PASADENA, Calif.—The hundreds of protestors never materialized during James Deen's speech at Pasadena City College on Wednesday. What did come to pass, however, was a frank discussion of sex and pornography that would have benefitted the public to hear and experience if they were only allowed to attend.
The day after college administrators forced the event to be closed to the public, Professor Hugo Schwyzer forged ahead, moving Deen's discussion to his classroom where approximately 50 students, plus pre-approved media, listened to Deen with rapt attention.
After all the brouhaha of allowing—gasp!—a porn star on campus, Deen's discussion in Schwyzer's Humanities 3 "Navigating Pornography" class occurred without incident. There was not a single protestor to be seen and no visible campus security presence.
"I thought the whole threat of protestors was hilarious," Deen told AVN after his talk. "Who's going to protest over me? It's just people talking. Who would protest people talking in America? The whole situation baffles me. Even if there were going to be protestors, isn't the whole idea of college to allow a free exchange of ideas? The only people who were going to attend my talk were those who wanted to. I wasn't going to be grabbing people off the street and forcing them to listen to me. The whole thing was just a bit ridiculous."
In addition to the threat of protestors, which the college claimed it didn't have the manpower to deal with, the school also claimed Schwyzer hadn't filled out the proper paperwork in order to make it a public event. Though Schwyzer had pulled a valid activity permit like he'd done in the past, the college legal counsel and vice president for academic affairs overrode it, Schwyzer said.
"To a large degree that was invented," Schwyzer told AVN about the threat of protestors, lanterns and pitchforks in hand, no doubt. "I think the administration was scared. You had a couple people complaining from the community but they weren't going to show up! And do what? It was just a big silliness over nothing. If people objected to a public event, then they were going to object to a private event too. If the threat of protests was so disruptive then either ban it altogether, violate my academic freedom and go to court, or let the event go on as scheduled. It doesn't make any sense."
In a wide-ranging talk that lasted over an hour, Deen, a Pasadena native and PCC alumnus, held forth on his views of a healthy sex life, navigating relationships, the business behind the porn industry and various legal issues the industry faces.
"I learn something new every time I do something like this," Deen said. "Having a conversation with college students, real people who really are growing in their sexual exploration and discovering their sexuality benefits us both I think, and a frank discussion about these important topics, along with demystifying parts of the porn industry to them is a conversation we all need to have since there is so little sex education happening. There are so many interesting things that deserve a place in the conversation and not to be swept under the rug."
Along the lines of sunlight being the best disinfectant, Deen began his talk by illuminating students on how he got into the business after attending PCC and working at a Starbucks right down the street. He said he got into the industry at a point of transition between the DVD world and the internet world.
"I think just in my time doing adult movies, people have become more sexually open and aware," he said. "There's less of the 'brown bag' aspect," associated with the shame of buying and viewing porn, "and the internet has a lot to do with that. The internet shoves sex in your face. And look at TV. Most advertisements are sexually driven. The internet is just a big jug of advertisement and entertainment and so much of it is sexually driven. It's given a lot of sex to the world, which in turn has made sex more socially acceptable."
But what Deen sees as the problem with this equation is that while there is rudimentary sex education as in "this is how babies are made," there's little to no practical discussion and education about such important topics as dealing with losing your virginity, peer pressure surrounding sex, open sexual communication, experimenting in a safe way, and using porn for entertainment.
Schwyzer believes that it's the rise of abstinence-only education, coupled with the lack of sex-ed classes and the rise of broadband internet that has people turning to porn to learn about sex.
"Do not do that!" Deen was quick to caution. "You would not watch Die Hard in order to learn about how to deal with a hostage situation. Porn is entertainment. People forget that a lot. …One of the arguments used during the Measure B debates was that people are learning about sex from pornography and that's why we should use condoms. It makes me want to strangle whoever said that because porn is not where you should learn sex education from. The idea behind the films we create are to have controlled safe environments where people are enacting fantasies. We're creating entertainment, not sex-ed videos. ...This is entertainment, it's not real life. Do not go and use porn as your only means of sex education. Porn is fantasy-driven sex. It should not take the place of real sex-ed that we need more of in this country."
Deen's engaging talk culminated in his taking questions from the audience. He opined on his popularity with the female audience, mainstream vs. porn moviemaking, how his family and friends reacted to his career, how he approaches sex in his personal life, and the whole 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon.
In the end, Schwyzer was happy with the content of Deen's speech and hoped his students took something valuable away from the experience.
"What I'm hoping that my students take away is something that busts a lot of the myths and misconceptions about the adult entertainment industry," Schwyzer said. "What makes James so dynamic on screen is what makes him important off screen. He's so fundamentally accessible, he's likable, and just by being here he shatters the myths many people might have about the people who do porn."