The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Speaker quits porn debate after rape and death threats

Debate causes controversy, with backlash from students and planned protests

By and

A controversial feminist has pulled out of a student-organised debate on pornography after receiving death and rape threats.

Writer Julie Bindel, co-founder of feminist campaigning organisation Justice For Women, dropped out from the Manchester Debating Union (MDU) event after being sent 30 hate-mail messages. Three of the messages, Ms. Bindel told The Mancunion, were so severe that she reported them to the police.

Fierce opposition arose from students and trans-activists soon after MDU announced the lineup for their debate – titled “This house believes that porn empowers women” – on July 29.

The backlash stems from an article Ms. Bindel – who came out as a lesbian aged 15 – wrote for The Guardian in 2004 called ‘Gender benders beware’, which included controversial opinions on transsexual and transgender issues.

“I apologised for the tone in that article because I made really inappropriate jokes and it was just wholly inappropriate the way I dealt with it,” she said. “I apologised for that, but obviously that wasn’t good enough.

“The other stuff I’ve written has been…not in the slightest offensive or controversial or in any way designed to get a rise from transgender activists, but obviously I’ve been made a scapegoat.”

She added, “I was coming to debate pornography. I was censored from speaking about something that has nothing to do with ‘trans-genderism’, nothing at all.”

Trans representative-elect for the University of Manchester LGBTQ Society Loz Webb organized a demonstration to take place at the time of the debate after students told him it made them feel unsafe.

“I was unhappy that someone with a track record of transphobia was being given a platform during Welcome Week, as this creates a very unwelcoming and hostile environment to any new [trans] students,” Webb told The Mancunion. “When [trans] students informed me that they were also concerned and felt unsafe, I asked MDU to consider a replacement speaker.

“They refused to replace her with a speaker who was not ‘transphobic’ and [trans] students wanted to protest ‘transphobic’ hate speech on campus, so we organised a peaceful demonstration.

“I am glad that she is not speaking because her presence on campus was a threat to the safety, welfare and inclusion of [trans] students and sent a message to any new [trans] students that their welfare was unimportant.”

In a statement, the SU Exec team said, “We respect, support, and celebrate the right of our students to protest and to feel safe on campus. The Union has seen no evidence that any University of Manchester students were complicit in sending Julie Bindel rape or death threats and we wholly condem[n] anybody who has done so.”

MDU Chair Henry Phipps confirmed the change in speaker on September 11th.

“Ms Bindel has contacted me to tell me that in the face of threats and hate-mail, she decided that it is impossible for her to be able to speak at this event and that her presence there would prevent discussion of an issue she believes to be of the utmost importance.”

He added, “We completely condemn those who seek to shut down debate, through threats and intimidation. This behaviour is utterly unjustified, and diminishes the cause that these activists seek to enhance.”

Ms. Bindel said, “The whole idea that I would make trans people feel unsafe just by appearing to discuss a feminist issue, on which I’m an expert, seems ludicrous.”

She also said that, although people in Manchester had sent her threats, the experience had not soured her opinion of the University of Manchester.

“I don’t think it’s anything intrinsic with the university at all,” she said. “I think it’s a group of maniacs who are just hell-bent on hatred and viciousness, have too much time on their hands, and obviously have some deep-seated problems that they should get addressed.”

She added, “I would love to come back and do something again, this certainly won’t put me off.”

The debate – titled ‘This house believes that porn empowers women” – is still set to go ahead on Thursday September 19. The Speakers arguing in favour of the motion are former porn actress Renee Richards and Dr. Jude Roberts from the University of London. And arguing the opposition is No More Page 3-founder Lucy Holmes and a replacement for Ms. Bindel, yet to be named.

MDU ran into problems elsewhere promoting the debate when the Student’s Union Executive blocked proposed posters featuring pornographic actress Sasha Grey from being put-up in the Union or any affiliated buildings.

“We discussed the use of your photo of Sasha Grey in promotional materials for a debate. It was decided unanimously that we do not find it suitable to use said photo,” said a statement from the Exec to MDU, explaining it contradicted their Zero Tolerance of Sexual Harassment Policy, which upholds “to not display images in the Union which objectify, fetishise or stereotype people.”

The Students’ Union Exec also also censored this newspaper from printing the image in question.

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  • BlessPapaBenny

    LBGTQXYZ LOL

  • ivan

    Who censored the newspaper and how?

  • Pingback: "Transphobe" Julie Bindel banned from Free Speech debate | The Mancunion()

  • Harry Heller

    Pornography should be banned. Political speech should not be. We need to return to iron-fisted Church rule (though by an ideologically cleansed Church, freed from any PC heresies) in Western societies (we also need to expel all nonwhite settler-colonialists from Europe).

    • havebkyourway

      Playing porn on my other monitor right now. I opened Pornhub and selected the first video on the list, it’s titled EXGF-BIG BOOB BEAUTY BANG. It features a young lady who begins sucking the dick of a man using a computer. This is now being followed by cuts to a variety of positions while the girl exclaims the usual nonsense “oh my god”, “yea”, etc… Mainstream porn isn’t really my thing, but I’m going to let it play to the end because fuck you. Just on banning porn and the church thing. Expelling nonwhites from Europe? I could possibly get on board with that.