College Blocks Speech By Gay Porn Star
A gay adult-film actor is speaking out after a community college in New York state canceled a talk he was scheduled to give, and allegedly sought to silence a student who tried to move the lecture off-campus.
The lecture, which was part of a week of events on sexuality and sexual health, was canceled just over a week before Conner Habib was scheduled to speak to students of Corning Community College.
Habib brought the story to BuzzFeed's attention with an essay he submitted called "Why Are We Afraid to Talk About Gay Porn?" inspired by these events.
Last Wednesday, the college's president, Katherine Douglas, met with members of the LGBT student group that invited Habib to campus and told them she would be canceling the talk. According to Brandon Griewank — president of the group, Equal — Douglas said that Equal followed all of the proper channels to bring Habib to campus, but that it was her own fault for not vetting his credentials. "She said she in no way was about to let porn rights and LGBT rights become intertwined on her campus," Griewank says.
As part of Habib's contract, his speaking fee and airfare costs were honored, so he suggested making a plan to speak off-campus in Corning. "That's when things started getting worse," Habib says.
Griewank, who had sought Habib out and invited him to campus, says he was pulled into an impromptu meeting by an administrator last Friday. Griewank told BuzzFeed that Dean of Student Development Donald Heins told to him not involve himself with any further plans for Habib's visit. It was an "absolutely intimidating conversation," Griewank says. "He told me I wasn't allowed to speak to the press, told me I wasn't allowed to help Conner. He told me this in a closed room, there was no advisor to Equal there, and it wasn't scheduled, so I had no time to prepare." Griewank says he intends to file a complaint with the school over Heins' alleged actions.
Habib also alleges that Douglas and Heins spoke to a hotel and local businesses to find out whether Habib was coming to Corning, and Griewank says Heins told him that he couldn't go to Habib's talk even if it was off-campus. "He said, 'I hope you grasp this, Brandon, that this issue is bigger than you and bigger than Equal.'"
The school's administration denies restricting student attendance. In a statement to BuzzFeed, the school's spokesman, William Little, wrote, "Corning Community College has no intention of interfering in any way with our students' protected rights. Our students are free to express themselves and attend any events they choose."
Little told BuzzFeed that Habib wasn't an appropriate speaker. "Mr. Habib's celebrity status as an adult film star is inconsistent with the educational theme of this program. Mr. Habib's contract was paid-in-full, yet we respectfully declined his participation. Our students are free to express themselves and attend any events they choose."
Griewank first approached Habib in January after finding his blog and seeing him give a talk in Habib's hometown of Kutztown, Pennsylvania, that month.
Kutztown and Corning are both small towns — something Griewank, 30, says makes Habib an apt speaker for CCC. "Being that [Habib is] from a small town in Pennsylvania, he understands talking about sexuality in any context in a small town."
By mid-February, Habib was signed up to speak at the school, a process Griewank says administrators were involved with every step of the way.
Habib, who was a graduate student and instructor at University of Massachusetts-Amherst and has spoken at MoMA PS1 and Bowdoin College, says that Douglas thought he was a former porn actor, not a current one.
He tells BuzzFeed that Heins also called him last Wednesday. "The very first thing [Heins] said: The president is very concerned about equal rights for students," Habib says. Heins went on to tell Habib that after visiting his professional website (NSFW), Douglas didn't want pornography connected with LGBT rights. "I said I understand her concerns. I don't take them lightly. But that's part of why I talk at places," he added.
In an essay for BuzzFeed, Habib argues that talking about pornography allows young LGBTQ people in small towns to have conversations that are otherwise unavailable to them. "Gay sex was a lonely venture. It wasn't easy to find, and was only mentioned in slurs and the butt of jokes."
Meanwhile, the lecture will happen tomorrow evening, though not exactly as scheduled. Habib will speak at the Southeast Steuben County Library at 5:30 p.m. in Corning.
"I have more university dates coming up; hopefully I won't have to go through this ever again," Habib says.
Why Are We Afraid To Talk About Gay Porn?
By Conner Habib
Corning, New York. Find it on the map: it hovers just above the Pennsylvania border, a long ways away from the two closest places you've heard of, Syracuse and Rochester. Like the small town I grew up in, it's all alone.
Two months ago, I was approached by a curious and thoughtful group of students from Corning Community College. The students, including members of the school's LGBT organization, invited me to speak at the school as part of their upcoming sex-positive community event, Sex Week. Other events during Sex Week include a Q&A about sex toys, and a discussion about pleasure and communication by members of Planned Parenthood and the Rape Crisis center.
In small towns like Corning, the loneliness that LGBT people can feel — for lack of community, peers, and resources — can sometimes be transformed into determination. When people from small towns feel like the discussions they want to have are absent, they work to create them. Their town and school, the students told me, needed more open discussions about sex, about LGBT issues, so they were going to make it happen.
I agreed to be a part of it, and administrators signed my speaker's contract shortly thereafter.
