Best college sex ed class ever canceled after sex toy demonstration with naked lady

sexsaw640.jpgNorthwestern University has canceled the rest of Prof. John Michael Bailey's popular Human Sexuality course and placed the teacher under investigation following a scandal over an after-class, optional sex toy demonstration in February. The toy involved was an "adult power tool" called a Fucksaw (NSFW link) and was demonstrated with a live naked lady and her boyfriend, neither of whom were students at the college.

Bailey's course will not be offered during the next academic year, said Northwestern U spokesman Al Cubbage on Monday. Bailey has also apologized.

From Fox Chicago:

According to guest lecturer Ken Melvoin-Berg, after the students were told that a couple would take part in a demonstration involving a sex toy, the students were warned about a half dozen times that "what was about to happen would be graphic."

With that, Jim Marcus and his fiancee Faith Kroll climbed on the stage in front of about 100 students and demonstrated the use of the motorized device with a phallic object attached to it, as students heard about issues such as safety and consent, Melvin-Berg said.

"It is probably something I will remember the rest of my life," said senior Justin Smith, 21, one of the students who stuck around voluntarily after class when students were told about what they were about to see. "I can't say that about my Econ 202 class and the material that I learned there," Smith told The Chicago Tribune.

Ken Melvoin-Berg narrated what was happening for the class. He operates the "Weird Chicago Red Light District Sex Tour."

The Daily Northwestern quoted Bailey as saying,"Sticks and stones may break your bones, but watching naked people on stage doing pleasurable things will never hurt you."
More: Daily Northwestern, Chicago Sun-Times, Fox Chicago, Chicago Tribune, Reuters.


  1. So Northwestern embarrassed that its costly tuition/syllabus is available all over the damn internet for free cancelled it in favor of less readily accessible subject-matter?

  2. I bet if he was teaching a History of Torture class and had a live water boarding no one would have had a problem.

  3. I’m sure this would be allowable if you yourself were paying for this class, but I can almost hear thousands of alumni crying out “this is where my donation is going?” before the professor’s silencing, er, silenced them.

    In the end, I think the thing to take away from all this is the word – “fucksaw.” That puppy will break some serious conversational ice.

    1. Umm, yeah, cuz any actual, real, live, in-the-flesh sex demonstration in a course on Human Sexuality is yucky.

      Apparently, as per Faith Kroll via Chicago Tonight via PBS, this particular demo was used in response to audience disbelief – how sad – in the existence of the gspot. (It’s an elusive bit, to be sure, but not real it ain’t.) This lovely gizmo does wonders w/ it and they were willing to strip down from the waist to prove it for the betterment of… errr, wait, what? Human Sexuality.

      Necessity, as is said, is the mother of invention. Makerâ„¢ fantastique!!!! ;)

      1. “Yucky” is your word, not mine. I’d simply say it’s astoundingly bad pedagogy. I also wonder if there aren’t legal issues involved, one being the permissibility of staging public sex acts on a university campus. Worrying and kvetching over this kind of thing isn’t my scene, but it is the scene of administrators, parents, lawyers et al.

        I’m missing out where a course on human sexuality actually needs to perform sex acts for the supposed benefit of the students in the course. I rather doubt this is standard practice, and thus, again, we’re left with bad pedagogy.

        Then there’s the dividing the class into those who are there for the standard instruction, and then the “lucky” ones who are invited, feel compelled, intrigued (and perhaps coerced or forced) into attending the live sex show. Generally good teachers don’t divide up the class into the squares and edge-players. Again, bad pedagogy.

        Finally, there’s the whole don’t call undue attention to your workplace angle. This isn’t some private behavior (or even public) that he’s culpable for, this is part of his everyday worklife. Generally at work we don’t aim to get on Fox News, and he failed to do this. As a teacher myself, I’d prefer my colleagues near and far not to provide Fox et al. with an easy target during the revival of the anti-academy, anti-progress culture wars. If your syllabus already reads like a bad Fox News parody of the liberal intelligentsia, that’s a good sign you’re acting out and going too far.

        1. Bad pedagogy is usually not an insufficient amount of “standard practice” but an excessive amount of it. Pedagogy (as any other field) can only improve and progress through experimentation, and where better to experiment than at the university level?

          Likewise, there was not luck, selective invitations, compellence, intrigue, coercion, or force involved. It was more a matter of “In response to past discussion, there will now be an explicit, live sex act performed by two consenting individuals. Those who are interested are free to stay.”

          Everyone involved was involved knowingly and willingly. Everyone who opted out, did so knowingly and willingly. There was no violence or abuse (physical or psychological). No one was hurt. What is the problem?

          Indeed, if there is anything illegal in this situation, then the laws are bad and require changing…

          1. I think one can teach while adhering to standards and at the same time exploring these same standards: I reject your false dichotomy. Live sex shows count as exploding standards, and then some. I’m rather wondering if this “experiment,” in your words, began with getting feedback from colleagues and administrators. I rather doubt they would have all said “Do this, what a fine experiment! What ever will the data reveal?”

