By ERIKA WOODWARD
ANNAPOLIS (April 2, 2009)—Under pressure from a heated legislature, the University of Maryland on Thursday cancelled a screening of a porno flick in which busty pirates set sail on the "missionary ship" to thwart a plan for world domination.
"Pirates II: Stagnetti's Revenge," had been scheduled for a Saturday showing at the campus' Hoff Theater, after a brief presentation on safe sex by Planned Parenthood. But the flick, complete with sword fights and an orgy, is one stimulus package legislators aren't ready for.
Sen. Andrew Harris, R-Baltimore County, introduced an amendment during a budget debate Thursday that would ban state universities from receiving general funds if they show porn, sparking vigorous debate in the Senate quelled only by elementary school-aged onlookers in the gallery.
"It seems like this must be the only day for elementary schools to be down here," said Sen. Nancy Jacobs, R-Cecil, who argued porn objectifies women in the eyes of men. "I hope (the students) learned something."
"I hope they didn't," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert, who paused the debate because of the children.
Others said that while pornography is dangerous it may be safer than other full-contact sports.
"A lot more people get injured playing football than watching pornographic movies," said Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery, who argued it's not the responsibility of politicians to flout First Amendment rights by dictating what movies are shown by universities.
Adella Curry, the director of marketing and public relations for Digital Playground, the producer of the film, said senators were overreaching in their attempt to encourage the university to cancel the showing prematurely.
"This isn't being shoved down anybody's throat," she said of the movie, which was given free to the Hoff Theater to be seen by students who wished to purchase tickets. "I think this is stepping on students' First Amendment rights."
Curry said the university and the legislative body squandered an opportunity to accept advances in the national dialogue about sexuality.
"(The screening) was an opportunity to bring together 500 students to talk about sexuality, the shift in society and the women's revolution," she said. "To deny students that based on old fashioned morals and ideas is horrific."
Attempts to reach several university officials were unsuccessful. Lee Tune, associate director of university communications, referred Capital News Service to Millree Williams, senior director for public affairs strategy. Williams could not be reached for comment.
The pirates could have been a boon to the Hoff Theater, too, which Wednesday had pre-sold more than 50 tickets.
"(The movie) can help boost our budget for next year," said senior Alex Campbell, who voted-in favor of the film as a member of the theater's student programming committee.
Campbell said that after some back and forth with committee members over whether the screening complied with the mission statement, the group voted unanimously to get in on the action. He expected all 550 seats to sell out.
He was probably right.
Nearly five years ago, the university screened the groundbreaking pornographic film, "Deep Throat," to a packed house, followed by a panel discussion on the evolution of pornography in cinema. "Pirates II: Stagnetti's Revenge" recently received rousing applause from thousands of students on its college circuit tour to Northwestern University, Carnegie Mellon University and UCLA, among others.
The movie may be offensive, but it's giving the students what they want, said Lisa Cunningham, program coordinator for the Hoff Theater, which rents its own space and generates its own income, receiving only a small portion of Student Union activity fees.
Cunningham said students lobbied for years "to show another hard-core film." They would've gotten their wish Saturday, with a side of education, if university officials hadn't pulled out of the midnight screening.
Laura Meyers, CEO and president of Planned Parenthood's Metro Washington chapter was grateful for the opportunity to school students in ways to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and make responsible sexual decisions, although she wouldn't have stayed for the show.
"The only pirates I like are the Pirates of the Caribbean," she said, and Planned Parenthood does not endorse or support pornography in any way.
Still Meyers was willing to swallow her distaste for the film, recognizing the showing could have been a unique opportunity to reach a large number of students.
"We need to use all the tools in our arsenal to reach students where they are," she said.
But Maryland legislators refused to take it lying down.
"There's nothing healthy about it," said Harris. "There's nothing fun about it."
Capital News Service contributed to this report.