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A Tale of Two Campus Sex Controversies

Two major American universities are making national news for sex-related controversies this week, though the subject matter of the disputes couldn’t be farther apart.

"Education" at Northwestern University (*content warning*):

Northwestern University acknowledged that an unusual demonstration was held on campus last week in which students observed a naked woman being penetrated by a sex toy.

The sex act was performed in front of about 100 students in psychology professor John Michael Bailey’s human sexuality class. The demonstration occurred after class, and attendance was optional.

After an initial discussion at Ryan Family Auditorium, the class was told that a couple was going to demonstrate the use of a sex toy and female orgasm.  “Both Professor Bailey and myself gave them five or six warnings about what was about to happen and it would be graphic,” Melvoin-Berg said.

The woman undressed and got on stage with her male partner, who used a device that looks like a machine-powered saw with a phallic object instead of a blade. Melvoin-Berg said the couple are exhibitionists who enjoy having people watch them have sex, and they were not paid for the demonstration.


NU administrators are defending the demonstration as a manifestation of academic freedom and an exercise that “advances knowledge:”

“Northwestern University faculty members engage in teaching and research on a wide variety of topics, some of them controversial and at the leading edge of their respective disciplines,” Cubbage said in a prepared statement. “The university supports the efforts of its faculty to further the advancement of knowledge.”

The response from an unapologetic Bailey, who is no stranger to controversy:

"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.

Student opinion is mixed:

“I think it’s going a bit over the top, but because it was optional and the students were warned, it’s OK in that sense, said Tegan Reyes, 19, a freshman.

“Even though it’s controversial now … Over time people will become more liberal. I don’t think it will be an issue,” Lauren Matthew, 18, said. “There should be a line (on what is inappropriate) but I don’t know where it should be.”

Northwestern student Ryan Naylor, 18, is not enrolled in Bailey’s class but said he thought the demonstration “was really inappropriate.”

Meanwhile, at Utah’s Brigham Young University, a star basketball player has been kicked off the team – and may face expulsion – for allegedly having sex with his girlfriend:


BYU basketball player Brandon Davies was dismissed from the nationally-ranked team for violating the school's honor code by having premarital sex, according to the Salt Lake City Tribune.

The sophomore reportedly told BYU school officials Monday about having sex with his girlfriend.

He was dismissed from the team for the rest of the season Tuesday while his situation was being reviewed by the Honor Code Office. He has been allowed to stay in school for now.

Mary Katharine Ham calls the dichotomous stories a moral "Rorschach test" -- which one offends you more?

As a Northwestern alum, I find the sex toy demonstration report revolting.  I did not enroll in Professor Bailey's course as a student, and even if I had, I wouldn't have chosen to attend an event of this sort.  I don't see how it enhances anyone's educational experience in any true sense; it strikes me as little more than a prurient display that was in very poor taste.  Even so, I'm somewhat sympathetic to the argument that the university was correct not to have imposed an outright ban on an optional, privately-funded session.

As for the BYU account, the explicitly religious school has an established code of conduct to which all students must adhere.   This young man knowingly violated that code.  Although some will find the policy heavy-handed, I respect the school's administration for establishing and enforcing on-campus moral guidelines that align with their beliefs.  It speaks highly of the institution's integrity that they are willing to apply the rules equally -- even if it means suspending or expelling a prominent student-athlete.


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