            Compulsion and coercion are hard to quantify. I don’t know what he said or didn’t say. What I do know is that he introduced this extra class, which in itself privileges the extra class. That is a form of advocacy, if not something more. As I said above, a better pedagogical move would be not to divide the class in this way, regardless of the assignment, showing, etc.

            Dunno, one argument is that the staging of sex as part of college curriculum constitutes, in and of itself, psychological abuse. I would find a teacher’s doing this to be unreasonable and, due to the advocacy involved, at the very least coercive, which is treading on abusive territory: abusive, that is, of the teacher-student relationship, the concept and practice of in loco parentis, trust, even (gasp!) simple decency. And I would guess, our histories and opinions being what they are, that there’s at least one student who was possibly greatly offended, hurt, traumatized by this. Hurt isn’t abusive, but the others would be. First, do no harm, right?

            I’d probably agree with you about the laws, but then we’re getting back to my point above, that employees generally aren’t paid to invite legal scrutiny upon their employers. And they certainly aren’t paid to embroil their workplace in a cutting-edge test of free speech, what’s acceptable as pedagogy, what constitutes pornography, etc.

          2. …abusive, that is, of the teacher-student relationship, the concept and practice of in loco parentis, trust, even (gasp!) simple decency.

            Professors do not and should not stand “in loco parentis”. College students are grown-ups; they don’t (or shouldn’t) need parental figures making their decisions for them.

            And your characterization of this demo as “abusive of […] simple decency” is revealing. You’re free to find it indecent and/or icky, but you shouldn’t pretend you’re being all pragmatic, or object when someone begins “getting personal” in response to what is, clearly, a personal squick.

            What I do know is that he introduced this extra class, which in itself privileges the extra class. That is a form of advocacy, if not something more. As I said above, a better pedagogical move would be not to divide the class in this way, regardless of the assignment, showing, etc.

            Are you really arguing that professors should never schedule events with optional attendance? No after-class movie showings or museum trips? Nothing for the students who show a little extra interest in a subject, without forcing those who are just there for the credit to do something they won’t appreciate?

          3. I meant the simple decency of not putting students in a situation that might make them incredibly uncomfortable, perhaps traumatize them, make them feel discriminated against, not part of the class, etc. The decency of not subjecting students to something that one hadn’t planned out beforehand, and this as part of a course one’s teaching. Other squicks aside, I am rather fond of all things Fucksawish.

            Yes, I am rather suggesting that all students be given equal educational opportunities. Forcing students to do things they won’t appreciate is called teaching, and must be done equally for all.

            Bailey’s comments rather lack the confidence in all things sexpositive and pedagogically transgressive that I feel you all are imputing to him undeservedly:

            “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.”

            Shorter Bailey: “I do not know, not having taken reasonable steps to learn, the possible consequences of my actions.”

            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.

            Shorter Bailey: “I don’t plan my classes fully, decide things in camera, and have difficulties imagining controversy.”

            “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.”

            Shorter Bailey: “I am an amateur when it comes to the theory and practice of in-class instruction.”

          4. As for the not bringing undue focus on the employer/ institution…okay, that sounds fair and reasonable, but there’s obviously an issue of community standards here. By your guidelines, anyone who teaches (or studies for that matter) a controversial topic should abstain from doing so, lest they bring undue attention against the employer/institution.

            The mere discussion of contraception is as controversial in some parts of the country as this demonstration has been nationwide. Is teaching about contraception in those areas bad pedagogy?

            I get that this demonstration was “out there”, apparently poorly thought out, and of dubious educational value, but I don’t think we need to go into high falutin ideas of good pedagogy or employee responsibility to say, yeah, this demonstration was maybe kind of dumb in our cultural environment.

            …even amongst the generally progressive BB crowd, it has elicited “tut tuts”, finger wagging and titters of embarrassment.

          5. Man, I just can’t let this go…slow afternoon I guess…

            If we’re trying to guarantee equal opportunity as you suggest, no class should ever be held unless there is full attendance. I don’t think make up classes provide an equal replacement value for missed classes. The teacher may teach better or worse in the make-up session for various reasons. And if there was class discussion involved, the student who was not in attendance would miss out on the related discussion because it could not be reproduced. And what if someone comes to class but is feeling sick, distracted and/or unfocussed for some reason, or god forbid has a learning disability? It’s not really fair that they have to work harder to understand the same material. I’m taking this to somewhat absurd lengths, but sometimes life just isn’t fair.

          6. I am not responsible for students’ attendance: only for setting up a reasonable attendance policy, and for making sure that this is uniformly enforced.

            I am responsible for scheduling any and all out-of-class work, including writing assignments, take-home tests, and any “extra” things like live-sex shows after class. I am also responsible for not placing undue burdens through any or all of these out-of-class activities.

            I see a great difference between these two.

