Northwestern University defends after-class live sex demonstration
BY KARA SPAK Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org March 2, 2011 4:33PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
More than 100 Northwestern University students watched as a naked 25-year-old woman was penetrated by a sex toy wielded by her fiancee during an after-class session of the school’s popular “Human Sexuality” class.
The woman said she showed up at the Feb. 21 lecture in the Ryan Family Auditorium in Evanston expecting just to answer questions, but was game to demonstrate. The course’s professor on Wednesday acknowledged some initial hesitation, but said student feedback was “uniformly positive.”
And Northwestern defended the class and its professor.
“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,” said Alan K. Cubbage, vice president for University Relations. “The University supports the efforts of its faculty to further the advancement of knowledge.”
The optional, non-credit demo followed psychology Prof. John Michael Bailey’s sexuality class. Nearly 600 students are in Bailey’s class this quarter, and most didn’t stick around for the after-class show, which featured four members of Chicago’s fetish community describing “BDSM,” or bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism.
“I didn’t expect to see a live sex show,” said Justin Smith, 21, a senior economics and political science major who was in the after-class session. “We were told we were going to have some people talk to us about the fetish world and kink.”
Smith said it took him awhile to process what happened, but he doesn’t object to the way the material was presented.
“It was for me academic like everything else,” he said.
He told his grandparents about the class.
“My grandma was like, wow, Northwestern is a little bit different then when I went there,” he said.
In a statement, Bailey said he hesitated briefly before allowing the public sex act.
“My hesitation concerned the likelihood that many people would find this inappropriate,” he wrote. “My decision to say ‘yes’ reflected my inability to come up with a legitimate reason why students should not be able to watch such a demonstration.”
After the demonstration, several students tried a different sex toy that gave a “titillating” but not painful shock, testing it out on their arms, said Ken Melvoin-Berg, who narrated the after-class lecture. Melvoin-Berg said the school paid him between $300 to $500 for his appearance.
Faith Kroll, the woman who stripped, was laying down on a towel when she was penetrated. When she arrived, she thought she just would be answering students’ questions and showing off sex toys they brought, including whips, paddles and a clown wig.
An “absurd, clinical” video and subsequent discussion about various aspects of female orgasm led Faith and her partner Jim Marcus, 45, to prove to the class that female orgasm is real.
Faith said she was not coerced in any way and students were repeatedly warned it was going to get graphic.
“One of the students asked what my specific fetish was and mine is being in front of people, having the attention and being used,” she said. “The students seemed really intrigued.”
In his statement, Bailey said student feedback was “uniformly positive.”
Marcus, a musician who said he has worked as a sex educator, said he thinks it is “smart and important” for students to be learn about sexuality.
“It’s really scary for young people who want to get involved in the BDSM community who don’t understand issues regarding consent and safety,” he said.
Melvoin-Berg said he met Prof. Bailey through a swinging couple who previously spoke to the class. Melvoin-Berg runs the “Weird Chicago Red Light District Sex Tour,” which has participants playing games like “spot the ho” as they travel the city looking for prostitutes. He also teaches “Networking for Kinky People,” a 3-hour version of the one hour lecture he gave at Northwestern.
Melvoin-Berg said the sex toy used was BDSM, but was “not like a pain thing...we wanted to make it poignant.”
“I did mention this was going to be the best money their parents had spent on their education,” he said.
Bill Yarber, a researcher at Indiana University’s Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction and author of the textbook Human Sexuality: Diversity in Contemporary America, said he’s never heard of a naked woman being brought to orgasm in front of a class of students.
“The way you present it there is very unconventional,” he said. “There’s certain boundaries of things, I think, that are acceptable and that would certainly be pushing that.”
This isn’t Bailey’s first brush with controversy. His 2003 book, “The Man Who Would Be Queen,” sparked hostile debate in the transgender community by claiming that there were more reasons for men to become women then simply that biology trapped them in the wrong body. Several transgender women who spoke with Bailey claimed they did not consent to being used for research and accused him of practicing psychology without a license.
Bailey said in his statement Wednesday that during the Feb. 21 after-class lecture, “I was not in a mood to surrender to sex negativity and fear.”
“Do I have any regrets?” he wrote on Wednesday. “It is mostly too early to say. I certainly have no regrets concerning Northwestern students, who have demonstrated that they are open-minded grown ups rather than fragile children.”