Libel

"Prominent Pornography Researcher Frames Defamation Claims As Sexual Harassment, Prompting a Defamation Suit by Her Target"

An academic debate turns into professional and legal accusations.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Jacob Sullum (Reason) reports:

For years neurosurgeon Donald Hilton and neuroscientist Nicole Prause have been clashing on the pros and cons of pornography…. Now the two intellectual combatants are facing off in a bizarre defamation case featuring dueling claims that each is trying to destroy the other's reputation.

On April 16, Prause emailed the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA), where Hilton is an adjunct associate professor, to complain that she was "being openly sexually harassed by your faculty member Dr. Donald Hilton." Specifically, she said, Hilton "publicly claims that I personally appear in pornographic films, attend the Adult Video Network awards, and molest children in my laboratory, because I trained at The Kinsey Institute." She added that all those claims were "demonstrably false." …

A U.T. spokesperson told the San Antonio Express News the university has no authority to investigate the matter, since neither Hilton nor Prause is an employee. Nor was that the only puzzling aspect of Prause's complaint, which framed what are essentially defamation claims as sexual harassment….

In the defamation lawsuit that Hilton filed last week in response to Prause's complaint, he says he has met her in person only once, at a 2009 conference where "nothing inappropriate was said or done." Since then, he says, he and Prause "have not had any personal communications or interactions." Hilton says he "has never flirted with Defendant Prause, made any sexual advancements towards her, or committed any other type of sexual misconduct towards her" or anyone else. He argues that her complaint against him is an attempt to discredit an intellectual opponent by making baseless charges—a tactic he says she has used against other critics of pornography.

Furthermore, Hilton denies claiming that Prause has appeared in pornographic films or that she is implicated in child molestation. He says she has attended the Adult Video Network awards, citing a 2018 Twitter post in which she said, "I think Jeanne's story I heard at AVN was amazing." …

There's more in Sullum's post.

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  1. My head is spinning … Eugene V at V quotes Jacob S at R quoting Eugene V not at V.

    I thought it was deja vu all over again when I saw the link to this at V when I had already read it.

  2. Is Hilton filing in some jurisdiction where you can sue for defamation based on allegations in a civil action? No “litigation privilege” a la Cal. Civil Code §47b?

    1. JohnSteed: She didn’t sue him for sexual harassment — she e-mailed the University of Texas claiming that he was guilty of sexual harassment. I don’t think the absolute litigation privilege covers that.

  3. If were the judge, I’d be tempted to let them both know that some asshole has been signing their names to stupid lawsuits.

    1. Exceptv that there’s only one lawsuit

  4. Maybe Prause was hoping the university would quickly take punitive action without paying attention to the details.
    I looked at Hilton’s complaint. Apparently Prause has made a number of nonmeritorious accusations against people she disagrees with. If true, then I hope Hilton wins a sizable judgment from Prause.

    1. Disagreement is now harassment?

      1. Of course, words equal violence according to antifa and college students. If you’re going to talk and I don’t want anyone to hear you, I must shut you up by any means necessary. See Berkeley College, the school that started the Free Speech Movement in the 1960’s has officially buried it without a trace in the last few years. Oberlin University has also doubled down on this type of insanity recently.

        1. FTR, Berkeley College is a for-profit school in the NY/NJ area. You are referring to UC Berkeley.

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