Column misrepresented Shalek’s work during his tenure as Ward 1 alderman

To the Editor:

I found Ted Fertik’s Wednesday column (“Shalek hasn’t lived up to campaign promises”) to be both biased and myopic. Shalek regularly engages activist students on campus, and, more importantly, has worked with laudable enthusiasm and energy to solve the problems facing the city of New Haven.

Fertik notes that Shalek’s Ward 1 Web site has not materialized. True, but he has instituted a regular constituent e-newsletter. While perhaps Fertik would check Shalek’s Web site each day, I am happy to receive updates to my inbox. I have not seen any YCC polls, but I do regularly see Shalek around campus, often deep in discussion with undergrads. I would add that he regularly meets with New Haven Action, Fertik’s own New Haven-oriented nonprofit. Poll or no poll, Shalek has fulfilled the spirit if not the letter of his campaign promises.

I think it’s great that Rachel Plattus has held tons of events around campus to engage students. But Shalek too has worked to reach out to students, both supporters and opponents. Rebecca Livengood, his former aldermanic opponent, could attest to his active efforts at engaging her after last year’s election. It is true that Shalek does not spend much time holding large PR events. Rather than holding sizeable campus forums, he prefers to engage individuals, as this mode better facilitates concrete discussion and debate.

A careful observer would recognize this attitude as manifesting itself in all of his work. As Fertik notes, Shalek has stayed out of the spotlight, preferring to “work hard at his job” rather then “provid[ing] fuller coverage of local politics.” Perhaps he can be criticized on these grounds. But there are only so many hours in the day, and change in New Haven is slow and incremental. Given the urgent needs of the New Haven community, I would prefer that he keep up the hard work on his job as city legislator, and hold off on putting together a new Web site. After all, the YCC needs something to do.

Nathaniel Loewentheil ’07

Feb. 14

Narrow portrayal of porn made the business sound much worse than it is

To the Editor:

Chase Olivarius-McAllister made two false assumptions in her Wednesday column (“Free speech aside, porn is pernicious”): all porn is bad, and all porn is exploitative. These kinds of equivocations are not only misrepresentative, but they eliminate the possibility that any pornography can be beneficial for its consumers — and even its producers.

The idea that all porn is “terrible for women, for men and for how we have sex” is the hard line of the anti-pornography feminist movement. There is, however, a vibrant group of sex-positive feminists who believe porn can be healthy and constructive for women. Nina Hartley is perhaps the best example of this, becoming a hugely popular pornographic director and producer of films that she feels are empowering to female viewers, her client base. The average American can also enjoy pornography in an empowering, humane way, as shown by the fact that the incredibly violent and sadistic rape pornography cited is a miniscule fraction of the porn consumption of this country.

The point I found most uninformed, however, was that porn actresses are exploited and coerced. The federal government already requires that age and consent documents be kept, and current STD testing information is required at most mainstream porn production companies. As far as a “fair wage,” an actress working for a big-name Internet site can make anywhere from $300-$1,000 for a few hours of work. These women usually have an extremely small skill set, and the job, as one might imagine, requires little training. If making $150-$500 an hour for a job with no training or skill set is exploitative, then hundreds of thousands of highly skilled lawyers, doctors and businessmen are being exploited daily.

There is simply no coercion in porn. If an actress feels exploited, she can leave and work at the kind of minimum-wage job her skill set affords her. There are legions of people waiting to take her place.

Jake McGuire ’10

Feb. 14

The writer is president of the College Libertarians.