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Porn star and sex educator Nina Hartley lectured UW-La Crosse students on the realities of adult entertainment and the benefits of people taking ownership of their sexuality during a speaking engagement at the university on Thursday.

Nina Hartley

Hartley

Her 90-minute talk, which drew about 70 students to Centennial Hall, went on despite opposition from some students and staff, who raised concerns about the message her appearance would send.

“The word ‘pornography’ has such a pejorative connotation — it’s been caught up in a lot of emotionally charged conversations,” said Hartley, who touched on everything from female empowerment, to the necessity of consent, to the importance of differentiating porn from reality.

“It’s important that you view all media with a critical eye,” she said — and doubly so for adult media, she added.

Hartley, who also fielded questions, told the crowd that communication is key during sexual encounters, that it can preserve feelings and personal safety.

She assured students that everyone develops at their own pace, that it’s OK to say yes and OK to say no, and that comparing people based on sexual experience is unproductive.

She also made clear that she views porn as safe, consensual fantasy — fantasy that will intrigue some and offend others.

“I wouldn’t normally go to a barn on a Tuesday morning to have sex on a hay bale. It’s my job, and we’re professionals,” Hartley said. “It’s OK to like porn. It’s OK to not like porn. And it’s OK to be confused by porn. You are where you are, and you are who you are.”

Earlier this week, several school officials called the Tribune to question both the value of Hartley’s appearance and the unusually covert way the university promoted it (none agreed to speak on the record), especially since the talk was part of National Freedom of Speech Week.

The event did not appear on the university’s online events calendar and, unlike many events, was not made known to the press. It was promoted only on the digital signs on campus.

“We promoted it extensively on campus, on our digital signs, and we felt that was the best way to do it,” Chancellor Joe Gow said Thursday. “There was concern, because it’s a controversial topic, that people would send this far and wide, and we’d get people who aren’t going to come, and they sensationalize it.”

Hartley, 59, has had a 35-year career as an adult film actress and has been a respected voice in intellectual conversations about sex, relationships and a variety of social issues.

She is a longtime board member for the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit advocating for sexual freedom as a human right, and has appeared on news shows to discuss her experience in the adult film industry.

By booking her to speak, UW-L joined the likes of Harvard, Dartmouth and the University of California.

“Nina Hartley was someone who emerged as we were going onto websites and assessing people who could speak on the topic,” said Gow, who made the decision to reach out to Hartley. “There’s no one like her in terms of her background as a performer and educator, and her role as an activist.

“I think the world would be a better place if we were more open about human sexuality … and how it plays a healthy role in people’s lives,” he added. “That’s what she’s doing.”

Gow noted that, during a lunch with Hartley and a group of students and faculty on Thursday, he did receive some blowback for the booking.

“Some students did not think porn and adult entertainment are good things,” he said.

According to Gow, Hartley was paid $5,000 for her appearance — much less than the $75,000 or $80,000 some other sex educators demand, he said.

Her pay was taken from the university’s auxiliary fund, which consists of student fees and interest.

Kyle Farris can be reached at (608) 791-8234 or kfarris@lacrossetribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Kyle_A_Farris.

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Kyle Farris reports on education for the La Crosse Tribune. Reach him at (608) 791-8234 or kfarris@lacrossetribune.com.

(28) comments

Clydefromona

Is there a reason why her performance wasn't scheduled during Sex Week?
Perhaps payment to speakers should be paid on a sliding scale. College pays for travel costs and hotel if needed. Then paid on a percentage based on the draw of attendees.
The speaker drew less than 1% of student population so she should have been paid $50 plus travel costs.

martian2

Well that is just crazy Clyde, no one would agree to those terms and come and speak at a university. All you would get is maybe rock stars, or movie stars with little substance to talk about. I am not a fan of adult film industry, but it is here to stay and so it needs to be talked about and discussed. I am not sure an adult film star is the best person to intelligently talk about that industry. I would of like to be there and asked questions about illegal drug use in the pornography. And how it contributes to human trafficking for the purposes of sex slavery. And also I would of liked to ask if it contributes to the rape culture and how it denigrates women. Maybe someone did bring up these issues.

Cassandra2

Clyde, would you apply that same scale to the bomb-throwing republicans like Ann Coulter or the other neo-Nazis your side likes to bring in to stoke the culture wars?

Comment deleted.
badboy

The black helicopters got him. He knew too much...

