LOS ANGELES – Tucson, Ariz., is the home of the University of Arizona Wildcats — and some wild workshops at the Sex Workers Arts Festival.
Funded by taxpayers, the four-day festival, which started last week, offered students, faculty and the general public lectures on "spiritual sexuality" and "sexual slavery," as well as a "sacred prostitute workshop" with live demonstrations and other offerings.
"The scholars talking, the students talking, the sex workers, the activists, the labor people, the gay-lesbian crowd — the dialogue was amazing," festival co-director Julianna Piccillo said.
But the Arizona festival, along with another scandal at an Indiana university, opened up debate on where the learning should end and sex should begin at college.
Classes at the Arizona festival include sadomasochism workshops and a "real sex magic workshop" that teaches "sacred awareness through breath, touch, sacred sounds, and dance" in which "participants … leave with personal formula for assessing their own seed of orgasmic consciousness."
"What it really is is an art festival that provides an opportunity for people who are not heard in the mainstream media to tell their story about the industry," Elizabeth Burden, the director of festival sponsor Pan Left Productions, said on The O'Reilly Factor.
Piccillo said subjects like "orgasmic living" may seem taboo but are actually quite educational, and an appropriate use of public money.
"The several hundred thousand women who are dancers in this country, or phone-sex operators, or models or porn actresses are also paying taxes, and I think that they have a right for their voices to be heard," she said.
Of course, not everyone wants to hear that voice.
"This is one in a continuing series of Mickey Mouse courses, silly courses, stupid courses, lightweight courses, as far as I'm concerned," talk show host Larry Elder said. "The outrage is I'm paying for it."
Lori Klein, executive director of the Taxpayer Protection Alliance, agreed.
"We're facing a $1 billion budget deficit here in Arizona and I find this to be very poor taste as a taxpayer, and certainly I'm sure other taxpayers around the state would not want the University of Arizona sponsoring this kind of a job fair, because that's really what it is," she said.
The university insists none of their money went toward promoting the controversial festival. It was underwritten by a public-funded arts council and held both off- and on-campus.
University of Arizona spokeswoman Sharon Kha said the school was an appropriate place for the festival's on-campus events.
"Universities are traditionally a place where there's an open market where dialogue can occur about religion, about war and peace," she said.
Or in this case, dialogue on "the art of erotic dance for fat-bottomed babes."
Other universities have also lately had trouble maintaining the line between sex and education. At Indiana University, officials are probing whether any laws were broken when pornographic filmmakers from Shane's World entertainment, based in Van Nuys, Calif., used a campus dorm to make an adult movie last month.
The officials are also trying to determine whether the 20 to 30 students who took part in the filming violated any campus rules. Witnesses said some students had sex with the porn actresses.
"We chose Indiana University because it was ranked the No. 1 party school in the nation," Shane's World spokeswoman and adult-film actress Calli Cox said on The O'Reilly Factor. "And we wanted to see why it was ranked that. And as you know … college campuses are open to the public. So we went on campus."
Filmmakers were invited into the dormitory by a resident student, and scouted out student volunteers well in advance of filming by contacting campus groups such as fraternities and the bowling club, Cox said.
Chancellor Sharon Stevens Brehm said she was unaware the film crew was in the dormitory for three days, even though the campus police were called at one point.