Last week, I was informed by Corning Community College Vice President and Dean of Student Development, Don Heins, that the school's president, Katherine Douglas, had singled out my talk and decided to cancel it, against student wishes. They agreed to honor the contract (which they'd signed off on and which contained a cancellation fee), but they were worried that the talk would be "controversial." I wasn't scheduled to speak about porn, but to talk more broadly on sex and culture. The reason I was banned was because she'd changed her mind after discovering that I was not, as she'd thought, an educator who used to be in porn, but rather a university instructor before I started appearing in adult films.
I was told she stated, emphatically and more than once, that pornography cannot and should not be linked to LGBT rights.
When I communicated with frustrated students, I told them that I'd consider coming anyway and that I could work on finding another venue if they were interested. Then I was informed that administrators contacted a local hotel and local businesses to make sure I wouldn't be coming to town, that a student was pulled aside and told not to give direct comments to the press, that the president wanted to schedule her own talk to tell students about why she canceled my appearance, and that if I were to appear in the town of Corning, students were not to attend my lecture.
In an miniature echo of pornography's place in culture, where millions of people watch and want pornography but are told not to want it, not to watch it, the students and community — particularly the LGBT community, which was singled out in the president's reasoning — were told not to want or hear a discussion that they'd asked for. The school had undone the work and determination of the LGBT community. What could be left but loneliness? I started to hear from and receive emails about students — in the LGBT community and otherwise — expressing their frustrations, and saying they felt threatened and intimidated by the administration.
So — are porn and LGBT rights connected?
It is precisely the small towns and conservative or isolated areas of our world that expose how intertwined they are.
Where I grew up, just outside of Allentown, PA, I watched, right through my adolescence into adulthood and early college years, while straight people paired off and experienced sex. They were able to engage with a basic aspect of human life that seemed unavailable and distant to me. Unlike today, there was no discussion about gay marriage, nor were there many gay characters on TV. But even if there had been, neither would have rounded out my experience as a man with homosexual feelings because so many of those feelings were — unsurprisingly for a young man — sexual. Gay sex was a lonely venture. It wasn't easy to find, and was only mentioned in slurs and the butt of jokes. "Cocksucker" and "butt fucker" were insults; stand-ins for "faggot."
Whether I bought it from the adult video store or, later, downloaded it, gay porn helped me encounter positive images of gay men enjoying the act of sex. Gay porn was a window into gay sexuality that was free of shame and guilt, and revealed a different world where sex wasn't a lonely prospect, confined to the shadows or just my imagination.
This same concern is amplified in places where homosexuality is criminalized or even punishable by death.
As a porn performer of Arab descent, I've received hundreds of emails from men in Middle Eastern countries expressing gratitude and relief for my having portrayed gay sex in a positive light on camera. When a gay man lives somewhere where his identity is threatened, it's clear how sex - including pornography - and sexuality are intertwined. His sexual imagination, which is criminalized, matches the sexual images of gay pornography (which are also criminalized). Since acting out his imagination through sex would be to risk his life, the access to the images is safer. The images, created by gay men wherever it's legal to create them, provide empowerment and diminish alienation.
As a young gay man, porn stars became heroes of mine, joining authors, punk rock musicians, and leftist political thinkers, because they lived as I wanted to. Without them, I would have only had a partial picture of my life - a thinking and creative one, perhaps - but one that ignored my sexual thoughts and imagination which were constantly activated and in motion.
To deny the importance of images of gay sex while pretending to affirm gay rights, as Katherine Douglas does, is a luxury, and it's dangerous one. It's the equivalent of cheering on a powerless gay neighbor in a 1990s sitcom, or to say, "I don't care what anyone does in the privacy of his own home, but don't bring it out into public." In other words, it's not an effort to understand gay men as whole human beings but to merely establish sexless caricatures of them to feel comfortable about.
Evidence for the link between gay rights and gay porn can be found in the broader acceptance of pornography in gay culture. Many gay porn stars lend their support to LGBT charities and causes. And when gay sex was heavily legislated against, gay porn stars by definition broke the law to express sexual freedom and defend their sexuality.
That said, I must also express here that I don't expect allies to understand gay pornography, its link to LGBT movement, or my involvement with it automatically, or as quickly as some gay men do. When Don Heins called me and stated that Katherine Douglass canceled the talk because she had concerns about the controversial subject on campus, I told him that I understood those concerns. They are serious and real concerns - if they weren't, I'd have no need to give talks, after all. I have similar and additional concerns in my own life: How will having done porn intersect with my other interests? How can I pursue porn and speak openly about sex without making other people feel alienated? What have I noticed about the porn industry that I find supportive of or a hinderance to freedom — particularly for LGBT communities?
As of the writing of this article, I'm scheduled to speak at the Southeast Steuben Library in Corning on March 21st, at an event not endorsed by or related to the school. If that venue is somehow blocked, I'll speak in someone's house. Because the question here isn't whether or not we have concerns, but whether or not we have the courage to address them.
