Sex Week at Yale 2008 made news again this year as the venerable institution not only hosted "The Great Porn Debate" for ABC's "Nightline" in which Ron Jeremy and Vivid Girl Monique Alexander argued the pro-porn position, but also spent one whole day devoted to Vivid.
Vivid co-founder Steven Hirsch lectured grad students on "The Business of Pornography: How Vivid Made it Mainstream" which was followed by a session in the Law School Auditorium on "The Story in X Rated Films/Sex and Content," hosted by Monique Alexander, Savanna Samson and award-winning director Paul Thomas. That was followed by a "Skull & Boned" party, where Vivid held a contest called "Who Looks Most Like a Vivid Girl."
The only problem occurred when Thomas screened a film for Yalies, that had not been pre-screened by the SWAY committee (nice work if you can get it) and students objected because it featured "violent" S&M and was Yale Daily News, "It's probably difficult for Paul Thomas to judge what's appropriate and what is not because he's been in the business so long."
Thomas doesn't disagree. We caught up with him to get his side of the story,
"I showed highlights from six films," Thomas said, "and I didn't show any hardcore excerpts at all. I showed 'Debbie does Dallas, Again,' 'Layout,' which had just won film of the year, all our big films from the last few years, 'The Masseuse,' 'The New Devil in Miss Jones.' And I showed just the best acting scenes and some very softcore sex. I did show a scene from 'Layout' in which a girl was tied to a bathroom shower stall and candle wax was dripped on her and I showed a scene from 'The New Devil in Miss Jones' in which there's nipple-piercing. Some of those images were too rough and seemingly abusive, mainly to one member of the audience – who happened to be one of the directors [of Sex Week at Yale] who reacted very emotionally, very viscerally. Who am I to say that he was over the top? It's not a matter of being wrong or right, he reacted. But 99 percent of the audience just loved it.
"So what did we learn from this? If they're concerned about images presented to them, they should screen them. And I also realized that with my sensibilities, I can't be trusted to judge the sensibilities of the Yale student body. I did my best, but I may have pushed the envelope a little bit."
What did you think of Yale's Sex Week overall?
"It's exciting for me," Thomas said. "I think it's very positive to get a bunch of young kids talking about sex and all of its ramifications in our lives. We too often don't talk about it and it comes back to bite us.
"But I don't much get into the great porn debate – as to whether it's right or wrong. I have no patience for that – whether it's abusive or not abusive, whether it creates a lot of damage to porn stars or not. I don't give a fuck. I'll let other people have that debate. And as I told the audience to begin with, I assume that everyone who's coming to my screenings or seminars has already accepted that sex is interesting, adventurous, good, maybe sometimes dangerous, but they've already accepted pornography as a part of life.
"I now have high hopes of returning to Yale to give a regular 13-week seminar and I'm working on that with the powers that be at Yale. I want to call it Vivid 101. It may not happen but certainly if the popular vote ruled it would happen, but I may be dealing with undercurrents of hypocrisy here."
So would you leave sunny California for not so sunny New Haven?
"I'd relocate to New Haven for a couple months. Be fun."
Paul, please don't. We think you're doing fine right where you are...we salute you!