Three guest speakers presented conflicting perspectives on the controversial subject of the sex industry at the latest Taboo Talks on Thursday in the Center for Diversity and Unity. At the panel discussion, pornography was seen in a different light by one panel member, and compared to drugs by another.
The guests were Dawn, a novelty store owner and ex-employee of the adult industry; Maurice Harker, a therapist specializing in healing sexual addicts, and Chandler Copenhaver, current chapter president of Weber State University’s Fight the New Drug, a group dedicated to raising pornography awareness.
“Taboo Talks is a series that address(es) topics that people don’t want to have a public conversation about,” said Adrienne Andrews, coordinator for the Center of Diversity and Unity. “In the past, they were issues like immigration, gun rights . . . it can be anything. What we support is getting a panel of participants to share different perspectives and provide opportunity to engage in a respectful dialogue about these topics so people . . . have an opportunity to gain new information and to reflect on their own values and make their own decisions on where they stand on these issues. And so that’s our key goal, to help develop critical thinking among students on these difficult topics, and most recently, pornography is a really difficult topic to talk about in our community.”
The talks started when last year’s vice president for diversity, Lonald Wishom, created the program, then called Common Grounds.
“I do not see this program going away,” Andrews said. “We always have interesting topics that come up in our culture and in our society that we need to have intelligent conversations about, and a part of that is we have more education and different perspectives. Even when we disagree, we can still respect each other.”
Dawn, who has 13 years of experience working in the adult industry, said she feels she has a unique view when it comes to pornography.
“I view pornography more as a tool to help increase relationships, personal masturbation,” Dawn said. “I also view it as being harmful in some settings. I think that things like pornography can be addicting, which can destroy relationships, which can do personal harm to people. If you hold a tool in a certain way, it can become a weapon, so if we are responsible with our pornography viewing and enjoy it and don’t overindulge, then I think it is a very, very useful thing.”
Harker said he is swayed in his view on pornography because of his profession as a sex therapist.
“I don’t get to see many success cases when people have used it right,” Harker said. “As (have) those of you have studied pornography and the chemical ailments in how it affects the brain, I compare it a lot to drinking alcohol. If you know how to be a responsible drinker, if you know how to be a casual drinker, then I don’t freak out about it. The struggle is similar with alcohol in that you don’t know which drink is going to turn you into an alcoholic. So, in my experience, you don’t know which exposure is going to turn (or) flip the switch that turns you into an addict. And so, if it is not interrupting your life, and nobody is getting hurt by it, my only thing is drink with caution.”
Copenhaver, a WSU student studying business with a minor in Japanese, said his group is nonreligious and does not have a political agenda, but is there to help let people know the effects of pornography.
“We are basically here to show science, facts and personal accounts to help people understand what we currently know about pornography and how it not only affects our relationships, but how it affects our brain and how we interact with other people,” Copenhaver said. “Constant use of pornography rewires the brain so that the brain is literally different. So what Fight the New Drug does is really educate and spread that awareness about pornography and about the harmful effect of pornography.”
The next Taboo Talks will be on March 21 and will cover tattoos in the workplace.