Politics, porn, and polarization: a look back at Whig-Clio’s rise and fall

October 01, 2023 1 min read

Charlotte Young and Katie Tiers
Daily Princetonian

Excerpt: On and off Princeton’s campus, Whig-Clio is recognized as a political force in the history of debating societies. Today, the society prides itself as “the oldest college and literary debating club in the United States.” Notable alumni include James Madison Class of 1771 and Woodrow Wilson Class of 1879. While the club boasts itself as the premier political organization on campus, often bringing popular speakers, hosting parliamentary debates, and holding councils on national and international affairs, it has struggled to sustain its membership over the years. 

Now, it has around 300 members — a sharp decline from Whig-Clio’s glory days.

In 1983, Whig-Clio was engulfed in debate over a scheduled Friday night showing of the pornographic film “Debbie Does Dallas.” The choice provoked sharp criticism, both from members of Whig-Clio and the Women’s Center, which called for the showing to be canceled. Conversely, other members of Whig-Clio were enraged at the threat of cancellation, casting criticism as an attempt to censor the society.

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