Cuccinelli Explains Rationale Behind Criticism of GMU’s “Sextravaganza”

In his column “Freedom and Learning” in the current edition of Bacon’s Rebellion, Doug Koelemay criticised several conservative legislators for protesting an event billed as a sex education fair at George Mason University. Sen. Ken Cuccinelli, R-Centreville, has responded as follows:

Doug Koelemay, in his article entitled “Freedom and Learning” seems to be making the argument that George Mason University is rightly focused on the values he uses in his title, as demonstrated in the recent “Sextravaganza” event held on campus. He draws these values from the school motto, namely, “Freedom and Learning.”

There is an odd subtext that criticizes elected officials who dare to question anything the administration does, noting that legislators should only be performing “broad oversight and accountability functions”. Mr. Koelemay does not say what he means by oversight and accountability, but it is clear that his definition does not include actual oversight and accountability. Only a consultant that makes his living representing liberal Democrats could say this with a straight face.

It is interesting and revealing that Koelemay thinks it particularly egregious that the 5 legislators that opposed this event are legislators that vote against higher taxes. He does not tie this to his main point, he just sort of throws it out there unrelated to anything else in the article…. a lot like this paragraph….

Back to the main point. Now I may be wrong, but it would seem that Mr. Koelemay did not actually attend the event. I am drawing this inference because he harshly criticizes those who would “misrepresent” the event, but then he does that very thing. I am assuming this is because he is depending on third party reports and did not see the actual goings on (if he even bothered to get third party reports…). Click on “comments” in the line below to read the rest of this post.

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  1. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Cuccinelli comments continued…
    He describes the event in glowing terms – information, discussion, health examination information, preventing STDs . . . He fails to mention the triple-X marketing, the misinformation, the planned raffles of sex toys (e.g., dildos), and he even omits mentioning the name SEXTRAVAGANZA, preferring to describe it as a sex-ed fair.

    I would also point out that Mr. Koelemay ignored the fact that my active “oversight” of the event led them to tone down or eliminate some of the more salacious and overtly sexual aspects of the event that had been planned (e.g., the dildo raffle was canceled). NONE of these activities could have been condoned, even by Mr. Koelemay, at an institution of higher learning that seeks a semblance of intellectual respect.

    When I was an engineering student at The University of Virginia, I founded the first-of-its-kind in the country peer education group to educate collegians about sexual assault. After raising the money, recruiting the student volunteers, and arranging for our training, we embarked on the very difficult task of trying to talk to our fellow students about sexual assault. I can tell you from personal experience, that to discuss any aspect of sex with college kids/young adults, you cannot approach the subject with dildos and jokes. Humor has its place, but Sextravaganza was marketed as a ‘how to’ educational event, and the ‘how to’ was how to have fun. The notion was sold that you can avoid any of the pitfalls of casual sexual activity – all you have to do is put on a condom! What a great deal.

    There were numerous groups present, but this event was put together by the pro-abortion student group at GMU, not the health department. Does anybody seriously think that the presentation of sex is going to be accurate and balanced at such an event?

    Mr. Koelemay relied a good deal on the notion that freedom and learning are the mission of GMU. He hopes we will all buy into his notion that this involves any dissemination of information, no matter how inaccurate, misleading or unsupervised. I beg to differ. Citizens of the Commonwealth pay huge amounts of money to underwrite the cost of this institution of higher learning, and we seek the best for the students and the university. In addition, parents, for the most part, are forking out thousands of additional dollars in tuition and fees each year. It is legitimate to expect accuracy and intellectual rigor in the information being disseminated with school approval. State government should expect performance by the university which improves the standing of the institution among its peers. Does Sextravaganza pass that test? No. For those of us that care deeply about GMU (I have received two degrees there), the sullying of the university’s reputation is something to be avoided.