Lulubelle

I am so sick of this liberal rag. How the hell is this a front page story? disgusting

capedcrusader

Don't let the door hit you...

caretoomuch

Here is one great reason I vote for Scott Walker!!!! I am sick of my tax dollar going to this liberal sh!! show! Keep freezing those funds!!!!

capedcrusader

I would hate to see your other reasons "caretoomuch." You must really hate Trump.

Green85

Believe me, it's devastating to be married to a pornography addict - been divorced 5 years now.

Jobaba

Come to think of it, Trump did appear in two Playboy movies. Soft core and (thank god) no nudity, by him. Yepper, it is here to stay.

Cassandra2

All the sexophobes are out in force, griping about the financing of this. Well, I'd guess that just about all of those attendees also paid their student fees and will not be attending other events that those fees go to cover. Just get over it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a sex-positive message being delivered to adults in an educational setting. There is nothing wrong with studying human sexuality in all of its forms.

martian2

amen cassandra. Some people just want pornography to go away and by not talking about it they think is will disappear. Doesn't work that way in the real world. Like it or not it is every where now, it is an industry that has been around forever, and will continue to be. It needs to be discussed out in the open. Those self righteous holier than thou people who think it should just be ignored are living in a fantasy world, probably watching pornography.

capedcrusader

And if their not just watching it they could just pay them to sign an agreement after having the real thing. Of course you have to have the money to do that. Like billions... and we know most college students don't have that. Maybe what the students are trying to achieve is to get a leadership class taught by our esteemed President.

Clydefromona

Didn't the Kavanagh Confirmation spectacle teach that sex is not positive. Sex is to be used to punish, even if you have to lie about it. BTW, I am very pro sex. Especially activity by my parents, very thankful they were for sex. Why wasn't visitors performance scheduled during Sex Week if they wanted attendance?

Jobaba

First, the numbers of people that self identify as watchers is through the roof in this country. Second, the number of people using web sites is also through the ceiling. Somebody is logging on! Third, our own president slept with a star and then paid $130k to have it hushed up. Which is a very strange contradiction. Apparently stars are desirable, but in a nod to your morals, he didn't want anybody to know about it. So like it or not, it is a large part of our culture. That means it deserves to be talked about. Discussed in a reasonable manner. Just because Hartley takes a different view means nothing. It is one side of a coin.

capedcrusader

Not only that though, back when she was in the business the movies actually had a plot. It was a story! Drama and comedy at it's best! That's what I've heard anyway. I know somebody told me that. I wouldn't know personally...

Jobaba

lol!

canman

It’s time for Joe Gow to move on. The money coming from a student fund doesn’t mean that taxpayers dollars weren’t involved as federal grants and loans are used by students to pay tuition and fees, also the lack of of following the usual notification protocol tells that this wasn’t an acceptable forum.

capedcrusader

So does that mean you don't believe in free speech?

canman

Free speech is great, pornograghy is not a subject that should be endorsed, and that fact this speech was put on without the usual notifications says plenty about how the administration was skeptical about it. When staff and students were questioning this without any response from administration this also speaks loudly, why weren’t they listened to? Remember, free speech may allow a person to says things, but it doesn’t protect you from the consequences.

madmen60

Don't be such a prude.

martian2

well it seems that our current president endorses pornography. In fact he had long affairs with some and even paid lots of money to them to keep quiet. If that isn't an endorsement I don't know what is. But for some reason he gets a free pass. I guess it matters what party you belong to.

capedcrusader

Who said they weren't listened to? You probably think that because you don't agree with it. They would have been listened to if it was cancelled right? If you or anyone else doesn't agree with it you didn't have to go. You don't have to watch. Be glad you live in a country as great as ours where you have those kind of choices. BTW, this free speech you claim on one hand that's great is apparently enjoyed very much by our current President. And, apparently he isn't very concerned about any "consequences."

Cassandra2

CanItMan, it's like abortion or same-sex marriage--if you don't like it, don't take part. It doesn't affect you at all.

Veridic

It wasn't free. It cost the students five thousand dollars, without their consent. The students were forced to pay those fees.

UWL students got F'D by a pornography star, but only in their wallets.

capedcrusader

Oh boo hoo. You are so clever. Phony outrage at it's best.

Slider

"Her pay was taken from the university’s auxiliary fund, which consists of student fees and interest."

When hear of this "speaker", it just confirms that tuition is too high and needs to be frozen.

Clydefromona

I agree. Is there a reason why her performance wasn't scheduled during Sex Week?
Perhaps payment to speakers should be paid on a sliding scale. College pays for travel costs and hotel if needed. Then paid on a percentage based on the draw of attendees.
The speaker drew less than 1% of student population so she should have been paid $50 plus travel costs.

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