders who are advocates for only one perspective, and who stand to financially profit from its acceptance.
Kink for All’s organizer Moscovitz is a self-described bi-polar, middle-school dropout in his mid-twenties who says he learned about sex through watching porn as a child. He now wants to teach young people and even minors about BDSM. Thanks to Brown administrators allowing the event, Moscovitz can now use the Brown University name to promote his web sites, t-shirts, and videos. Kink for All is a brand that he is seeking to develop, as shown by the logo on the t-shirts he sells.
Iron Slut creator Mihalko describes himself as someone who graduated from Brown in 1992 and was a bartender for fifteen years before launching his Cuddle Parties and Iron Slut events in recent years. Now he, too, can claim the Brown University name for building his brand name and his credibility for his web site, workshops, and DVD’s.
Megan Andelloux participated in both the Feb. 6 and Feb. 14 events. In another recent public setting, she described herself as a sex worker, and she has been identified in several news sources as a dominatrix. (Click here here here and here for more information, note the curriculum on the last site.)
Unless Brown administrators take immediate and strong actions to assume responsibility for the sex education activities being offered on its own campus, special-interest sex groups and businesses such as these will be able to hijack Brown’s name and reputation, and set Brown on a destructive path that is inconsistent with its mission.
Margaret (Barber) Brooks
‘81 A.B, ‘83 A.M, ‘89 Ph.D. Economics
Chair and Professor of Economics
Bridgewater State College