Expose Yourself To the Realities of Sexual Violence Against Women

The image of the flasher as a harmless, jolly old man was cemented in the minds of Portlanders by former mayor Bud Clark’s “Expose yourself to art” poster.

But even while the city went gaga over Clark and his antics, electing him mayor in 1985, Portland State University was in the midst of a wave of sex crimes. Predators would typically stalk women in the library, corner them in the stacks, and masturbate in front of them. This is what real-life flashers do. One of them was eventually arrested and tried for rape and kidnap. Many more went free.

Campus administration tried to keep a lid on it, but student reporters at the Vanguard brought attention to the issue. Campus security acknowledged the situation, but did not report the crimes to Portland Police. The administration eventually instructed campus security to declare victory. Security obliged, telling the Vanguard there were no sex crimes on campus.

The Women’s Studies department held a forum, and then-mayor Clark was invited. He had nothing much to say about how his poster contributed to casual attitudes about sex crimes, and laughed off women’s concerns about it.

Two decades later, little has changed for women. The power dynamic is the same, sex crimes are not taken seriously unless and until they reach the level of kidnap, rape, or murder, and our elected officials still think it’s funny to pose as flashers. The cover of the metro section of today’s Oregonian has a large, full-color photo of Bud Clark and Mayor Tom Potter recreating the infamous pose, flashing a giggling former-Mayor Vera Katz and her statue.

It’s all for charity, of course.

Anybody who went to PSU in the ’80s, I’d be pleased to hear your corroboration or corrections on my account.

13 Comments so far

  1. Christian (unregistered) on November 12th, 2007 @ 3:00 pm

    “Two decades later, little has changed for women…”

    I disagree wholeheartedly. I believe much HAS changed in the last twenty years.

  2. ConcernedDad (unregistered) on November 12th, 2007 @ 8:11 pm

    The picture of Bud and Tom pretending to expose themselves to Vera on the front page of the Metro sends a very disturbing message. I wonder what their honors will say the next time a young man plays “Bud and Tom” in the girls’ locker room? Will they cover their eyes like Vera did the statue while a youngster is expelled and put on a sexual predator list? By attempting to elevate perversion to an art form, they have managed to lower the office of Mayor to a peeping Tom, Bud and Vera. Shame on them.

  3. Layne (unregistered) on November 13th, 2007 @ 8:05 am

    I have experience with those who promote this kind of mindset. To them innocent flirting is a sex crime if the female involved decides it is. Rape is no longer a violent sexual assault, it now includes even innocent behavior the woman later decides makes her feel uncomfortable.

    Check the intake sheets for women’s (not people’s) shelters. Literally, a man doing nothing and saying nothing is included on the list as abuse.

    The women frustrated over why men won’t commit should be asking their sisters who promote this gender wars mindset why, not the men.

  4. beerick (unregistered) on November 13th, 2007 @ 12:08 pm

    I recall as a child sitting with my mother having lunch when the classic Julie Brown tune “The Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun” came on the radio. I thought it was hilarious (and catchy!), but my mom blew a gasket with a tirade recalling myriad high school shootings. I still think it’s a funny song.

    Some jokes mock some very serious issues, some parody them, and some don’t have anything to do with issues at all. We all deal with things in our own way….so celebrate diversity and let people have their humor.

  5. Anne (unregistered) on November 13th, 2007 @ 9:39 pm


    Thank you. You voiced my sentiments about the flasher photos exactly. The myth of the harmless flasher is just that–a myth. You spell it out–it is part of a continuum of of sexual intimidation that includes kidnap and rape. It wasn’t funny when Bud Clark did it and it isn’t funny today.

  6. concerned parent (unregistered) on November 13th, 2007 @ 9:40 pm

    Good points Steve! I can understand someone participating in this type of flasher pose photo without thinking about the implications. But for Bud Clark to be doing it again after knowing the concerns it raised the first time is pretty shocking.

    This reminds me of a sit-com I saw this week where the lead character was walking around with a rifle and the joke was about how stalking shouldn’t be a crime because sometimes love is just too strong to resist, and restraining orders are unenforceable (i.e. “how to you eyeball 1,000 feet anyway?”) etc, etc.

