Sexual Health Sunday: Is Seeing Believing?


Sexuality and gender identity-based cultures
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After a brief hiatus, I’m back.

Thursday’s New York Times featured an article ripe with material for discussion regarding sexual displays, public exhibition, ‘kinky people’, and how these representations of ‘alternative’ sexual behavior interact with academe. In a stunning display of ‘hands-on learning’ a professor at Northwestern University invited two people to demonstrate sexual arousal. He held the event outside of class time, made it optional, and warned his students (on multiple occasions) that the presentation would contain sexually explicit acts. Out of a class of 600 students, 100 showed up for their ‘extra credit.’ The guests he’d invited proceeded to demo female ejaculation achieved through the aid of a ‘prop’.

Oops?

The incident quickly gained the Chicago university some unwelcome attention forcing the school’s president to comment on the choices of his faculty member. What I’m struggling to understand is why? Is it because there was a display of sex involved? Were some students offended? Were the guests unattractive? Judging from his lukewarm remarks (short of outrightly defending his employee) I don’t think he cared that much.

We are living in an increasingly sexual environment in which sex is relentlessly on display. Blah blah blah sex blah blah blah shirtless man blah blah blah women’s bodies blah blah blah (you get the point.) Due to this change in sexual mores we’re forced to make a choice, do we acknowledge the sexual behavior of young people and use it as a teachable moment? Or do we ignore it and chastise those folks who choose to engage in the former?

During my undergraduate career I contributed to a tongue-in-cheek column in the campus newspaper on a semi-regular basis, a practice that was well received by the student body and (many) faculty members. I didn’t include images in my post (I hoped my writing could lead my readers’ imagination) but maybe that’s the problem in this situation. Perhaps people weren’t offended by my thoughts on sexuality because it afforded them the opportunity to just skip the column entirely. If I’d included any pictures at all it probably would a have been a different story.

I don’t know exactly how I feel about this entire situation other than happy that people are talking about it. For too long Americans have chosen to ignore the sex-laced messages of the 21st century. I’m not necessarily advocating for people to start sexually expressing themselves in the street but instead engaging in healthy discussions on sexuality (especially in an academic setting.)

What are your thoughts about the Northwestern ‘scandal’? Leave them in the comments.

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