Talking Dirty: 8 Cases of Censoring Sex Talk on Campus

November 28, 2013

By Phillip Moon at The Smoking Jacket

College is all about students being all exposed to new ideas and experiences-and we don’t just mean freshman freaking out at their first party.

Academic freedom is supposed to support free speech, but a mix of political correctness, unresolved gray areas and idiots who somehow got into college complicate speech and lead to censorship. Below are several cases of sex-based college censorship, courtesy of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

1. University of Montana Agreement Threatens Sexuality Courses

On May 9, 2013 the University of Montana and Departments of Justice and Education reached an agreement dealing with the school’s sexual harassment and assault issues. The agreement was called a blueprint for colleges and universities across the country. According to FIRE, the rules on sexual speech are not based on objective offensive speech, but what the victim feels is offensive. “Under this shockingly broad standard, speech that is offensive only to the most unreasonably sensitive person is still sexual harassment.”

FIRE intern Madeline Gootman wrote an essay about how, during a sexuality class, fellow students were shocked sex was discussed and her own sex-positive comments could have run astray of the agreement.

2. Colorado College Satirical Flyer Gets a Stern Letter

In 2008 Colorado College Feminist and Gender Studies program posted a flyer titled The Monthly Rag filled with announcements and random facts that a few people glanced at before stapling over a recruitment poster for the campus Hackey Sack club.

Two male students created a parody of the flier called The Monthly Bag, a male version that was a similar random assortment of facts and announcements. But because they added a random fact about sniper rifles above a sex column, they were charged with juxtaposing violence and sex and had a disciplinary letter put in their files.

3. Newspaper Advisor Fired for Uncensored “Streaker” Photo

In November 2011 the East Carolina University student newspaper published an uncensored version of a streaker in the newspaper, generating controversy.

In January 2012 Paul Isom, the newspaper’s advisor to the group, was fired for the photo being published. A lawsuit for wrongful termination was filed, with a $31,200 settlement in Isom’s favor.

4. Hampton University Denies Gay Group Recognition

Hampton University is a historically black college founded in 1868 when most other college and universities denied black students admittance. When LGBT students, another historically discriminated against group, applied for official group status they were denied without explanation.


5. Indiana University: South Bend Vagina Monologues Reporter Sanctioned

The Vagina Monologues has been a campus staple for the last generation of college students and is the big event during V-Day events across the world. In 2007 when student Robert Francis did an interview with the group putting it on, which was almost a beat story by that point.

One of the actresses took offense at his line of questioning about the “Hair” segment of the play (about shaving pubic hair) and filed a complaint and got his story pulled from the paper. He was fired from the newspaper and the administration held an informal hearing and sentenced him to invasive psychological exams, a “one way listening session” where he was hear his accusers but could not respond, and having to write a report on a film about sensitivity.

The case was largely overturned, though the complaint was kept on file and Francis’s own complaint was dismissed without a hearing.

6. Sidney University Cockblocks Front Page Vagina Collage

Honi Soit, the student newspaper for Sidney University in Australia, ran a front page story about vaginas, in order to counteract the image dominated by pornography. To illustrate the point they included a large graphic showing the vagina of 18 coeds.

The university pulled the images on the grounds it ran against indecency laws.

7. Oakland University Student’s Dirty Journal Gets Him Suspended

Joseph Corlett a 56-year-old student, was taking a writing course at Oakland University in Fall 2011. For his journal portion of the course he wrote an essay titled “Hot for Teacher” where he wrote about his lust for his writing professor. It was inspired by the Val Halen song, plus is a subject of numerous Penthouse Forum letters and an episode of the Wonder Years.

Corlett was given a three semester suspension for his journal and could not return until he took sensitivity training. An appeal in federal court was rejected when the judge claimed there were no First Amendment grounds to defend the journal on.

8. Rowing Team in Trouble for their “Cox”

In April 2012 the Tufts University men’s crew team went to the Spring Fling event wearing a team shirt that showed a silhouette of a crew team and the phrase “Check out our cox” (A reference to the coxswain, the guy on the boat yelling into a megaphone). The simple phallic pun got the team a complaint, the captains were suspended from the team and players were made to write apology letters.

After intervention by FIRE, the players were reinstated and the University backed off.

9. Columbia Lions Hockey Can’t Tell You Not to Be Pussy

A similar case to Tufts happened at Columbia University in 2006, when the Men’s Ice Hockey Club posted a recruitment flier. Playing off the lion mascot, the men’s team put “Stop Being A Pussy” on the flier. They were suspended from playing and put on probation for two years.

That caused a public backlash from the student government and civil rights groups, with Columbia administration revoked the suspension and reduced the probation to one year.

Schools: University of Montana Cases: Departments of Education and Justice: National “Blueprint” for Unconstitutional Speech Codes