  7. divebarwife (unregistered) on November 14th, 2007 @ 9:30 am

    Ok – I resisted for while, but as the comments continued I have to add my two sense (yes I means sense!) because the only person I can agree with here is Beerick.

    Sexual harassment and violence are not funny, they are very serious matters. But only when it is actually harassment or violence. If crimes like ones Steve mentioned did occur without follow-up- that is wrong.

    But posing for a silly picture – that is OBVIOUSLY not real???? This hyper-sensitive, over-zealous, over-protective domination of our culture in the past 5 or 6 years is just freakin’ ridiculous.

    I suppose you also agree with the schools that suspend those middle school girls for giving their friends hugs at school? Because touching isn’t appropriate and they might end up being molesters?

    Chill out people.

  8. Steve (unregistered) on November 14th, 2007 @ 9:41 am

    The crime wave I talked about at PSU was real; authorities did try to cover it up and many offenders walked free. Those are facts.

    Poses like this trivialize the kind of crime that terrorizes women at college campuses every day across the country, and perpetuate the image of the flasher as a harmless old coot. It makes it easy to dismiss women who are victimized as whiners (or worse).

    Laugh it off if you want, but I hope nobody you love ever has to fight off one of these cretins and then live with being pooh-poohed by society and seeing the guy walking free on campus.

  9. Pete Best (unregistered) on November 14th, 2007 @ 12:20 pm

    I have to agree with DiveBarWife – it may be in bad taste, buy it is obviously just a joke. Lighten up, people. We need humor in our society to help us cope with the ugly or unbearable parts of life.

    In any case, it got us talking about a serious issue, which can’t be all bad, right?

  10. CONCERNEDDAD (unregistered) on November 15th, 2007 @ 12:27 am

    Call me a prude, I don’t care, in fact I would wear it as a badge of honor. It’s an abbreviation for “prudent”. But please don’t defend Tom, Bud and Vera with platitudes about “it’s only a joke”, or “lighten up”, or “we need humor”, or “it’s a silly picture”, or “celebrate diversity”. Don’t you see what all these add up to? Inherent in all these excuses is the admission that “yes it’s wrong, but…wink, wink.” But nothing. Our culture has gone into the toilet because good people are too willing to make excuses for bad behavior. They cover their eyes like Vera covers the statue’s eyes, pretending not to see, but in a perverse, sadistic way, they enjoy the “humor” of it nevertheless. The real thing is not funny at all, and it shouldn’t be treated lightly. What Tom, Bud, and Vera did is incredibly irresponsible and ought to be condemned in the strongest possible terms. They have set a terrible example for the children they claim to support, and they present a highly undignified image for the city of Portland.

  11. Steve (unregistered) on November 15th, 2007 @ 7:08 am

    Well, I’ve never been accused of being a prude. If I claimed to be one, people who know me would spew coffee on their keyboards.

    I do know women who have had guys corner them and jerk off, though, and I know that it is a traumatic, horrifying experience.

    Let me put it n terms that men can understand: What if the picture were of Potter and Clark pointing guns at Katz? Would we be prudes if we didn’t get that joke?

  12. Banana Lee Fishbones (unregistered) on November 15th, 2007 @ 7:42 am

    So here’s what I don’t get:

    Did Bud Clark do this back in the day to draw attention to the PSU Pervert? Did the PSU Pervert see the poster and think it was ok and that’s what started his spree?

    I’ve been in some suboptimal situations myself (to put it mildly), and yeah it is bad and yeah it’s a terrible thing to happen to anyone.

    But when I saw this picture, I laughed. Just like the first time I saw the original poster. My only complaint is that Vera shouldn’t have been sitting there, it would have been enough to be her statue.

    If she hadn’t been sitting there (with herself?) would this even be an issue?

  13. Steve (unregistered) on November 15th, 2007 @ 4:11 pm

    “Did Bud Clark do this back in the day to draw attention to the PSU Pervert? Did the PSU Pervert see the poster and think it was ok and that’s what started his spree?”

    A more pertinent question to ask would be, “Did anybody who was threatened or hurt by one of these jerks have their experience trivialized because of societal attitudes reinforced by Bud Clark’s poster?”

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