1990: Smith Students Mobilize Against Playboy

Our research turned up this episode in Smith history that many of today’s students may not be aware of…

Angry Smith College students demand to be accepted for their brainpower rather than their beauty. More than 200 women gathered on the campus last night to protest Playboy magazine’s invitation to students to pose for a special issue next spring.

Students have formed a new group on the campus against pornography. Playboy magazine officials have said their invitation for campus women to pose nude will expose their “sexy” and “feminine” sides, but some at Smith College hissed at the thought. While a few women at Smith apparently took up the magazine’s invitation to apply last week, others have begun organizing “Smith Women Against Pornography” to deal with sexual exploitation, student Amy Loper announced.

“Why can’t we be simply intelligent?” asked Suzanne Simon, in response to a Playboy official’s statement defending the college issue that said, “We want to show that these women are not only studious, but sexy and feminine as well…”

Women at the rally last night decried the magazine’s continuing effort to reduce women as “silly, naked, mutant mannequins,” said Simon. The magazine’s push to encourage campus women to pose naked is “another attempt to dehumanize us, demoralize us,” she said, noting the difficulty that women have in finding respect…

Applause was plentiful for the speakers at the rally, as was hissing at the mention of the names of Hugh Hefner, Playboy founder; Christine Hefner, his daughter, an executive at Playboy; Bob Guccione, the Penthouse magazine publisher, and Larry Flynt, who publishes Hustler…

[English professor Ranu] Samantrai said the industry encourages sexual violence against women, girls and boys every day. More than 15 million copies of Playboy and Penthouse are sold every month, she said. Pointing out that the adult entertainment industry will not cease because of a few protests, she called on women to “bear our share of the responsibility. It is time for us to make it stop.” She then read three poems, one of which listed derogatory names women are called, from “chick” to “dog” to “pig” to “tail,” and more. Some women in the audience flinched.
“Smith students mobilize against Playboy”, Union-News, 10/18/90

In the previous year, 300+ people came to listen as Andrea Dworkin spoke at Smith…

Andrea Dworkin spoke with a passionate and wavering voice at Smith College last night as she spoke step-by-step of America’s pornographers and their business. “The pornographers are law-abiding citizens. The day you are of legal age, you are fair game for them,” she said.

An audience of more than 300 people listened in rapt silence at Stoddard Auditorium as the feminist author of “Pornography: Men Possessing Women” attacked the producers and purveyors of pornography.

She described in sometimes graphic detail the pain and humiliation that she said pornographers impose on their subjects using what she termed “social strategies” to appeal to the prurient interests of those who buy what they produce. Dworkin said the blonde-haired, young-looking woman is the look pornographers are attempting to exploit the most these days.

Dworkin said more often than not a pornographic film will feature several re-occuring aspects. There will be gang rape, more often but not always of a white woman who had been kidnapped.

“Pornography is about rape, pain and humiliation,” she said. Almost always, she said, the film will depict the victim eventually enjoying the brutality, becoming a “celebrant of her own degradation.”
“Author raps damage from pornography”, Union-News, 4/17/89

5 thoughts on “1990: Smith Students Mobilize Against Playboy

  1. It’s amazing what difference 15(!!) years can make on public opinion. If you cared to research, you’d find that not three years ago, a group of Smith students opened up their own erotic photography (porn) site, which was well-received by the student body. While you try to paint the student body as anti-porn with this article, you’d probably find a different sentiment if you actually asked them today.
    Perhaps this article’s point is as antiquated as your own notions?

  2. Sure. We are concerned that some people have come to think that feminism=unrestricted sexual expression=porn (see our review of Female Chauvinist Pigs). We are trying to show that porn and the porn industry actually exploit women and are opposed to their interests. We like to point out times when people have perceived this clearly.

  3. First, let’s not confuse erotica with porn, or Smith with porn studios. We address the distinction in the left sidebar. Were Smith students exposed to STDs in the making of their site? I doubt it.

    We’re trying to raise awareness that Smith students previously had concerns about porn, and we’re hoping to see that become more visible in the present. Since 1990, porn has become even more violent, degraded, and misogynistic, so increased concern is warranted:

    Jerome Tanner put it during a pornography directors’ roundtable discussion featured in Adult Video News, “People just want it harder, harder, and harder, because like Ron said, what are you gonna do next?” Another director, Jules Jordan, was blunt about his task: “[O]ne of the things about today’s porn and the extreme market, the gonzo market, so many fans want to see so much more extreme stuff that I’m always trying to figure out ways to do something different. But it seems everybody wants to see a girl doing a d.p. now or a gangbang. For certain girls, that’s great, and I like to see that for certain people, but a lot of fans are becoming a lot more demanding about wanting to see the more extreme stuff. It’s definitely brought porn somewhere, but I don’t know where it’s headed from there.”

    “A cruel edge: The painful truth about today’s pornography — and what men can do about it”, Robert Jensen, 2004

    “Rocco has far more power in this industry than any actress,” said Stagliano, pleased to be pulling one back for the boys (generally speaking, men are the also-rans of porno). “I was the first to shoot Rocco. Together we evolved toward rougher stuff. He started to spit on girls. A strong male-dominant thing, with women being pushed to their limit. It looks like violence but it’s not. I mean, pleasure and pain are the same thing, right? Rocco is driven by the market. What makes it in today’s market place is reality.”

    “A rough trade”, Guardian Unlimited, 2001

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