Porn, a form that has been with us for thousands of years and which deeply intertwines with all cultures, deserves deep and serious thinking, not off-the-cuff dismissal and a silencing of public discussion.
This is especially true when it comes to how porn relates to gay men's lives. To be an ally to gay men, and by extension the LGBT movement, doesn't only mean being comfortable with gay men's sexual orientation, it also means being comfortable with their orientation to sex. This is why, when someone claims to be an ally of gay men, pornography exposes – just as surely as it exposes naked bodies — where they really stand.
Wow I was really surprised to see this on here, but only because I actually attended this college a little over a year ago. I'm not at all surprised by CCC's reaction, this is a small very conservative town. The gay community here has little voice. The only gar bar close town was shut down after the owner was shot to death after he slept with a "straight" guy who couldn't deal with the fact he slept with a man.
The school made the right call.
It's interesting that the President of the school was clearly more interested in protecting the school's LGBT group, than the president of the group itself, who seemed to just want to meet the dude who's blog he'd been jerking off.
It's sad this porn actor had to get brought into this needless drama.
r8, why do think the college made the "right call"?
I don't agree. Porn performers have a unique perspective about sexuality and have a cultural standing unlike any other; they shouldn't be discriminated against because of their chosen career.
Because, R9, it makes the LGBT group look like sex-obsessed perks. I mean the president of the group came up with the idea to invite him after looking at his blog - which is just porn pics of him fucking guys! He was looking at pictures of this guy getting fucked in the ass and thought that this guy had. Unique perspective? Right. The guy took advantage of this opportunity to meet in person the porn star he'd Ben jerkin off to, plain and simple.
R8 is an idiot.
Actually, r8/10, his blog is not like that -- he writes extensively about politics, philosophy, science and, yes, sex. Check it out:
Thanks R12. For some reason I though the link at r6 was his blog.
A porn star is NOT a role model.
and you are?
[quote]I don't agree. Porn performers have a unique perspective about sexuality and have a cultural standing unlike any other; they shouldn't be discriminated against because of their chosen career
LOL! No they don't. The silly things porn addicts say!
Do I want to go to graduate school or do I want to do porn?
[quote]LOL! No they don't. The silly things porn addicts say!
I think it depends on the porn star. Granted, most of them aren't rocket scientists. However, this one sounds like he does have something interesting to say.
R16, what ever what? are you an ideal role model? would you be able to lead college kids with your example?
[quote]I think it depends on the porn star. Granted, most of them aren't rocket scientists. However, this one sounds like he does have something interesting to say.
You had forgotten that most gay porn stars have graduated to major in Chemistry.
[quote]I think it depends on the porn star. Granted, most of them aren't rocket scientists. However, this one sounds like he does have something interesting to say.
No he doesn't. He plays up the idea that he was a professor at one time. He was a graduate assistant when he was getting his masters. His real name is Andre Khalil and he is insufferable. He had a meltdown on twitter when the SF city council passed the nudity ban.
Here's his thoughts on Obama (NWFW link). He's 10lbs of shit in a 5lb bag.
he's outspoken, perfect for a college campus or the DL
If this were the 60's, he would have been allowed to speak. At least at Berkeley he would. He is a porn actor, not a rocket scientist but college is a LEARNING experience, not a CENSORED experience. The whole thing reaks of censorship.
This is how far colleges have fallen. Ann Coulter and porn 'stars.' Wonderful.
THis is Corning, not Harvard, sit down and take a big deep breath. He's probably better educated than most of the profs there
Did you actually read what he wrote? I agree with him to some degree. We, as a country, are certainly engaged in murder, torture etc. He's not saying we should have voted for Romney or the Green candidate. He's saying that while voting is necessary, it's not enough and our responsibility as citizens is to get more involved in trying to effect real change. Not much different than your average Occupier.
They tried to ban me from speaking at Harvard Law as well, but I was able to demonstrate precedent in Princeton Vs Mike Hunt
CONnor Habib is just proving how mentally unstable he is. The reason people thought he was a former porn star is because he can't get arrested in the gay porn world.
R27...oh please, Mary. This is completely absurd.
I love porn, but it's fucking stupid to elevate porn stars to the role of public health experts. They fuck on film for money, they are not experts of anything.
The group was wrong/nuts to invite him. These groups are created with clear missions that focus on creating a sense of community between the members, raising their visibility and furthering the educational mission of the school. Sorry, but the leaders were just trying to be radical to get attention then claim "Look at what the mean school has done to us!"
One would think that students at a COMMUNITY college might find a speech by a porn star to be aspirational.
[quote]CONNER HABIB: IF YOU VOTED FOR OBAMA, YOU’RE RESPONSIBLE FOR MURDER AND TERROR
Um, yeah, the school made the right call.
[quote] This is completely absurd.
no, it isn't.
Yes, it absolutely is.
It's absurd only if you have a closed mind.
I eat old people's excrement.
Well they could have gotten someone hotter, like Tommy Anders.
I just Googled Tommy Anders.
Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!!! Kill it!