Thursday, February 14, 2008

Adult Film Star's Remarks (on Islam) Spark Debate

From the Standford Daily Online - February 14, 2008

Tonight's speaker to address safe sex in pornography

February 14, 2008

By Kelley Fong

Gay pornographic actor and activist Michael Lucas will speak tonight in Cubberley Auditorium regarding the role of the adult entertainment industry in AIDS prevention. But some students have raised concerns over controversial remarks attributed to Lucas about the Arab and Muslim communities.

As a result of the comments, members of the group Queer & Asian (Q&A) voted through email not to co-sponsor the event. Of about 15 active members, approximately half voted against supporting the event, with the lone affirmative vote retracted after a Q&A member sent out an email with more information.

Lucas has spoken out against the Muslim faith for its condemnation of homosexuality. In a New York Blade op-ed, he wrote, "the Koran is today's 'Mein Kampf,'" alleging that the Koran inspires followers to kill homosexuals.

"We just found [his comments] really personal for our group, because we are queer and Asian, and one of our main purposes is to talk about the intersection of race and sexuality," said Q&A co-president Herwin Icasiano '10. "As representatives, in a way, of the Arab and Muslim community, I don't think it would be wise on our part to sponsor the event."

Lucas, whose talk is entitled "The Role of Safe Sex in Pornography and Cultural AIDS Prevention," is the founder and CEO of Lucas Entertainment, a New York-based gay adult film company. He is known for his safe sex and anti-drug advocacy — a stance that prompted the Speakers Bureau to invite him to Stanford.

Carrie Mlynarczyk '09, a member of the ASSU Speakers Bureau, said that Stanford has hosted pornographic stars to discuss AIDS prevention in the past.

"A lot of people always come to those events," she said. "And AIDS is clearly a big issue on campus, so this is just an interesting perspective."

Mlynarczyk said she had not read all of Lucas's statements. But from what she saw, "he was expressing his concerns on an issue as opposed to trying to make a blanket statement."

"Clearly I'm not going to support or agree with anyone who is racist or discriminates against other groups," she said. "But when I saw what people were saying was controversial, I was a little confused. It seemed he was simply making statements about the ways that gay people have been treated in specific cultures, or events that have happened."

Patrick Cordova '09, an undergraduate senator and Speakers Bureau member, said that while he does not condone Lucas's opinions, his comments are rooted in real criticism of homophobia and hatred around the world.

"Do they induce some hurt feelings? Yeah, it appears as if that's the case," Cordova said. "But I don't see that there is a real connection between pornography and Muslim issues. The issue of sexuality and of individuals being susceptible to HIV/AIDS transmission — that's not race- or religion-specific."

Still, student reactions to Lucas's selection as a speaker raise questions about racial and religious prejudice.

"If he had made those statements about black people or Jewish people or Native American people, would they still be tolerated?" said Fatima Hassan '09, president of the Muslim Student Awareness Network (MSAN). "I don't have a problem with the event — I just wonder why [his comments are] so tolerated."

Cordova said that Lucas's offensive statements should not preclude him from having an opportunity to speak on campus about a separate issue.

"If we want to cut down on racism and sexism and homophobia in this world, we need to confront it," he said, inviting students to engage in a dialogue with Lucas.

"I would be shocked if no one asked him about his political beliefs, and I hope people do," Cordova added. "I hope that some of the individuals who have spoken out against this event show up and ask the tough questions."

Though Icasiano said he believed challenging Lucas on his beliefs was important, he does not plan to attend the talk.

"[Some Q&A members] wanted to show to the queer community and the community of Stanford that we are not supporting this event," he said.

As of Tuesday night, Q&A members had not reached a consensus about whether they would boycott the event.

Speakers Bureau members emphasized the importance of open discussion despite some students' beliefs about Lucas.

"We didn't intentionally bring him here for speaking out against Muslims," said Speakers Bureau Director Meera Venu '08. "We obviously didn't mean to offend any communities, but we think that a discussion of ideas is productive."

Lucas' talk will begin at 7 p.m.

No comments: