Ron Jeremy connects reality shows’ “very strong sexual themes” to porn

Last night, I moderated a debate on pornography at Stetson University between The Surreal Life 2 cast member Ron Jeremy, who of course is not best known for his appearance on reality TV, and Susan Cole, an editor at a Canadian weekly. Ron, of course, defended his industry.

I’m struggling to remember much about friendship with Tammy Faye Messner, so I was a bit surprised by his sexism, awkwardness and condescension–and also by his generally weak arguments. He also kind of insecure, it seemed. I condensed a couple hundred word bio into a few sentences, because no one likes to listen to bios, especially not of people who they already know, and when he got on stage he was very upset that I didn’t mention his degrees–two bachelors and a masters in special ed–and even grabbed for a piece of paper on my table to review, I think, what I’d been given.

As part of the debate, which wasn’t much of a debate in the true sense of the word, Ron argued that sexuality was prevalent in the media, and said, “half of reality shows have very strong sexual themes,” and minors see those all the time. But he was also saying that he was a strong advocate for not letting children have access to adult films, so I was confused.

Ron Jeremy was definitely the star people came to see, and it’s kind of amazing that he’s still so popular. He got a partial standing ovation at the start, and people took pictures throughout, and lined up after the event to get pictures and autographs. When the audience revealed by a show of hands that most had seen porn before the age of 18, he said “perverted little bastards, you are,” and they laughed.

But it seemed to me that he alienated the audience more than he won them over. Arguing that adult films use women of all shapes and sizes, for example, he talked about being in a film with plus-sized women and said the he thought he just “had sex with a fold for an hour.” When a female student would challenge him, he’d condescendingly call her “honey,” and when discussing films with rough sex, he debated having the women in the audience raise their hands if they liked rough sex, but said, “If you raise your hand, the guy behind you’s gonna take notes.” That seemed to make most people uncomfortable, as did several of his asides.

At one point during the debate, he asked me to read a marked passage from several clipped articles, which he relied on frequently but couldn’t read, apparently without glasses. His opponent objected, arguing that having me read it would give that evidence more credibility. They sort of fake argued about this, and finally she relented and he handed me the passage. I said, “Now I can say that I can do something better than Ron Jeremy.”

Zzzziiiiiiing!

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.