Thursday, January 20, 2011

Oregon State Uninvites Tristan Taormino as Keynote Speaker

As many if not most of you know, Tristan Taormino is known in the poly world for authoring the book Opening Up.  Tristan is a prolific writer, a passionate sex educator, and a dynamic speaker, especially on issues having to do with sexual freedom.  Despite her amazing credentials, she has just been done a great injustice.  Oregon Statue University, which recruited her as keynote speaker months ago, has now gone back on its commitment, citing as the reason Tristan's "resume and website." 

Now one would think that an institution of higher learning like this one would make sure to do due diligence on its keynote speaker BEFORE sealing the deal to be sure the speaker is right for their conference.  But not so with OSU - go figure.   

If you support free speech and Tristan Taormino's mission of sexual empowerment, please voice your opinion to the people listed below about OSU’s last minute decision to cancel her appearance as keynote speaker at it's Modern Sex conference next month and not reimburse her for travel expenses - see press release below for details.

Thanks for your supporting Tristan and her work.


Write to the following (Press Release with details below.)

Larry Roper
Vice Provost for Student Affairs
632 Kerr Administration Building
Corvallis, OR 97331-2154
541-737-3626 (phone)
541-737-3033 (fax)

Dr. Mamta Motwani Accapadi
Dean of Student Life
A200 Kerr Administration Building
Corvallis, OR 97331-2133
541-737-8748 (phone)
541-737-9160 (fax)
twitter: @deanmamta

Dr. Edward J. Ray
600 Kerr Administration Building
Corvallis, OR 97331-2128
541-737-4133 (phone)
541-737-3033 (fax) email:


January 19, 2011

Tristan Taormino

Award-winning author, columnist, sex educator, and filmmaker Tristan Taormino was set to be the keynote speaker at Oregon State University’s Modern Sex conference, scheduled for February 15-16, 2011. Yesterday, she was uninvited by a university representative, who cited her resume and website as the reason.

On October 28, 2010, organizers of the OSU Modern Sex conference booked Taormino to give the keynote talk; they confirmed the date and agreed to fees, and Tristan’s management received a first draft of the contract on November 1. That contract was incomplete and sent back to OSU for revisions. As with many negotiations, the contract was pending as all the paperwork got done, but in late December, OSU again confirmed Tristan’s appearance and conference organizers told her manager to purchase airline tickets, for which OSU would be reimburse her.

On Tuesday, January 18, 2011, Steven Leider, Director of the Office of LGBT Outreach and Services contacted Colten Tognazzini, Tristan Taormino’s manager, to say that the conference had come up short on funding. Tognazzini told him that since the travel was booked and the time reserved, they could work with whatever budget they did have. Leider said that would not be possible: “We have to cancel Ms. Taormino’s appearance due to a lack of funding. It has been decided that OSU cannot pay Ms. Taormino with general fee dollars, because of the content of her resume and website.” At OSU, ‘general fee dollars’ include taxpayer dollars given to the University by the Oregon State Legislature to defray various costs. They differ from ‘student activity dollars,’ which are part of every student’s tuition and help fund student groups and activities.

Taormino’s resume includes her seven books on sex and relationships, the 18 anthologies she has edited, numerous television appearances from CNN to The Discovery Channel, and her award-winning adult films. She was a columnist for The Village Voice for nearly ten years and has given more than 75 lectures at top colleges and universities including Yale, Princeton, Cornell, Brown, NYU and Columbia. Her website,, includes sex education information, advice, and information about the films she directs for Vivid Entertainment, one of the largest adult companies in the country.

“In my ten years of booking Tristan at colleges and universities, of course there has been some controversy. But I have never had a university cancel like this last minute,” says Colten Tognazzini, Taormino’s manager. “It’s not unusual for contract negotiations to drag on. Once they confirmed we should book her travel, I felt comfortable the event was a done deal. I continued to work with them in good faith that a signed contract would be forthcoming. I believe that the conference organizers’ hands are tied, and this decision came from much higher up. They have cancelled with less than a month’s notice during Tristan’s busiest season. She gave up other opportunities to go to Oregon. Without a signed contract, we may have no recourse, and were told we will not be reimbursed for her travel.”

