Nationwide controversy has surrounded a Northwestern University professor’s decision to offer a graphic demonstration in his Human Sexuality Course.
While many supporters argue that professor John Michael Bailey’s presentation was within his rights to academic freedom, Bailey rightfully deserves the condemnation he’s received for the display, which was enormously inappropriate and unneeded.
During an optional, out-of-class presentation for Bailey’s human sexuality class on Feb. 21, a non-student, naked woman was vaginally penetrated by her fiance with a vibrator-like sexual stimulant device know as a f—- saw until she had an orgasm in front of an auditorium of about 120 students.
Bailey’s intention was to educate the students on sexual arousal.
“My decision to say ‘yes’ (to allowing the presentation) reflected my inability to come up with a legitimate reason why students should not be able to watch such a demonstration,” Bailey said to the Daily Northwestern.
The professor’s decision has the support of many of his students, including two who were on the editorial board of the Daily Northwestern, which said in an editorial supporting his actions, “NU should not be allowed to dictate what Bailey or any University professor teach in their classrooms … Judgment calls about what’s educational and appropriate for students fall solely within the discretion of professors, not of students, parents or administrators.”
This definition of academic freedom is too far fetched, neglecting the reality that every mature adult should know – no matter the place or point in history, there’s always been taboos against unacceptable behavior in certain circumstances within societies.
In the U.S. in 2011, it’s still unacceptable to allow sexual acts in front of a classroom of students in a public state university – it’s no one’s fault, but it’s still the way it is.
Allowing academic freedom without limitations could become problematic.
Would it still be okay for someone to be willingly tortured, allowed to commit suicide, overuse legal drugs and alcohol or carry out the same lessons in the professor’s home instead of the classroom?
It’s interesting that the professor chose a young, attractive woman instead of having an overweight middle-aged man be sexually pleasured in front of the entire class – which could’ve been an option if it was solely educational in nature. Sometimes it’s best to just use PowerPoints or video, as the live presentation’s shock value isn’t necessary to teach about female anatomy.
Students attended voluntarily, but it’s still unfair to underage students who could be excluded from the class-related presentation because they aren’t legally allowed to see such live action that’s even too graphic to be legally allowed in many strips clubs across the U.S.
Ken Melvouin-Berg was paid $300 to $500 from the University for the sex show, in addition to facilities, according to the Daily Northwestern. This means that underage and disapproving students and taxpayers paid for the demonstration and were not given a choice in the matter.
Though not in person and therefore not as graphic, a similar situation created controversy at USF in 1999, when protestors contested the initial condemnation of a professor who presented pictures to his class of himself having sex with a woman.
It’s unclear whether Bailey was aiming to create controversy and recognition of his progressiveness, satisfaction for his own sexual desire or if he just thought the presentation was the only viable way to teach about female orgasms.
But whatever the motivations, the decision displayed unacceptably poor judgment and an inability to accept the seriousness of strong contemporary taboos. An example should be made to warn other professors of the limits of the world they occupy.