    At the event itself, information was presented that was factually incorrect. Moreover, some of the presenters explicitly acknowledged that they were presenting inaccurate information, but insisted that it was in the best interest of the students to be misled, since this would encourage students to “protect” themselves during casual sexual encounters. One specific example might help understand this point: when asked, one of the presenters freely acknowledged that condoms do not stop HPV or Herpes, but she said that they were knowingly giving out misinformation so that kids would use condoms. Hey Doug, how’s that for “freedom and learning?” No doubt George Mason himself would be beaming with pride.

    Information clearly intended to increase student participation in sexual activity was presented next to booths asking students to do something about the growing problem of sexual assault. Information was presented asking students to lobby for increased federal funds to solve the problem of STDs, as though funding offers any kind of solution to the significant consequences of voluntary behavior (this does seem to fit the Koelemay worldview…).

    Of course, we are talking about a university campus. There is some expectation that information provided on campus approximates reality. We would not see support for a university event, which taught that the world was flat and that immigrants from Russia settled America. What if they had a math conference where they intended to teach that 2+2=5? Neither should we support an event which teaches that condoms make casual sex (and homosexual sex) “safe,” when the evidence is overwhelming that, at best, they are helpful in decreasing the spread of some diseases but do nothing against many others. We would not support an event encouraging kids to explore the joys of binge drinking and we should not support one that implicitly encourages kids to participate in casual sex.

    There was a consistent theme to the emails I got that were upset with my stance on Sextravaganza, and put simply, they all said “safe sex = use a condom, you stupid legislator…” So much for their education on the subject… 4,000 women a year die of HPV (it causes cervical cancer, and men don’t show symptoms), and condoms don’t do a thing to stop HPV. Thousands of others are sterilized or in other ways victimized by casual sex. If we fail to prepare students at our major universities for these realities, it is hard to see how we are fulfilling our mission.

    The Center for Disease Control just released data on teen sexual behavior. They indicate in their study that an increasing number of students 18 and under are abstaining from sex. In fact, the stats for 2002 indicate that 70% of students under the age of 18 are abstinent. Should we assume that students over the age of 18 cannot demonstrate the same level of self control? If Mr. Koelemay is really so keen on freedom for college students, it might be beneficial for him to remember that in the realm of morality, freedom is not the right to do whatever you want (license), it is, in fact, the ability to do as you ought (self control). Now there is a value worth teaching. Let’s hope that future events at our universities take a more constructive approach to this serious subject.

  2. Ken, you never fail to entertain!

    What can I say – lots of “outrageous anecdotes!!!TM”, casual references to homosexuality (to scare the old people) and the usual condescending puritan tone. I enjoyed it, and I’m sure my friends will as well (I’m forwarding this on for entertainment purposes).

    If I could bottle you Ken…you’d sell for $100 at the laugh gag store.

  3. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    I would just note that speech criticizing or challenging the nature, location, and financing of other speech enjoys just as much First Amendment protection as any other kind of speech.

    Some folks are all for the most outrageous free speech but for some reason they blanch at the expression of a contrary view.

  4. Here’s my take:

    Cucinnelli says this is about “safety”. He wants to keep our children safe.

    In reality, this is about TASTE. Cuccinelli doesn’t like sex being talked about in a positive light in public. Since he’s blessed with a high elected position (Senator) he uses his position to supress something he feels is distasteful.

    Never mind that Cucinnelli seems to have forgotten that he went to UVA where student self-governance overrides his silly characature of the Animal House Dean.

    Never mind that sex toys, “dildos”, if you will, present absolutely ZERO public health risk. He claims this is about public health. I don’t know what kind of toys you’re using Ken (nor do I want to know), but the ones I’ve seen are fairly harmless.

    This is about taste. Ken Cucinnelli found this event tasteless. So he abused his power to try to suppress it. He bullied the school. He threatened to take legislative (not legal) action.


    Enjoy it while you can, Ken. The demographics in Fairfax are changing rapidly. You’ll have to move out to Prince William to get away with this foolishness pretty soon.

  5. There’s a huge difference between making public statements, and threatening to take legislative action. That’s not free speech. That’s the use of a government position to bully people into curbing certain types of speech.

  6. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    Ooh, nice try, Will.