Tognazzini spoke to a source at OSU who speculated that the University feared that when it went before the legislature in regards to future funding, legislators would use OSU’s funding of a “pornographer” on campus as ammunition to further cut budgets. This source, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Tognazzini, “I think they’re uninviting Tristan because they don’t want to have to defend her appearance to conservative legislators.”

“I’m extremely disappointed that OSU has decided to cancel my appearance. I’ve been protested before, but never uninvited. I have never misrepresented who I am or what I do. I am proud of all the work I do, including the sex education films and feminist pornography I make,” says Taormino. “The talk I planned to give at this conference, titled “Claiming Your Sexual Power” has nothing to do with porn, but the porn is such an easy target for anti-sex conservatives and censors. I find it ironic that one of the missions of the conference is to understand diverse perspectives of sexuality. Apparently, my perspective—one of educating and empowering people around their sexuality—isn’t welcome at OSU.”

If OSU students and others still want to hear Taormino speak, she will be teaching two workshops at She Bop ( in Portland on February 13 and 14. “She Bop supports a healthy perspective on sex and sexuality and we are proud to have Tristan Taormino present two years in a row at our shop in Portland. Tristan is a leading educator paving the way for others to help break down the stigma around sex in this country. It is part of our mission as a female friendly adult shop to support sexual empowerment and growth,” say co-owners Jeneen Doumitt and Evy Cowan.


Anonymous said...


I was heavily involved on the all-student planning committee for the Modern Sex conference.

Before inviting Tristan Taormino, I researched OSU’s administrative policies and procedures and found no policy regarding the funding of campus speakers. At every opportunity, we made sure to give university administrators a complete picture of her work. We included Tristan’s biography and a link to her website in all of the email we sent about this conference. In that biography, she describes herself as, “an award-winning author, columnist, editor, and sex educator.” She does not describe herself as a pornographer anywhere in her biography, and we did not omit anything or mislead anyone at any point.

The administration is not working within any publicly available guidelines, making its reversal completely arbitrary. Consequently, we don’t believe there is anything we could have done to prevent this from happening.

Before issuing a public statement about Tristan’s cancellation, Oregon State University had a responsibility to collect all of the available information about this topic. This should have started by asking the students on the planning committee about our strategy and motives. I am appalled that I pay tuition to a university that is dismissive of our professional development and that publicly smears our reputations without thought.

You can watch an interview with Tristan and me here:


Anita Wagner said...

Thanks for the background info, Rachel. I get that the powers that be got the full picture late in the process and that your committee is probably as disappionted at this decision as Tristan is. I have to wonder if the higher ups gave any credit for the fact that, as the press releases points out, Tristan has spoken at many universities, including big name ivy league. And clearly Tristan is much more than a pornographer.

Anonymous said...

Oh, the higher ups had a full picture from the beginning of this mess. They just changed their mind after an office assistant found out that Tristan was involved in porn and threw a temper tantrum.

At this point, the administration has ignored the entirety of Tristan's work from her role as an educator to the number of books she's authored to focus on this one facet of her career. This is slut-shaming, pure and simple.

Not only have they made themselves look unprofessional, but they are throwing the student committee (myself included) under the bus. If we needed the permission of the secretary before inviting Tristan, they should have told us.

If you're interested, you can follow my Twitter feed here:


Anita Wagner said...

Rachel, thanks for the follow up comment - what a crappy situation, I know you must be disappointed.

Mark van der Pol said...

In a magnificent display of creative organizing, Tristan did speak on the eve of her cancelled key-note address in the LaSells-Steward center at OSU on the topic Claiming Your Sexual Identity, as reported here -

I attended this talk, as well as her talk the next evening at UofO in Eugene. Both were energetic, enlightening and educational, and entirely appropriate.