An Open Letter to President Simmons

by Stephen Beale on March 30, 2010

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.

Sincerely,

Margaret (Barber) Brooks

‘81 A.B, ‘83 A.M, ‘89 Ph.D. Economics

Chair and Professor of Economics

Bridgewater State College

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

maymay March 30, 2010 at 12:52 pm

I may respond in more completeness here later, but I have already posted addressing Donna M. Hughes and Margaret Brooks’ concerns over KinkForAll unconferences here. I think readers of this post should read my post, as well this one and especially this one.

Aida Manduley March 30, 2010 at 1:49 pm

You can find my response to some of these points here: http://molusgoabobinable.blogspot.com/2010/03/kinkforall-providence-clarified.html

I also find it important to note that this email was sent to President Simmons back in February and she already responded to it. Furthermore, the student groups responsible for organizing these events have been in touch with the administration and the appropriate officials at Brown before, during, and after all these events. All concerns have been discussed and addressed.

Megan Andelloux March 30, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Dear Ms. Brooks, IDIVERSITY and Affiliates,
Thank you for sharing your concerns with the school. Thank you for being honest that you do not personally know or have spoken to any of the speakers from Sex Educator Showdown, KinkForAll or Sex Week. I’m curious as to why it took over a month for this letter to be emailed out on a listserv and published on this website however. Regardless, I would like to go on record and clear up some grey areas you seem to imply.
Ms. Brooks-”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.”
In reference to your statement regarding speakers being unqualified, please let me clarify myself. I work as a certified sexologist and sexuality educator. I am accredited through A.A.S.E.C.T (The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists) and A.C.S (The American College of Sexologists). I have taught age appropriate, medically accurate sex education classes in middle schools, high schools, medical clinics, churches, nursing homes, colleges, nursing schools, and medical schools for over a decade. I have assisted in the training of HIV educators and counselors in risk reduction methods. I have written for numerous medically focused sex education reference sites/textbooks and run a sexuality resource center for adults in RI. I train medical students and current physicians at medical schools in New England and the Tri-State area on sexually related issues. I think these qualifications speak for themselves.
I am not a dominatrix nor a prostitute. Nor have I claimed to be a dominatrix or a prostitute. The articles were titled in error and if you read, you will not find any statements or comments on how I have worked as such. The above linked articles which stated such were made in error and have been notified to be corrected. Yes, I have publicly stated that I have worked as a sex worker. I believe that people who talk about sex, like myself or even someone like Dr. Ruth, are examples of sex workers. We make our living, or as you put it, “financially profiting”, by talking about sexuality and sexual issues. I would say that you, as a professor, also make your living or “financially profiting” by educating people. Be it economics, sex trafficking, politics or sexuality, these are our jobs. Speaking for myself, I choose to work in this field to help reduce peoples fears, assist them in understanding their bodies and promote safety.
Finally, just because I speak about something does not mean that I want people to do it. Just like driving instructors talk to students about car accidents does not mean that they want their students to get in an accident. However, if they do, students know of ways that they reduce injuries. I talk about many things and I strongly advocated for people to think for themselves and act in ethical, consensual behavior.
Yes, some people believe I talk about the racier aspects of sexuality; pornography, sex addiction, masturbation, spanking, sexual politics and fantasies. I do such in order to help people gather information that is not laced with fear, but rather presents sides of issues that are not publicly reflected. I encourage people to make their own choices about their behavior and safety, stressing consent and communication.
You may not like my job, but the people that I work with are able to choose to attend my workshops, not attend, walk out or talk to me after the presentation. On average my college workshops bring in between 50-500 people. I think this shows there is a need for factual information and I am happy to give people directions and assistance as an accredited and respected professional.
I am honored to have spoken at these events. And I am honored to have worked with people who are talking openly about sexual issues. It’s what I enjoy. I don’t think that I would be as thrilled to sit in a lecture on economics, but that’s just me. However I respect you for performing that need.
Please stop these slanderous and libelous statements against me NOW. If you have problems with what is being taught, reach forward to the people you are criticizing. They are extending their hands. If you really want to have open conversations, it is imperative that we engage in dialogue and listen to one another. I, along with many of the other speakers you have critiqued, are available for follow up comments. Concerns or questions can be sent to HiOhMegan@gmail.com.

Megan Andelloux June 13, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Thank you for posting my comment. As a courteous followup, I would like to cite one of the news articles Ms. Brooks references in her letter to the president in which they retracted this misstatement.
Sincerely,
Megan Andelloux, AASECT/ACS
The College Hill Independent
Ms. Andelloux is Not a Dominatrix
http://www.scribd.com/doc/29672277/The-College-Hill-Independent-April-8

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: