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Wake Forest hosts 'Porn Wars' Symposium


October 2, 2008

Wake Forest University will host a series of events examining the culture of pornography, beginning with the Porn Wars Symposium from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 25 in Carswell Hall’s Annenberg Forum, Room 111.  The series will continue the following weekend with a multimedia presentation on pornography’s effects on society, relationships and individuals, and a symposium on free speech. 

All events are free and open to the public.  The Porn Wars Symposium and the multimedia presentation are limited to individuals 18 and older.

During the Porn Wars Symposium, participants will examine the new directions and strategies of the pornography industry and consider how the proliferation of pornographic imagery reaches into the daily lives of Americans.  Matt Ezzell, board member of the Stop Porn Culture organization, will speak on masculinity and pop culture.  Ann Scales, visiting professor of law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law, will discuss new legal remedies to address the harm caused by pornography.  Jane Caputi, professor of women’s studies at Florida Atlantic University, will show her film, “The Pornography of Everyday Life,” and discuss images of pornographic attacks in this election on Hillary Clinton, Barack and Michelle Obama and Sarah Palin.

Wanda Balzano, chair of the Women’s and Gender Studies program at Wake Forest, says the broad goal of the symposium is to initiate discussions surrounding what has become a profound problem in society.

Patricia Willis, visiting professor of women’s and gender studies and activist-in-residence, hopes to show all of the attendees that pornography is not just a bit of harmless sex fun.  “The effort behind pornography is to maintain patriarchal culture’s domination of women as well as to secure the industry’s $20 billion a year profit in the U.S. alone.”  Willis has a long history as a feminist activist, both nationally and globally in various areas, particularly in violence against women issues.

As activist-in-residence, Willis teaches students how to translate what they have learned in the classroom into action.  Students in Willis’ course, “Teaching Feminist Activism and Creating Feminist Activists,” are taking the lead in organizing the event.  The students will participate throughout the day as moderators and panelists.  Willis says this is an opportunity for the students to enhance their academic skills of debate, consensus and critical thinking in a public forum.

In conjunction with the Porn Wars Symposium, the following events will take place the weekend of Oct. 30:

  • Gail Dines, professor of sociology and women’s studies at Wheelock College, will present a multimedia exploration of “Sex[ism], Identity, and Intimacy in a Pornographic Culture” at 7 p.m. Oct. 30 in Brendle Recital Hall at the Scales Fine Arts Center.  Dines is co-editor of “Gender, Race and Class in Media” and co-author of “Pornography:  The Production and Consumption of Inequality.”  She founded the Stop Porn Culture organization and is a recipient of the Myers Center Award for the Study of Human Rights.
  • The Wake Forest School of Law and Women’s and Gender Studies program will host “Equality-based Perspectives on the Free Speech Norm:  21st Century Considerations” from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Oct. 31 at the Worrell Professional Center, Room 1309.  The symposium is designed as an international and interdisciplinary discussion of how a commitment to free speech should intersect with a commitment to equality, diversity and multiculturalism under the Constitution.

The Porn Wars Symposium and Gail Dines presentation are co-sponsored by the Women’s and Gender Studies program, the School of Law, the departments of psychology and sociology as well as a number of departments within the Office of Student Life.

Press Contacts:

Audrey Fannin
(336) 758-5237


Kevin Cox
(336) 758-5237


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