    Isn’t the reason we have a law protecting free speech is so that you cannot challenge it?

    If Cucinelli wants to throw a Puritraviganza and see who shows up, then THAT is his right to free speech. If he wants to take a booth at the fair to promote his ideas, as others did, that’s OK too.

    But attempting to ensure that the kind of speech he objects to never occurs again, by putting a chill on funding, is a whole different thing, I think.

    If in his role as legislator he is a supervisor of Academics he has hired, then he has a dual obligation to let his hired experts do their job and to supervise their job. If he is unhappy with it he should take that up through the chain of command in their performance reviews or in private ( subject to sunshine laws) meetings.

    I’m a little fuzzy on this, help me out guys (and girls if you are out there.)

  7. Bob Griendling Avatar
    Bob Griendling

    Paul is right that Cuccinelli saw this event as a chance to polish his regressive credentials. He made clear from the beginning that he wanted the entire event canned and seems to defend that by claiming that there was some false information disseminated.

    His call for “intellectual rigor” ignores how one achieves that. It is through trial and error and certainly at the college level, students should not be afraid to make mistakes. If mistakes were made at the fair, they seem by Cuccinelli’s argument to have been minor when weighed against the solid information that was disseminated. “Intellectual rigor” is the same argument intelligent design advocates make. Ironically, they are the ones that by all scientific accounts are way outside the bounds of intellectual rigor but insist their cult-like movement is serious intellectually.

    What Cuccinelli means by “intellectual rigor” is his view of the world. If you disagree with him; you’re not intellectual rigorous. It seems more like intellectual rigor mortis.

    Cuccinelli also suggests that curing any disease or malady caused by voluntary behavior should not be addressed through government funding. I guess that means anyone who smokes or eats poorly should not benefit in any way from federal funding. Since medical degrees are in some fashion supported by federal subsidies such as research grants to medical schools, no doctor should treat victims of food, alcohol or tobacco abuse.

    Cuccinelli wants people not to do whatever they want but what they “ought” to do. The implications of his entire post is that he’ll decide what “ought” means.

    He clearly objects to sex toys but gives no explanation as to why. Perhaps he doesn’t think sex should be fun.

    He also clearly believes that sex before marriage is wrong as he wants even young adults to practice abstinence. Mr. Cuccinelli, will you state here for the record that you were a virgin when you married?

  8. Waldo Jaquith Avatar
    Waldo Jaquith

    We college students (I can say “we” for the next three days) are adults, not children. Any lawmaker who believes that adults are not free to discuss and engage in sex as they see fit can go…er…copulate themselves.

  9. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    I’m interested to see the strong civil libertarian streak displayed in the comments on Sen. Cuccinelli’s defense of his actions. I am sympathetic to some degree. What interests me, though, is that everyone is overlooking what seems to be the most substantive of Cuccinelli’s arguments: that promoting the use of condoms does not promote safe sex.

    Although condoms do safeguard against some of the most virulent STDs, they do not safeguard against all. In particular, Cuccinelli alleges that 4,000 women die of HPV per year (although, presumably, not all of them contracted the disease while their partners were using condoms).

    Does a state university not have a responsibility to protect the health and safety, if not the morals, of its students?

    Let’s change the scenario. Let’s say the NRA was promoting an “ExtravaGUNSa”, and there were lots of people showing off their semi-automatic rifles and other hardware, and a bunch of Survivalists were arguing that everyone ought to carry around a gun. Would the civil libertarians leaping to the defense of the Sextravanza also defend the right of gun nuts to engage in dangerous behavior?

  10. Bob Griendling Avatar
    Bob Griendling

    Jim, two comments:

    1)Your analogy is imperfect. Sex usually requires two people consenting in an activity that has some inherent dangers. Guns can harm without even the ignorant consent of the gunned down.

    2)While the danger of sex with a condom is a valid subject for study, thinking that was Cuccinelli’s reason for objecting the fair is naïve. It was only a rationale. Rationales are harmless; a state senator advocating the restriction of free speech is not.

