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Live sex demonstration troubles, disappoints Northwestern president

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Northwestern University phone lines lit up Thursday with calls from alumni and parents of students unhappy about a live sex demonstration in an optional after-class lecture.

Morton Schapiro, university president, didn’t disagree with the callers and said he was launching an investigation into the incident. He released a statement describing himself as “troubled and disappointed” about the use of a high-powered sex toy on a naked woman by her fiancé in front of more than 100 students on Feb. 21.

“I feel it represented extremely poor judgment on the part of our faculty member,” Schapiro said. “I simply do not believe this was appropriate, necessary or in keeping with Northwestern University’s academic mission.”

The couple who performed the act, Jim Marcus, 45, and Faith Kroll, 25, were part of a group of four adults brought to speak to the students about the world of kink and fetish in an optional seminar that followed Prof. J. Michael Bailey’s popular “Human Sexuality” class. None of the speakers, including Marcus and Kroll, are Northwestern students.

Schapiro’s statement Thursday reversed a statement the university issued Wednesday where they defended their faculty as “at the leading edge of their respective disciplines.”

“The university supports the efforts of its faculty to further the advancement of knowledge,” Wednesday’s statement said.

On campus Thursday, students said the incident was old news and noted it happened in an optional after-class lecture where they were repeatedly warned about the graphic nature of the demonstration.

Facebook pages lit up in the days after the on-stage sex toy penetration, with updates like “you won’t believe what I saw in class today,” said Graham Horn, an 18-year-old freshman history major who was not in Bailey’s class. Now, students are tired of the story, he said.

“I think it’s awful the amount of attention this is getting,” he said. “I think it’s amazing that our university provided us with the opportunity to experience this. I was disappointed by Schapiro’s denouncement of the professor.”

Kroll and Marcus said they engaged in the act to help students learn that certain controversial aspects of female orgasm were real, a point they believe a video the students watched in class was not making adequately.

The live sex act featured a sex toy that was a modified version of a power tool known as a reciprocating saw, or Sawzall. The tool used at Northwestern featured a phallic attachment in place of the blade.

“It’s a BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism) toy but it’s not like a pain thing,” said Ken Melvoin-Berg, who teaches “Networking for Kinky People,” runs a Chicago sex bus tour and was being paid by Northwestern for the Feb. 21 after-class lecture, which he narrated.

Of the nearly 600 students registered for “Human Sexuality,” only about 100 stayed for the after-class lecture. After being warned, some chose to leave before Kroll stripped down on a stage in the Ryan Family Auditorium. Bailey described student feedback as “uniformly positive.”

Schapiro said school officials want to know exactly what happened, and why. “I have directed that we investigate fully the specifics of this incident, and also clarify what constitutes appropriate pedagogy, both in this instance and in the future,” he wrote.

Bailey said Wednesday it was too early to say if he regretted allowing the couple to perform for the students. He did not respond to requests seeking additional comment Thursday.

While watching a naked female be brought to orgasm by a sex toy may not have bothered many students, Schapiro was troubled.

“Many members of the Northwestern community are disturbed by what took place on our campus,” his statement said. “So am I.”

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