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The Good Ole Days When Thousands Of Students Watched Porn In Forum

Imagine scanning through your morning Penn State news feed and stumbling upon a headline entitled “Undergraduate Student Government Porn Resolution.” This was run of the mill in the 80s, when sexual liberation was enjoying the end of its peak, and pornographic films were shown in Forum.

Initially sponsored by the Association of Residence Hall Students and Undergraduate Student Government (USG, think old-school UPUA), the pornographic film showings started in 1980. At two dollars a ticket, anywhere from 500-1,000 students (an almost equal split of men and women) a weekend sat in one of the most notoriously stuffy buildings on campus to watch people have sex. According to a Daily Collegian article from the era, the showings brought in $1,000-$2,000 a weekend.

The success of paying two dollars to sit in a sea of awkward boners is puzzling, but this was the 80s. VCRs weren’t mainstream, and desperate times called for desperate measures. At Penn State you can get charged for indecent exposure in your own room and the Code of Conduct states “engaging in disorderly, disruptive, lewd, or indecent conduct” on campus is subject to disciplinary action. It’s safe to say masturbating was frowned upon, and it was understood that no one would be allowed to touch themselves or anyone else.

 “The majority of the organization’s discussions centered around security concerns but, when actually shown, there was little if any disturbance” Scott So, the co-chair of AHRS Cinemas at the time, told the Daily Collegian in a 1997 retrospective piece. It seems students were just trying to watch porn in peace.

The popularity of the x-rated films wasn’t unanimous. The brunt of the opposition didn’t come from the administration, though. University administrators weren’t thrilled about it, but didn’t actively protest or shut down the viewings. Most antagonism came from a self-proclaimed “porn task force” created by the Department of Women’s Concerns and a group called Students Opposing Pornography. Students Opposing Pornography, or STOP, submitted an editorial condemning porn as a “society-destroying institution” that the Daily Collegian published in 1988.

“It’s sickening to think that sponsoring hard-core X-rated movies has any place in student government (or any government), an institution of higher learning, or a civilized society at all,” the group wrote. It continued to describe the showing of pornography as  “as much a travesty as discrimination in South Africa and Ortega illegally holding thousands of political prisoners in Nicaragua.”

STOP also compiled a petition with just under 2,000 signatures from students opposing AHRS-sponsored porn. AHRS responded with a unanimous decision to keep on sponsoring the weekends. They were a major source of income, and the thousands of dollars they grossed all went towards other student activities.

After USG pulled out its funding in 1986, then-director of AHRS cinemas Armin Prediger told the Daily Collegian advertisements endorsing porn in Forum dwindled. With the VHS becoming more mainstream, sales dipped. Reputation may have played a part, as well. Penn State was acquiring a new, nationwide nickname: Porn State.

Between the drop in sales and concerns about reputation, AHRS discontinued the showings in 1988. By the mid-eighties, the VHS boomed in popularity and porn became more accessible through cable TV. Students had a new-found privacy and could watch porn without locking eyes with acquaintances in-between scenes.

Now that virtually any genre of people getting it on is available at the tip of our fingers, it’s unlikely that Forum will ever turn into a weekend porn theater again. But rest assured–when people get nostalgic for the simpler, pre-internet times, they’re almost definitely talking about porn-gazing with 1,000 of their closest friends in Forum.

About the Author

Sara Civian

Sara Civian is one of Onward State's three ridiculously good looking managing editors, a hockey writer at heart, and an Oxford comma Stan. She's a senior majoring in journalism, minoring in history, and living at Bill Pickle's Tap Room. Her favorite pastimes are telling people she's from Boston, watching the Bruins, and meticulously dissecting the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album. She's seen Third Eye Blind live 14 times. If you really hate yourself, you can follow her at @SaraCivian or email her at [email protected]

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