  11. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    Parachutes don’t keep people from falling out of the sky, necessarily, and jumping out of the sky is probably as bad an idea as casual sex. Want to jump without one? Would you like instructions?

    Some things are not smart.
    Some things are not perfect.

    You do the best you can.

  12. Jim:

    I refrained from addressing Ken’s main arguements because they’re idiotic. Unworthy of comment. So far astray from the facts that they make my head spin. But I’ll try anyway:

    From the American Social Health Association Website:
    HPV and cervical cancer:

    There are many different types of genital HPV. Only certain types of HPV are linked with cervical cancer. These are usually called “high-risk” types.

    The types of HPV that cause raised external genital warts are not linked with cancer. These are called “low-risk” types.
    These wart-types of HPV usually are not usually found on a female’s cervix, and therefore, are not going to carry any risk of cancer.

    It is common for a person to be exposed and have more than one type of HPV, including several “high-risk” types. Yet, most women do not develop cervical cancer.

    Cervical cancer usually takes years to develop.

    The majority of cases of cervical cancer are in women who have either never had a Pap smear, or have not had one in five years or more.

    Cervical cancer can be prevented if a female gets a Pap smear at regular intervals. This way, if abnormal cell changes are found, it can be monitored and / or treated before progressing to cervical cancer.

    Most of the time, men will not have any symptoms or health risks such as cancer with the “high-risk” types of HPV. It is the female’s cervix that needs to be monitored.

    There you have it. Women can detect and prevent cercical cancer if they get a papsmear.

    Most importantly: HPV rarely causes cervical cancer!!! And with the right information, women can lower their risks to a laughable percentage!

    It’s men like Cuccinelli who block open discussion of STDs and sex (or any non-abstinence sexual education) who make it nearly impossible to get this information out.

    I don’t know if the “Sextravaganza” had all of the right answers. But at least they tried. And they tried to make it fun, as well…

  13. Waldo Jaquith Avatar
    Waldo Jaquith

    promoting the use of condoms does not promote safe sex.

    Although condoms do safeguard against some of the most virulent STDs, they do not safeguard against all. In particular, Cuccinelli alleges that 4,000 women die of HPV per year (although, presumably, not all of them contracted the disease while their partners were using condoms).

    Does a state university not have a responsibility to protect the health and safety, if not the morals, of its students?

    Promoting the use of seatbelts does not promote safe driving.

    Although seatbelts do safeguard against some of the most common injuries, they do not safeguard against all. In particular, I allege that 4,000 people die of side-impacts per year (although, presumably, not all of them died while they were wearing seatbelts.

    Does a state university not have a responsibility to protect the health and safety, if not the morals, of its students?

  14. Anonymous Avatar

    Where’s Ken?

  15. Anonymous Avatar

    Nicely done, Waldo

  16. Kenton Ngo Avatar
    Kenton Ngo

    As Supreme Ayatollah for Vice and Virtue, I, Senator Ken Cucinelli, decree that my idea of sex is more important than yours.

  17. Pastor John Avatar
    Pastor John

    lord have mercy. ken cuccinelli has inhabited the sole of similarly named kenton ngo. i knew he was a man of god, but i had no idea he had these sorts of powers.

  18. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    Well, well, well… It seems it’s a slow day in Liberalville today, so they’re all hanging out around this blog!

    As a parent of a GMU student who pays for her college tuition, I applaud Sen. Cuccinelli for taking action in this matter. I don’t send my daughter to GMU to learn (or to be misinformed) about sex–if that was the objective, I could save big bucks by not sending her to GMU in the first place…

  19. Anonymous Avatar

    Hear, Hear Phil. You guys are all nuts! Cuccinelli never tried to repress anyone’s speech. All he said was we shouldn’t be using taxpayers dollars to put on such misinformation. If people want to make fools of themselves and endanger others on their own dime in the name of “free speech” have at it, but don’t do it on my dime!

  20. Anonymous Avatar

    Thats exactly what your tax dollars used to fund abstinence only sex education have been doing for years dumbass.

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