The first time I watched porn was sophomore year of high school with four of my best friends. We watched five minutes of Kim Kardashian’s sex tape before we turned it off out of embarrassment and cleared the internet history over and over again.
As I’ve matured, I am no longer squeamish about porn and don’t blame those who watch it in the comfort of their own home. However, for people like David J. Reidinger, watching porn in the UW-Eau Claire McIntyre Library is much more comfortable.
Two students in the library saw 46-year-old Reidinger watching pornographic material on Dec. 14 2014. The students told a library supervisor who notified campus police. Reidinger was cited for disorderly conduct and found guilty in a trial in April 2015, a decision that was upheld by the Court of Appeals on Jan. 26.
Reidinger believes his right to watch porn in a public library is covered under the First Amendment. In 1969, the Supreme Court case Stanley v. Georgia, decided that under the First Amendment there is a right to privacy in the the form of the possession of pornography.
Reidinger argued this case and the 1997 Reno v. ACLU case took down anti-indecency provisions put in place to protect people under 18 from obscene Internet content under the First Amendment. He believes these cases prove he should be able to utilize the school library for watching porn.
Kelly Mandelstein of the Eau Claire County district attorney’s office told the Leader-Telegram what led to the charges and the $310 fine wasn’t the material or its legality, but the fact it was viewed in a library for others to see.
“Viewing pornography by itself is not illegal,” Mandelstein said in a Leader-Telegram interview. “But when viewed in such a way that it is visible to others who may not be interested in viewing the material, such conduct is inappropriate, rude and indecent within the meaning of disorderly conduct rules.”
Multiple students I spoke to in the McIntyre Library told me they think if someone was watching porn in the library they would be “repulsed” and it would be “gross” as their faces turned red at the mention of pornography. Multiple students said they wouldn’t watch pornography in the library because it isn’t educational.
Sophomore Gabby Peterka said she “personally wouldn’t watch porn in the library,” but would be fine with people watching porn in the library under a few conditions.
“With no masturbation and no sound on, people can just avert their eyes,” Peterka said.
In 2015, over 85 million videos were watched on Pornhub.com. Even though porn is still seen as taboo, statistics show most people who walk through the doors of the McIntyre library have probably seen porn.
This doesn’t mean it’s OK to distract people and make them uncomfortable when it’s playing in an educational environment.
If you are in the corner on your laptop watching porn silently and fully clothed, I don’t really see an issue with someone who really feels a desperate need to view pornography in the public library.
If I was trying to do homework in the library and were to look around to see obscene material on the computer screens all around me, I’m pretty sure it would be hard to get anything done. Discrepancy is the main factor in whether it is acceptable or not to view explicit materials in the library.
What it all comes down to is that pornography is protected under the First Amendment, but unless you’re looking at getting a hefty fine for making people uncomfortable, you should probably save the smutty material for private places that aren’t a public library.