Friday, March 19, 2010

Wanker's molehill is newspaper's mountain.

Warning: This post is not suitable for small children or conservatives. Really. You have been warned!

Allow me to play Devil’s Advocate, for there are times the Devil needs an advocate, regarding an uproar at the University of Hawaii. The student in question, who I shall identify by his first name only, Tim, enjoys showing his body off. By his own admission he is an exhibitionist. (I warned you conservatives not to enter here.) Tim uses the screen name Speedostudent for himself.

From what I have been able to discern, this self-proclaimed anarchist, is an ethical exhibitionist. That is, I know of no claims that he exhibited his sexuality in a way that forced others to watch him. He wasn’t one of those men in raincoats searching out unwilling participants to their game of show-but-don’t-tell.

Speedostudent’s exhibitionism seems to have been confined to videos of himself masturbating, which he uploaded to an adult website. Three weeks ago he filmed himself, in the act of self-love, in an empty classroom at the university. Of the five such videos he has posted, this is the only one that was filmed outside the privacy of his room, or outside the confines of his parent’s home.

From what I can tell Tim made sure that no one was there to see his performance. For his video he chose an empty room; well after classes had ended for the day. The only way anyone could see the video was by logging into an adult site dedicated to sexually explicit films and photos, many of them posted by individuals like Tim. It is a perfect, market-based solution to the voyeur/exhibitionist dilemma.

The dilemma existed because, under prior legal codes, both acts were illegal and technology did not allow the happy coordination of willing voyeurs finding willing exhibitionists. Those who wished to practice voyeurism found it difficult without resorting to peeping at unwilling performers. Those who wished to be seen equally found it difficult to illegally indulge their proclivities. Now the Internet, and video technology, allows willing exhibitionists to perform for thousands of happy voyeurs, all without involving unwilling individuals. It is a consenting, peaceful, voluntary exchange that makes everyone happy—except the moralists who seem only truly happy when they are miserable.

Tim’s situation was a bit more complicated as he chose to film his display on the campus where he is a student. Before I go into this uproar further, I need to take a detour back to the reality of college life at a fairly typical university.

I will discuss what I saw at the main university I attended as an undergraduate.

The first thing I can confirm was that students were having sex on campus all the time. I definitely know that students would, as they now say, “hook up” and engage in various sexual activities in numerous places. The fifth floor of the library was notorious as a spot where students would meet for sex. There were private study rooms that could be commandeered or some couples (sometimes more than couples) would find out-of-the-way toilets to use. Add to this the romps in cars in the parking lot, empty classrooms, dorm rooms, in the nearby wooded area and just about any other place you can think of, including various campus offices

I don’t want to leave the impression that the campus was one tangled mass of writhing, lubed bodies, as much as you might wish me to, but sex was both frequent and rather inconsequential. Many students on campus were actually glad that others were using the library, offices, empty classrooms or their cars for sex. Otherwise the common complaint was that roommates would use the dorm room instead. For many students this meant the non-participating roommate had to watch and/or listen to the amorous activities of the other roommate. Even worse was when they were asked to wait in the hall until it was over. Some ended up “locked out” all night. Of course, now and then, they got invited to participate, much to the horror of the conservatives who are still reading this in order to be horrified and titillated.

That only covered sexual acts with two or more individuals. When it came to the so-called “solitary vice” it was far more widespread. Bathroom stalls and showers were particularly chosen in these cases, as well as just about every place else as well. Having attended boarding school for several years, I was pretty much immune to being shocked by the masturbatory delights of others. I first saw such a thing in a dorm room before I even had any idea as to what it was. I was in grade school then. The swimming pool seemed to be a favorite location as were the group showers and the toilets. I will not attempt to recount how many times, in the course of daily life, such a thing would be stumbled upon. I can’t say I was ever really bothered by it. It didn’t break my leg, or pick my pocket, so I was rather blasé concerning the matter.

But someone who had come across Tim’s video did not find the matter as yawn inducing as I did. They filed complaints on campus. A female student, in her column for the campus newspaper, resorted to some pretty ugly tactics in misreporting the incident.

She claimed that Tim “has been endangering students by leaving his body fluids in many classrooms.” First, I have to chuckle that she can’t say sperm but resorts to using the euphemism “body fluids” instead. In reality there is hardly a risk to anyone from this. In medical reality this is less risky than some germ-ridden child spitting all over a birthday cake in order to blow out candles. If dried spunk were a threat to civilization, it would be illegal to shake hands with any adolescent male on the planet

The risks of disease, of any kind, are minimal. If the risk were larger, certainly the university I attended would have died off before second semester. I remember reading once that studies were done of what was found on stairway railings in various public locations. It is far more disgusting and revolting than some dried spunk—which I should note was one substance widely found on such railings. It really is best not to think of such matters, otherwise a compulsive fear may take control of you. We seem to survive fairly nice, in spite of these substances floating about us, so it’s best to forget about them. Just consider for a moment that you eat in restaurants using devices that were in the mouths of thousands of people before you—including some really disgusting people. And you really don’t know how well washed those utensils were—see what I mean, it’s best to simply not think of such things.

