To the editors:

As a participant in the conference and neither woman nor academic I was disappointed to read Deanna Isaac’s “Sex, Porn, and Prostitution” [Our Town, March 12]. More specifically the offhanded manner in which she dismissed any and all issues of substance discussed at the “Speech, Equality and Harm” conference.

Instead she chose to focus on the sensationalism of the handful of demonstrators outside. This is illustrated by the first four paragraphs of the article devoted to the antics of Carol Leigh and the fashion statement of the graduate students posing as prostitutes, rather than the larger issue of the treatment of women in our society.

To minimize the ideas of the conference into “academics . . . gnashing teeth and splitting hairs” over what she characterizes as semantics shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what the weekend was all about.

The article failed to mention the 1983 ordinance written by MacKinnon and Dworkin for the Minneapolis city council which would allow prostitutes and those involved in pornography to sue for damages inflicted upon them.

She also neglected to mention the moving testimonials given by former “industry” workers in clear and concise language which illustrated not just the physical and emotional damage done to those directly involved but also the larger psychic toll paid by society at large when more than half of our population is subjugated to this two-dimensional role.

To frame this in terms of a free speech or first amendment issue (as the author so poorly attempts) completely misses the larger human and civil rights issues at stake. Are the “rights” of a $40 billion a year industry more in need of safeguarding than that segment of society which is so effectively objectified and placed in dehumanizing roles?

After all as Catharine MacKinnon so eloquently stated, “Exactly what kind of speech is being conveyed when a twenty dollar bill is thrust at a woman’s genitals?”

Perhaps if the author had spent a little more time inside the conference and a little less time admiring the hemlines of those outside protesting, she would have received a better understanding of what is at stake for all of us.

David Goldberg

N. Paulina