Sex Radicals’ International Conspiracy Afoot In RI, Apparently

Donna Hughes, the URI professor who has made it her personal mission to ban prostitution in the Ocean State, has used a lot of tactics over the years.  She has testified before the state house, she has written melodramatic newspaper editorials, she has put a lot of words in quotes for no reason, and she has created her own anti-trafficking coalition because she disagreed with the one that was already there.  But now, in response to the letter to state legislators signed by fifty academics explaining why indoor sex work should not be criminalized, she has taken to personal attacks.

Just days after the release of a Canadian study indicating that criminalization actually increases the chance of harm to female street-based sex workers, Hughes wrote a missive implying that the signers of the other letter are all sexual deviants with an agenda to take over the world.  (No, really.)

The signers of the letter, particularly Sex In The Public Square’s Elizabeth Anne Wood, are mercilessly subjected to Hughes’ McCarthy-ish scare tactics.  “We found shocking information about what they stand for and the goals of their international campaign,” says Hughes about the fifty signers of the letter, and apparently she plans to eventually tell us all about them. [full disclosure: I also get an indirect mention.  Hi!]

Wood–who is not, as Hughes states, affiliated with $pread Magazine except as a subscriber–is described as “crossing the line into sex offender territory.”  (There isn’t even a “possibly” in front of that statement.)  Questions addressed by commenters on Wood’s site–about parenting, no less–are linked to Wood as though she herself said them.  An entire paragraph is devoted to the fact that she went skinny-dipping once.  Another is devoted to the fact that Wood likes bondage, as though her personal sex life as a New York teacher was in any way relevant to the laws of Rhode Island. There’s another paragraph about how “[her opponents’] international campaign is being orchestrated using Internet technologies, such as blogs, Twitter, and Facebook.” Internet technologies!  The nerve!

Hughes wonders why signers of the letter come from places as far away at the Netherlands and New Zealand, neglecting to point out the important fact that prostitution is legal in both of those countries.  (Also, you’re not allowed to voice opinions about laws happening in other parts of the world?  What an odd idea for a woman who teaches a class called International Women’s Issues.)

She implies that more tawdry letters are forthcoming.  And she still insists on putting the words sex work in quotes.  More on this as it develops.

[Hughes’ photo via, where, incidentally, the most recent student comment mentions that “she is incredibly prejudiced against Islamic people and culture, has a terrible teaching style and is publicly rude to her students.”  Just saying.]

13 thoughts on “Sex Radicals’ International Conspiracy Afoot In RI, Apparently”

  1. Annie Messier

    Wowsers, Matthew. This is disheartening indeed. Donna Hughes is affiliated time and time again in the media with URI. No matter how much she disagrees with Ms. Wood’s opinions, a professor at our state’s flagship university has no business making totally incorrect statements (a two-second search at lists their entire staff, which Ms. Wood is clearly not among, let alone as “executive editor”), trying to make strangers’ comments on a public discussion board appear as if they were spoken by Ms. Wood, or obsessively tracking others’ personal sex lives. Ms. Hughes’ letter makes me doubt the veracity behind her claims that at least one of the 50 signers of that letter was a student (name/proof?), and her elitist attitude that only those employed full-time can be considered “professors” (like adjuncts don’t count?) is disgusting. Unless she’s better researched and more level-headed in her other works, I weep for URI, who profiles her on the Women’s Studies page as a “leading national researcher on trafficking of women and children.”

  2. Its simply disappointing that the most outspoken of “activists” are usually just extremists and do not, on the contrary, fully understand the social and psychological factors within the subgroups they seek to protect. They are more reactionary than they are helpful and respond blindly without getting to know the facts and admissions to these situations and the people involved.

    Someone screamed fire. There must be a fire.

    I once had a professor at Rhode Island College who preached feministic ideologies in a sociology course, The Family. It wasn’t reviled, however, until the last day of the course that she was in fact a feminist-extremist when she so proclaimed herself.

    I received an almost failing grade for the course that semester on the basis of my interest in countering her extremest viewpoints (as a gay male) in a course that was developed to help us better understand the value and appreciation of various types of family and their memberships.

    Why are these people preaching and not teaching in our public institutions?

    Henry Louis Gates Jr. is another example of extreme and reactionary verbal violence in American institutions.

  3. Ps – 20 years ago the Women’s Studies department at URI was very much in the “tilting at windmills” vein. There was a lot of the “telling working women what to do for their own good” problem that has been the bane of feminism since the second wave started.

    It is disappointing to see that it hasn’t changed.

  4. You’re right Drew.

    I can’t see any student giving all fives except a 2 for difficulty and THEN saying the workload is reasonable.

    2 does not equal reasonable.

  5. Appears as though “The Professor” could be the author of several “user comments” on the website only to write in the “third person:”

    “Her goal is to have students learn and get as much out of her classes as possible. For the person who said they didn’t like her, it seems like you were lazy. The workload is reasonable.”

    “Professor Hughes is brilliant! I felt so blessed to learn from such a smart woman who is an expert in her field. I admire the work she does and was so sad everytime the class would end. Her lectures are so fascinating. I cannot wait to take her again next semester!”

    Give us a break!

  6. joe bernstein

    I am not 100% sure of this ,but Donna Hughes hasn’t interviewed a single sex worker that I’m aware.Tara Hurley certainly has.
    When I worked at Lincoln Park(now Twin River) some years ago,a lot of massage parlor workers and strippers used to come there to gamble,and they were regulars.The massage parlor workers in particular,had a LOT of cash to gamble with.I wonder how much tax they are evading as opposed to being allegedly enslaved?It might be nice to tax all that income.
    Ms.Hughes sounds like she’s on a mission of some sort.Why is she interested in the sex lives of other adults with consenting adult partners?Maybe she has a hangup about sex.She doesn’t seem to be very interested in pursuing her quest in a manner that would befit someone who has done research for a Phd.

  7. To permit sexual activity but make it illegal to market it is not only logically inconsistent but also contrary to the “American Way”.After all nothing is more American than the free market. Simple logic dictates that we should either legalize prostitution or prohibit sex altogether. Alternatively, perhaps sex should only be allowed between those who hold a marriage license. Maybe it should be looked at, like driving, as a privilege and not a right. Personally I don’t see why someone should be allowed to engage in it for free but not for a consideration.

    If the safety of sex workers is really the concern as opposed to the morality and tolerance of the sex act itself, then we should do as we do in all other industries- regulate protections for the workers. Criminalizing the workers and turning them into outcasts only makes them more vulnerable to those who would prey upon them whether it be financially or violently. Tjis might make sense if the prohibition actually prevented the activity but I don’t think anyone on any side of the issue would maintain that anti prostitution laws actually stop prostitution.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Providence Daily Dose