Sexually Themed Art Show at W&M Sparks Controversy


RICHMOND — An upcoming sexually themed performance-art show at the College of William and Mary has felt the opposition of a state legislator. The universitys president, Gene R. Nichol, is standing by his decision to allow the show to go on.

The Sex Workers Art Show features a cabaret-style venue and includes music, burlesque and spoken word. The group represents people from all areas of the multibillion-dollar sex industry.

Members of William and Marys student government approved the show. The Student Assembly Finance Committee will provide $1,450 from student fees to pay for the event.

Delegate Bob Marshall, R-Manassas, passed a bill in 2005 that requires both two- and four-year institutions of higher education in the commonwealth to publish annually a list of organizations and people student fees support.

Now I can understand why Nichol cant raise money for the university, Marshall said. Hes spending his time inviting pimps, prostitutes and dominatrixes on campus.

Marshall said that because the university is public property, sexually explicit material should not be allowed on campus.

The Board of Visitors really needs to do something about this, he said. A show of this nature doesnt appeal to the smarter sect at a place of higher learning; it appeals to the duller and dumber sect.

Nichol issued a written statement on the College of William and Mary Web site last week.

My views and the views of the community about the worth or offensiveness of the program can provide no basis for censuring it, Nichol stated. The First Amendment and the defining traditions of openness that sustain universities are hallmarks of academic inquiry and freedom.

Michael K. Powell, rector of the college, issued a similar statement on behalf of the Board of Visitors. Powell said that it was students who decided to bring the Sex Workers Art Show to the campus and that they think it offers some value. Powell mentioned the show was scheduled to be held at George Mason University and Virginia Commonwealth University, as well.

Dr. Reuban B. Rodriguez, associate vice provost and dean of VCU student affairs, said in an e-mail that the Sex Workers Art Show will not return to VCU.

We have asked the Sex Workers Art Show to remove the listing for VCU and the event will not be held on the campus, Rodriguez stated. The main determination was regarding contractual issues that arose from last years performance.

Marshall said he supports the decision not to allow the show on VCU grounds.

The folks at VCU did what they were supposed to do, Marshall said. Nichol needs to stand up and do his job the right way.

Nichol received criticism this past year for his decision to remove a cross from the campus chapel, and a major donor to the university withdrew $12 million. 
A William and Mary parent and Richmond resident, Kay Montgomery, opposes the Sex Workers Art Show.

Gene Nichol needs to redeem himself after the Wren Chapel fiasco and put a stop to this nonsense, Montgomery said. I am appalled at the filth allowed on campus, and I am outraged that I have to pay student fees to fund such a vile event without my consent.

In a statement last year, Annie Oakley, founder of the Sex Workers Art Show, said the performances main focus is not striptease.

The show is a form of cultural activism. Its purpose is to entertain the audience while at the same time getting the audience to confront stereotypes they hold about sex workers, Oakley said. People who work in the sex industry are constantly fetishized, mythologized or demonized.