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Northwestern sex prof apologizes for after-class sex demo

Northwestern professor Michael J. Bailey (inset) apologized Saturday for live sex demonstratithtook place after his human sexuality class Feb. 21

Northwestern professor Michael J. Bailey (inset) apologized Saturday for a live sex demonstration that took place after his human sexuality class on Feb. 21, 2011.

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Updated: March 6, 2011 8:24PM

Northwestern University psychology professor J. Michael Bailey said Saturday he wasn’t sure if his job was on the line for the controversial after-class demonstration where students watched a man penetrate a naked woman with a custom-designed sex toy.

“I am not an expert in relevant law, so I don’t know if I can lose my job,” Bailey told the Sun-Times Saturday. “I love what I do, so of course, that prospect is worrisome.”

In a statement released Saturday morning, Bailey apologized and said he would not let a similar demonstration happen again. He called the sex act harmless and said he was surprised by the resulting media firestorm, particularly during a time of “financial crisis, war and global warming.”

On Feb. 21, about 100 of the nearly 600 students enrolled in Bailey’s “Human Sexuality” class stayed for an optional seminar by four non-students on kink and fetish. Faith Kroll, a self-described exhibitionist, stripped and was penetrated by a modified version of a reciprocating saw with a phallic attachment in place of the blade.

Kroll previously said she thought the session would just be a discussion with students but was game to demonstrate aspects of female orgasm she didn’t think were fairly portrayed in a film students were watching. Bailey also said the sex demonstration was not planned. When he couldn’t think of a reason why students shouldn’t see it, he agreed to let Kroll and her fiance Jim Marcus demonstrate, he said.

Students were warned repeatedly that the demo would be graphic. After class, no students complained about what they saw and many since have defended their right to see live sex in a sexual education class.

For some, the incident was clearly an educational exercise protected by the tenets of academic freedom. For others, the live sex act went far beyond the boundaries of good taste and was particularly offensive considering Northwestern’s strong academic reputation and $52,000 annual price tag.

Bailey said Saturday he wasn’t sure if he went beyond “the actual guarantees of academic freedom.”

“It is important to separate my own opinion about what academic freedom should entail from the actual guarantees of academic freedom,” he said. “I do not know if I crossed the latter line.”

He does believe he crossed the line “from good to bad judgment,” he said. “I am really, really sorry about that,” he said. “I wish that my colleagues and the administration at Northwestern did not have to deal with all of that.”

Northwestern University Law Professor Andrew Koppelman said he has not heard anything about the school “contemplating something so ridiculously inappropriate” as Bailey losing his job.

“The reason why this demonstration can’t possibly be a basis for firing is that no one can point to any clear standard that has been crossed,” said Koppelman. “Before anyone can say whether Michael Bailey crossed the line no one can say where the line is.”

Bailey invited Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro to join him and undergraduate students in a “high-level discussion and debate about the Feb. 21 demonstration and the issues it has raised” but said that might not happen until the media attention dies down. Schapiro on Thursday said he was launching an investigation into the after-class seminar.

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