Scholar and Feminist IX Petition, circa 1982, page 2

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          May 15, 1982

We the undersigned strongly criticize the unprincipled actions of
a group calling itself the Coalition for a Feminist Sexuality and Against
Sadomasochism in its protest against the ninth annual Scholar and Feminist
conference, and in its personal attacks on several of the invited speakers
and planning committee members.

On April 24, 1982, the Women's Center at Barnard College held this
year's conference, entitled "Towards a Politics of Sexuality." The aim
of the conference, as its program stated, was "to address women's sexual
autonomy, choice and pleasure, acknowledging that sexuality is simultaneously
a domain of restriction, repression and danger as well as exploration,
pleasure and agency." To this end, the Women's Center and a planning
committee of feminist scholars, writers, students, and activists invited
some 40 women, representing a wide range of disciplines and perspectives,
to speak and lead workshops on sexuality and feminism. Their diverse
subject matter included such issues as feminist thinking about sex in the
19th century, debates about sexuality within the present movement, childhood
and adolescent sexuality, eroticism and taboo, the relation of sexuality
to class and race, and the question of whether there is such a thing as
a "politically correct" feminist sexuality.

The signers of this letter, many of whom were actively involved in
the conference as planners, speakers, or participants, regard it as an
important intellectual and political event, a breakthrough for feminism.
An understanding of sexuality is crucial to an analysis of women's
oppression, yet sex remains an explosive, politically dangerous subject,
evoking ecumenical hostility from the right, left and center. Within the
feminist movement, demands for ideological conformity have increasingly
stifled honest discussion of sexual issues.

We see the behavior of the Coalition——organized by Women Against
Pornography, Women Against Violence Against Women, and New York Radical
Feminists-—as an appalling example of this tendency. In the days preceding
the Barnard conference, Coalition members called prominent feminists to
denounce the organizers for inviting practitioners and proponents of
"anti-feminist" sexuality to speak. At the conference, the Coalition
distributed a leaflet protesting the event for "endorsing a tiny offshoot
of the women's movement that is part of the backlash against radical
feminism" and excluding "feminists who have developed the [sic;7 feminist
analysis of sexual violence." The leaflet also accused participants of
supporting violence against women and child abuse. Immediately afterward,
opponents of the conference began spreading rumors that it had been taken
over by sadomasochists.

What prompted these attacks? The half dozen or so women cited in
the protest flyer, either by name or by unmistakable hints, have all
spoken publicly,written, and/or joined organizations.expressing ideas about
sexuality, pornography, the anti—pornography movement, sadomasochism, or
butch—femme roles that disagree with the Coalition's politics. In choosing
speakers, the planning committee deliberately included feminists with
controversial ideas and minority viewpoints. We unequivocally support