Thursday, March 3, 2011

Penetrating a Woman in the Classroom

Is the universe conspiring to make me want to vomit today? This is what is being taught to students at Northwestern:
Students in the popular and provocative human sexuality course at Northwestern University were invited for an optional demonstration after class on Feb. 21 in which a naked woman was penetrated by a sex toy until she reached sexual climax, The Daily Northwestern reported. About 120 students voluntarily stayed for the extracurricular activity organized by professor John Michael Bailey. Guest speaker Ken Melvoin-Berg, co-owner of Weird Chicago Tours, led the "Network for Kinky People" panel, which included several women. Before a woman onstage disrobed, students were repeatedly advised that they would see explicit content. The woman then used a machine with a graphic name to stimulate herself to the point of ejaculation, a topic that had been recently covered in class, Bailey said.
I just have a couple of questions here. It says that the woman stimulated herself to the point of ejaculation. Whose ejaculation are we talking about? If the so-called professor teaching this course is a man, what prevented him from limiting the discussion to what he really understands, namely, male sexuality? The good professor could have gotten up on the stage and penetrated himself with a toy to the point of ejaculation. Is there a reason why that wasn't done? Is there a reason why a woman was asked to make a spectacle of herself but no man was requested to do the same? Aren't students equally interested in the workings of male sexuality? Or do we still imagine female sexuality as mysterious and incomprehensible? Why are the feminist organizations at Northwestern not asking these questions?

And my last question. I heard that Northwestern was considered a good school. Does anybody still believe that? I know I don't. 

12 comments:

considertheteacosy said...

Honestly, I'm not surprised at all that the professor in question here is Michael Bailey. He's well-known for rather dodgy research into human sexuality. Sigh.

sarcozona said...

I think that workshops and demonstrations about sex and sexuality are fantastic. Most people learn about sex through rumor, innuendo, and some awkward experiences where both partners fail to communicate. Things like this help people understand what their own bodies are capable of and not to be ashamed of sex. For example, many people don't know that it is possible for women to ejaculate. I personally know a woman who frequently ejaculates when she orgasms, but refused to have sex for many years because she thought there was something wrong with her.

Students can take everything from Ballroom Dance to Decapitation in Literature to Jewelry Making as electives in college. Learning about sex is just as interesting and probably more useful to most people than those courses.

As for the nature of this particular class, it was clearly optional for the students and the sex educators on the panel acted without any coercion.

If the so-called professor teaching this course is a man, what prevented him from limiting the discussion to what he really understands, namely, male sexuality? I don't think that being male means he can't understand female sexuality. That being said, I think bringing in female sex educators to speak to their own experiences is a good thing.

The good professor could have gotten up on the stage and penetrated himself with a toy to the point of ejaculation. Is there a reason why that wasn't done? Is there a reason why a woman was asked to make a spectacle of herself but no man was requested to do the same? Aren't students equally interested in the workings of male sexuality? Or do we still imagine female sexuality as mysterious and incomprehensible? Male and female ejaculation are quite different. And it's very likely that students have the opportunity to discuss live demonstrations or videos of male ejaculation as part of the course, too. I imagine female ejaculation just gets more press because of the absolute terror so many people seem to have of female sexuality.

J. said...

I was wondering when you would address this...it sort of blew me away too, though I admit I was still far too much in the realm of "WTF" to even evaluate the misogynistic over/undertones to the whole exercise. (Which also beg the question, if it HAD been a man doing the self-penetrating, would 120 students have come to the lecture?)

Those of us with any association at all with NWU are sort of universally (in my circles at least) in shock that this could possibly have happened.

And finally--to the question of whether anyone still believes Northwestern to be a good school--my answer to that question will have to wait and see how they handle this. And whether this is a good school with an IDIOTICALLY MONUMENTALLY STUPID PLUS PARAGRAPHS OF OTHER ADJECTIVES faculty member making an IDIOTICALLY MONUMENTALLY WRONG ON SO MANY LEVELS decision, or whether the pattern of the whole school has been leading to something like this for a while.

Spanish prof said...

Northwestern has good grad programs. I have two friends doing PhDs there (not in our field), and they say that the undergrads are just rich white kids.
But yes, it's disgusting.

Clarissa said...

sarcozona: I wouldn't have had a problem with the presentation had it featured a woman pleasuring herself and talking about female sexuality and then a man doing the same and talking about male sexuality. The goal of a male professor presenting on female sexuality is incomprehensible to me. What can he possibly know? Sexuality is one are where - no matter how many partners one has had - one still has no real understanding what a person with a completely different set of genitals experiences.

Making a show of a female sexuality in this way reminds me of how in the XIXth century people took trips to mad houses to stare at mentally disturbed people.

NancyP said...

Bailey is one of those "crazy tenured professors". He has gotten himself in trouble with the human studies committee (Institutional Review Board) of Northwestern. This is the entity that oversees medical and psychological experiments and should be able to prevent unethical or problematic studies easily. The IRBs would likely pay less attention to the details of a psychological study than to the details of medical studies that pose more immediate risks and benefits to the subject/patient.

Pagan Topologist said...

I don't know whether the students who stayed for the demonstration were mostly male or mostly female; I think it might make a difference.

I have been thinking about this since you posted it; I only later saw it on news shows.

I think that this sort of hting might well be a beginning of an antidote to the pervasive antisex attitudes of our culture, to which you often and eloquently refer. So, I am inclined to think that academic freedom here should prevail. No doubt many people disagree with me.

Clarissa said...

This is what I want to hear! That people find out about news from me first and only then hear it on news shows.

I think that this way of organizing a class on sexuality will only perpetuate unhealthy attitudes towards it.

Of course, I don't think that the professor should be fired or anything. In my opinion, he should be ridiculed by his colleagues. Like me. This is a bid for cheap popularity among students if I ever saw one.

RD said...

John Michael Bailey huh? That's that transphobic professor who wrote "The Man Who Would Be Queen" and used his "research" for the book as a way for him to sleep with trans women...

Clarissa said...

Really? I had no idea. Bleh, what a jerk.

Natalie said...

I really didn't have a problem with this demonstration, whatever else the professor may have gotten up to. I've been pretty interested in this, so I've done some research and from what I've gleaned:

The woman volunteered in order to make a point about the g-spot and female ejaculation, topics that had been covered in class. Before the demonstration she told the students that she had a fetish for being watched by a crowd. The man operating the fucksaw was her fiancé.

Whether or not you think the demonstration was appropriate, it seems to have been executed quite ethically.

It's a human sexuality class, not just a male sexuality class. No one claims that male ejaculation is a myth.

Clarissa said...

If it's a human sexuality class, the why wasn't a similar spectacle made of a man being penetrated with an object? Because there are no myths about male sexuality? Don't make me laugh.

I'm also curious why this woman's fiance was mentioned in this last comment. How is it relevant to anything if he's her fiance, neighbor or a passer-by?