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ANNAPOLIS (April 3, 2009) -- University of Maryland students and educators said forget busty pirates and orgies, they've been exploited by state lawmakers who are using them to fight a culture war and bullying them with their budget power.
University officials on Thursday cancelled a showing of the XXX flick "Pirates II: Stagnetti's Revenge," under threat of an amendment by Sen. Andy Harris, R-Baltimore County, that would have robbed state aid from universities screening porn.
Legislators who argue porn objectifies women called it a victory against an offensive industry. But some students and educators said sword swinging pirates are less offensive than legislators who use students to champion an agenda.
"I think this reflects the sort of moral posturing by the right we've seen for the last eight years," said Robin Sawyer, a professor of human sexuality at the College Park campus.
Sophomore Liz Ciavolino, a member of Feminism Without Borders, said she feels downright used.
"I feel like it was really part of a larger culture war and less about protecting women from exploitation," she said of the Senate's involvement. "We're all really upset that they would bully us with their budget power. This is our university."
It may be the students' university, but it's funded by taxpayer dollars, said Sen. Joan Carter Conway, D-Baltimore. She said if the students wanted to have the screening then it should not have been subsidized by a facility on campus.
That may be true, but threatening to cut state aid to a cash-strapped university for showing porn is a "violation" of First Amendment rights and an ineffective way to address pornography, said senior Kenton Stalder.
He's using his outrage to mobilize. Stalder, a member of the Women's Studies Honor Society, is also a member of the Student Power Party, which is organizing a protest, a sit-down with Annapolis legislators and a lecture by university professors on First Amendment rights.
He said his mother would be proud.
"I'm positive that although my mother is not a fan of porn, she wouldn't have a problem with me going to the screening or being involved in a protest," he said."We feel our rights have been violated."
Sen. Janet Greenip, R-Anne Arundel, said it was "unfortunate" that the legislative body had to take "such dramatic steps" in order to quash the screening. But they were necessary steps.
"Colleges are supposed to be wholesome," she said. "And might I say that pornography is much more addictive and harmful than alcohol or tobacco."
That argument is almost "laughable," said Sawyer, the human sexuality professor.
"If it is so dangerous then thousands of college students are already addicted," he said, arguing pornography is available to students 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via the Internet, which virtually every student has access to.
Sen. Nancy Jacobs, R-Cecil, said that around-the-clock access is precisely why the university should not and does not need to provide a forum for porn.
"If guys want to view triple X movies with their buddies, that's fine. But it doesn't belong on a college campus in state funded buildings," she said. "We should be teaching about respect of the opposite sex not degradation of the opposite sex, which is what this film does."
Jesse Jane, a star of the swashbuckling film, said the senator has it all wrong and argued that any legislator who has not seen the movie has no right to judge.
"This movie is not exploitative," she said, adding it was produced by a woman-owned company and has such a robust storyline that it was made into an R-rated version to be sold at Blockbuster.
"This is a really good movie," she said. "It isn?t all about sex."
Jane applauded the students on their efforts to organize a protest and said, "I would love to attend."
Capital News Service contributed to this report.