Also, from reading Tim’s blog, and his own comments, it is clear that there were five videos and only one was filmed in a classroom. This journalist, with all the ethics of a real journalist I might add, was exaggerating when she referred to “many classrooms.” It was one. Tim did have photos of himself taken, wearing Speedos, hence his nom-de-porn, in many classrooms. But when it came to “bodily fluids” it was one classroom and that classroom would be easily identifiable from the video—in case teams of “toxic waste specialists” are required.

Our ethically challenged journalist said that Tim “shows pictures and videos of himself masturbating in building such as [several were listed here]….and possible more.” Wrong again. There were no such pictures, taken in a classroom, posted on Tim’s blog or at the adult website. The only such photos were of him in a bathing suit and he was not doing anything to induce the flow of bodily fluids. This instigator then tells students to “take appropriate precautions like disinfecting desks and washing hands frequently.”

With this sort of exaggerated, panic-inducing comments she has a future as an environmental reporter. Maybe Al Gore will hire her as a publicist.

What was even worse was that this journalist describes Tim, fairly accurately—think Christopher Atkin’s in Blue Lagoon—and then warns students to “not attempt to approach” him. She says if anyone sees him, or anyone else who is “sexually deviant” with “psychotic behavior,” that they should call campus security.

The term sexually deviant doesn’t say much and never did. It is a moral judgment, not a clinical one. But “psychotic” has some precise meanings. And there is absolutely nothing about this young man that indicates he is psychotic. Since some symptoms of psychosis include hallucinations, delusions and paranoia, I would say the student journalist is more psychotic that this kid. She was the one who hallucinated that this happened in numerous classrooms, and she was the paranoid bleating about disinfecting desks and warning students that they must not approach the young man in person.

I do not think it was a good idea for this young man to film himself in a classroom (though I do know of one such incident when I went to university). But neither do I think it was the tormenting disaster that the campus newspaper made it out to be. In one story, now deleted, they compared the young man to a pedophile. That the hysterics manage to drag that into everything and anything having to do with sex, will never cease to amaze me.

I am the first to say that the university has the right, within certain boundaries (limited because it is a state university) of regulating actions on campus. And, as long as they treat all students equally, I’m fine with that. But the rules for such things are vague and unevenly enforced. I’m not sure if it were revealed that a female student had masturbated a male student in an empty classroom, that there would have been this call for disinfecting desks and frequent washing of hands. If a university were to wish to attempt to ban all sex on campus I suggest they will end up without any students. But it also seems that Tim made an effort to prevent anyone from involuntarily witnessing his hobby.

Here is how I would have handled it, had I been a university official. I would meet with Tim and tell him that using classrooms, for his extra curricula endeavors, creates a problem. I would thank him for his cooperation in the future and suggest that if he ever markets his video that he share some of the proceeds with the university and perhaps steer him to a good porn agent in LA. I would also call in the student journalist and the newspaper editor and caution them about such hysterical, unethical distortions of the facts. According to Tim’s blog, “the student newspaper has retracted the libellous statements it made about me” and the “complaints about the video have been resolved with the school administration.” But it also clear that these reports deeply troubled and upset him.

As for another market-based solution: I might note that Tim really would like to have a career in adult entertainment, he enjoys what he does. So any producers out there might wish to cash-in (literally) on the publicity by hiring him for their next production. Those offended need not purchase it, those who wish to see it may do so and enjoy it. Tim is happy, his voyeuristic fans will be happy, the producer will be happy and a small band of moralistic types will be unhappy. It sounds like a win-win situation for everyone, even the moralists who relish every bit of “bad news” they receive.

Note: The DSM tends to define exhibitionism as a paraphilia where the individual is aroused by showing their genitals to unsuspecting strangers usually in a shocking way. This was more accurately modified later to refer to it as a psychiatric disorder ONLY if it included "acting out against others or substantial distress." In Speedostudent's case he did not act out against others and is most clearly not distressed, but actually rather pleased. I would suggest, as I did in the piece above, that much of the problem of exhibitionists "acting out against others" existed in the past because other options, for legal, consensual "acting out" did not exist. The current state of the law and technology created a more liberal atmosphere and has thus reduced the "harm" associated with this activity. Of course, I'm sure the Puritans are working hard to interfer with it, by numerous laws, all guaranteed to make matters worse for everyone.

UPDATE: The university newspaper has retracted and apologized for the remarks.
More information here.

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