CAMBRIDGE, England—Debates on pornography have become so common in the States that you can buy tickets to them on Goldstar. (Not really.) In Merry Old England, however, they apparently still generate a hullabaloo, which also means a packed house, as was the case Thursday night on the storied campus of Cambridge University, in the Cambridge Union, where the pro and con sides faced off in a contest that pitted, if we may be so bold, open-minded libertarians against closed-minded autocrats.
According to Cambridge First, which was on the scene, the place was “sweltering despite the cold outside as students sought to find any corner they could squeeze into to watch the debate.”
The site says that the “headline act,” such as it was, was the self-proclaimed former porn star/prostitute/junkie/hustler and current anti porn crusader, Pink Cross Foundation founder Shelley Lubben (photo, left). Those of us who are fortunate enough to have witnessed a Lubben performance in person—at a CalOSHA meeting, perhaps—or even on tape—in the new documentary The Devil and Shelley Lubben, say—know that over-the-top Lubben histrionics are inevitable. The woman simply has an itch that can’t seem to be scratched, even when she is addressing an audience from one of the oldest and most revered universities in the world. Who knows, maybe she has a thing for student bodies, but Thursday, according to Cambridge First, she apparently punted instead of scoring.
The evening was not just about having a good debate; a proposition was put before the gathering: “This house believes that pornography does a good public service,” it stated, and in the end it passed by 44 votes, reportedly due to Lubben’s lunacy.
“For this much-publicized debate,” Cambridge First reported, “the proposers were Britain’s first female porn director Anna Span (photo, right), teacher-cum-porn star Johnny Anglais, and self-professed ‘sexademic’ Jessi Fischer; the opposers, born-again-Christian and ex-porn star Shelley Lubben, feminist activist Dr Gail Dines, and child psychologist Dr Richard Woolfson."
The tone of the evening was set by Span, who, as Anna Arrowsmith, ran unsuccessfully for Parliament last year. She opened the debate with an accusation that “moral entrepreneurs” were using “thinly-veiled, conservative arguments” to inflict a “fully-fledged moral panic.”
However, Cambridge First reported that for much of the evening, the opposers were making headway with the students. “Despite the porn’s eventual victory in the house, the opposition’s arguments seemed the stronger up until the home straight. Broadly-speaking, [their] counter-points were pornography harms children and degrades women.”
The proposers’ arguments, on the other hand, centered around the claims that “pornography empowers woman and is a good education tool.”
“The problem is not pornography,” Fischer said at one point. “The problem is our immature national attitude to sex.” Clearly referring to the U.K., he could have been speaking about any number of countries.
Dines, who has written books on the subject of pornography—despite knowing little about it—and is notably fond of writing reviews of the Adult Entertainment Expo without actually attending it—made her typical claim that all porn distorts reality and degrades women.
“In Pornland,” she said, “boys can be boys. In Pornland, there are no women; only hot girls.” Oh, how miserably ill-informed she is! In reality, women, real women, abound.
Still, the barely post-pubescent audience seemed to buy into the silliness, as well as into Dr Woolfson’s remarks about porn watching developing unhealthy sexual attitudes toward sex, which elicited affirmations that “resonated around the chamber.” Not a good sign for those in favor of the sexually explicit arts and leisures. Was it possible that the typical Brit’s inner prude extended even to the ancient halls of the country’s presumably more liberal educational institutions? Were things really that bad?
Actually, they were not. As it turned out, it was more a question of the students’ English reserve needing to be surmounted by a generous dosage of American hysterics—courtesy, of course, of Shelley Lubben.
“When Ms. Lubben took to the floor, arguably the headline act, her passion and anger hid her argument,” wrote Hugh Morris for Cambridge First. “The audience did not react well to this.
“Resting on the lectern, her high-heeled shoe subconsciously beating on the floor, her impassioned attack on the porn industry strayed from the academic debate.
“’This is nothing funny or glamorous about this industry,’ she said. ‘Pornography doesn’t do a good public service because it is lying to you. I have the evidence. It’s lying to you. It’s modern day slavery.’
“And with that, the Cambridge students voted for porn.”
For committed anti-porners, that last-minute turn-around has to be a bitter pill to swallow. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory is not a part of their game plan. Goals, and not flubbed kicks on goal, are the expected outcomes; homeruns, for the Yanks, and not called third strikes.
For those of us who have seen this movie before—where the opposers’ reliance on the Shelley Lubbens of the world only further mires them in unproven and overblown conspiracies of on-set rape, rampant drug use, underage trafficking and the pervasive and inherent degredation of women—it seems obvious that these events work to hinder, if not de-legitimize any rational concerns they may have about porn.
Lubben is, to put it another way, the anti-porn movement’s version of a Birther; someone who, despite empirical evidence to the contrary, refuses to admit that the guy is a legitimate citizen.
While Dines’ academic credentials tend to get her an unexamined pass by the establishment, despite her dubious scholarship on the subject, Lubben, who is supposed to bring street cred and a still-viable sex appeal to the table, is also kind of like Sarah Palin in the way she inhabits as fully as mamma grizzly herself a divinely inspired role as an alienating lightning rod for the anti-porn base.
Yes, let her debate! Put her on the ballot! Let her run for president! She’s a winner!