WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – To the consternation of several government officials, censorship advocates and college administrators, no murders, rapes or psychotic breakdowns occurred last night as a result of the annual Sex Workers' Art Show held for the third year in a row at the University Center Commonwealth Auditorium at the College of William & Mary.
The show, performed twice that night, featured prostitutes, porn stars and other sex workers reciting monologues and engaging in other performance art, much of it political, for the sold-out crowd of college students and other area adults.
According to the Williamsburg Times-Dispatch, tickets for both shows sold out quickly, with the 450 for the 9:30 p.m. performance selling out in less than half an hour, and the allotment for the 7 p.m. show shortly after that. Last year, a similar speedy sale occurred, with more than 400 students having been turned away after the ticket allotment was gone.
The show, the brainchild of former stripper/prostitute Annie Oakley, self-censored some of its acts this year owing to negative pre-publicity from conservative students, faculty and community members. That meant that strippers only were allowed to get down to g-strings and pasties, and it was unclear from press reports how the black leather-clad Asian woman may have tempered her domination of her leashed young male partner.
According to the college's own Daily Press, other acts included a singing stripper, a gay male prostitute joking about his clients' requests for "butch" dates, one of which he described in explicit detail, and a young black man in tights, a tutu and pink high heels, singing about violence and money before stripping down to his briefs, jumping in a wading pool, and lathering himself with baby oil and glitter while "America the Beautiful" played in the background. One local newspaper described it as "more like a risqué 'Saturday Night Live' than a hard-core stage show."
Three elderly audience members reportedly walked out during the "butch" dating segment, but apparently did not require medical attention. Additionally, campus police patrolled outside and inside the University Center, but no problems were reported. Police also attended the show itself, looking for what might be considered unlawful performances, but no arrests were made.
The unbelievable absence of violence and insanity engendered by the show didn't stop Virginia's Attorney General, Robert McDonnell, from prohibiting both any visual recording of the event and any sales of show-related merchandise – two additional sources of income for the show, which is perennially underfunded on its nationwide tour.
The show was brought to the college by a student organization, and was funded by donations, ticket sales and about $2,200 in student fees.
One on-campus objector was Prof. John Foubert of the Education Department, who failed to see the educational value of sex workers providing entertaining insights into their lives and occupations.
"To my knowledge, it [the First Amendment] does not give you the right to give a speech not wearing your clothes, gyrating your pelvis," Foubert said. "My objections are based on pornography and how it affects college students' attitudes and behaviors. When men are exposed to pornography, they behave more aggressively," he claimed.
"People's complaints aren't really about the content," Oakley retorted. "They object to the concept. I wish more people would just come out and say, 'Sex workers don't deserve a voice.'"