I sometimes surprise myself with my prurient attitudes. After all, my formative years were spent being terrorized by the Sisters of Mercy whose beliefs regarding human sexuality in pre-teens bordered on the pathological. Fundamentalist Muslims had nothing on the good sisters as far as separation of the sexes, and attitudes toward boy-girl romance is concerned, and the resulting fear of God they instilled in all of us about sex in general should have scarred me for life.
Thankfully, there was Playboy to save me. That, and the gradual realization that it wouldn’t fall off if I did it by myself, nor would a bolt of lightening strike me down if I tried to cop a feel from some particularly well-endowed high school hottie.
There were some anxious moments in college when my sexual inexperience and admitted hang ups about sex before marriage mystified the first few women I dated. But nature eventually triumphed - as did reason and rationality as I abandoned my Catholic faith - and I have been a happily, mal-adjusted, perpetual adolescent in my sexual attitudes just like any other red blooded American male since.
I don’t exactly possess the burning passion of the born again free love advocate, but I roll my eyes and look in askance when puritanism rears its ugly head to spoil everyone’s good time. Such is the case at Northwestern University where a popular professor’s Human Sexuality class were treated to an after-lecture bit of fun that made me wish I could go to college all over again:
Northwestern students and administrators are defending an explicit after-class demonstration involving a woman being publicly penetrated by a sex toy on stage in the popular Human Sexuality course last week.
The optional presentation last Monday, attended by about 120 students, featured a naked non-student woman being repeatedly sexually stimulated to the point of orgasm by the sex toy, referred to as a “fucksaw.” The device is essentially a motorized phallus.
The 600-person course, taught by psychology Prof. John Michael Bailey, is one of the largest at NU. The after-class events, which range from a question-and-answer session with swingers to a panel of convicted sex offenders, are a popular feature of the class. But they’re optional and none of the material is included on exams.
Last Wednesday, Bailey devoted six minutes of his lecture to addressing mounting controversy regarding the incident and articulating his educational intent. He told the class he feared the demonstration would impact the after-class events, which are sponsored by the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, and he explained the educational purpose of the events.
“I think that these after-class events are quite valuable. Why? One reason is that I think it helps us understand sexual diversity,” he said, according to an audio file obtained by The Daily.
“Sticks and stones may break your bones, but watching naked people on stage doing pleasurable things will never hurt you,” he said to loud applause at the end of his speech.
Bailey declined to comment for this article due to class preparations that he said last until Friday.
Chicago sex tour guide Ken Melvoin-Berg, who operated the device, emphasized the instructional value of the hour-long session, which also included a question-and-answer period.
“Talking about it doesn’t always lend itself to this sort of thing,” Melvoin-Berg said. “We’re not just talking about it. We’re actually doing it.”
Reading this, I am struck by the fact that every single person who attended the “demonstration” could watch even more risque and explicit demonstrations of how the toy worked on the internet. Thousands of free sites devoted to the subject are available with a click of the mouse. The idea that this would be controversial is a little mystifying when you think about it.
Wisely, the administration ruled immediately that the after class demonstration was a question of academic freedom and they wouldn’t intervene. In fact, given that the lecture was completely voluntary and that students were warned several times before the demonstration began that it would be “intense,” one wonders what all the hub-bub is about.
The educational value of such a “demonstration” is, like all other experiences at college, up for debate. A case can be made that many college age women would benefit from seeing another women reach the “Big O” since about 10% of all women have never experienced it. There is also value for men and women to see how a loving couple shares such intimacy (although how “intimate” they can be while 200 pairs of eyes are on them might stretch the point a little). Also, given that most men believe that foreplay is a dirty word, the idea that seeing a couple share love and intimacy without sexual intercourse might be a boon to women.
If the purpose of the class was to discuss all aspects and mysteries regarding human sexuality, Bailey was well within the boundaries set by the curricula in arranging this voluntary demonstration. With 58% of women reporting dissatisfaction in their sex lives and 36% of men, a little information and live demonstration shouldn’t hurt in improving those figures.
The key, as the therapists tell us, to a satisfying sexual life is partner communication. If the demonstration did anything, it got the kids talking. Helping to remove the restraints in sexual communications is enough of a justification for this unusual “lecture” to be conducted on most college campuses.
As far as I can determine, there were no complaints registered by anyone about the demonstration, although the article mentions “offended parties.” The question then becomes why is it “controversial?” Even the representative of a Christian group on campus was blasé about it:
“Personally, I probably wouldn’t want to witness that, but a student can take or not take the course,” said Christine Woo, a member of NU’s Christians on Campus chapter. “It’s their choice.”
The chances are some NU parents heard about it and may have become upset. But given that attendance was entirely voluntary and that nothing discussed or seen would be subject to an exam, it would seem that anyone who objected to the demonstration either was unaware of the conditions or is uncomfortable with the idea of any sexual activity happening on campus.
Can’t wait for the video…