        2. nonsense — since people keep bringing up math as a legitimate alternative to sex toy class, we’ll go with it; my college had “theoretical” calculus (i.e. introductory real analysis in disguise) as well as a memorization-heavy calculus-by-numbers class for premeds. what’s wrong with dividing students this way? the premeds think the mathematicians are silly wonks, and the mathematicians think the premeds are shallow grade-grubbers, and life goes on. why is it suddenly different when sex is in the picture?

          again, if you have a class about human sexuality why on earth is it “bad pedagogy” to show it? can’t we get to the unspoken radical question, which is whether or not to offer that kind of class AT ALL?

          as far as teaching to please fox news, well, i guess we’ll be getting rid of evolutionary theory soon enough… :-/

          1. Those would seem to be two separate courses, from your description. I’d be fine with “Human Sexuality” and “Human Sexuality mit Der Fucksaw” courses: both can stand scrutiny before running, both have a chance to plead their case before the department, interested administrators, and the “marketplace” of students. I’m less fine with the sudden introduction of questionable, controversial, problematic, divisive, and possibly harmful extra class session into a course syllabus. Again, teachers and professors generally don’t divide their students in this way.

            Controversy aside, what if you simply can’t make it to the session? One cardinal rule of education is open access for all, and this is best done by not making up extra sessions as one goes along. If I’m misreading all this, and the extra class was scheduled beforehand, then he’s on much safer ground, but it seems as if this was done rather on the fly.

            Your unspoken radical question is about sex ed. Not mine. I say “Yes” to sex ed. I say “no” to live sex in a classroom, and largely for the pragmatic reasons I’ve outlined above.

            The point about Fox News is not that we shrink from controversy: it’s that we don’t make ourselves targets for reactionaries. It’s not about teaching hip hop as poetry or the cultural transgressiveness of Lady Gaga, or the literature of pornography, whatever. It’s about not making oneself and one’s institution into a living parody of bad academics. That we’re reading about this at all should be an instructive point.

          2. okay, i see where we differ i think. i think that standards of human sexuality should be up to the human sexuality professor, while you think it should be up to some vague nonexistent community consensus. still, i can’t pretend to not see your point about this component taking students by surprise; i have been assuming that the students would have gotten a grapevine sense of the class. however, i still maintain that if the fucksaw session were truly optional, i don’t see where the harm could come in any case…

            i also think it’s impossible to avoid reactionary rebuke while not shrinking from controversy. controversy is exactly what stokes reactionaries.

            reading about this is, in fact, terrifying to me; for example, one of my favorite statistics problems is to use bayes’ theorem to show how a positive on a drug test is almost meaningless, since the false positive rate is so high. it’s a completely legitimate technical point with social consequences; should i be worried that someone will construe this as “too political” and that, after all, i COULD teach with bland and meaningless and abstract problems?

          3. I don’t tend to use should, as it’s a slippery word.

            I would simply say that standards of human sexuality are multiple and overlapping, and that many of these multiple and overlapping standards converge in a college or university course on the subject. It would be as wrong, to me, to insist on the professor’s definitions as being the only correct ones as it would be as wrong to insist the same for the community’s. I’m much more exercised, indeed, alarmed, by Bailey’s lack of planning, poor execution, and general sense of “Gee, wow, that was a surprise!” I’m assuming that he didn’t think this would be controversial, failed to vet the activity, and then, by his own admission, added the live-sex component largely at the instigation of one of his guests. Sexual standards are one thing: academic and pedagogical standards are another, far less controversial, thing, and I’d say that he failed to observe these here.

            As far as shrinking from controversy, I’ve taught On the Road, Lolita, and Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go to an all-female class of Orthodox Jews. I’ve taught Paradise Lost through the lens of contemporary security and terrorism. I’ve taught Foucault’s Herculine Barbin. From controversy I do not shrink. But all of these were advertised texts, the contents of which were both previewed-by-me and previewable otherwise. I think it’s less a case of being too political than of being not pragmatic about the consequences of one’s own politics.

          4. “the “marketplace” of students”

            eww. and i’m an educator.

            “first do no harm” does not extend to not offending prudes. especially prudes who hang out to be offended after being repeatedly warned that they might find the upcoming demonstration offensive.

            I can see your point about dividing the class into the edgy and square, and that there might be a coercive element to that, but this is a university course. I treat my students as adults.

          5. Meh. Marketplace is a convenient phrase (and convenient, apparently, to pretend to find fault with). It covers well the negotiations, prognostications, scrutiny, and wonderment that happen when students pick courses, scout around, listen to rumors, etc.

            Don’t overlook that the live sex was apparently unplanned. One might go from accepting to prudish rather quickly in those circumstances. And if one were a survivor of rape, sexual assault, or abuse? If one were willing to have one’s boundaries pushed, but not too hard, and not without warning, and had personal reasons for this? A rather dangerous word to throw around, I’d say. One never knows.

          6. personally I agree with you. If you were to take an figure sketching class for example, there is nothing pornographic implied when sketching a naked man or women. It is meant purely as a teaching tool to further peoples understanding of the beauty of the human body, and in the case of sexuality to expand their understanding of erotica and interaction between bodies. In the truest sense of art and education this act (although possible misplaced in its physical location) should not be condemned. A lecturer I once sat in on a class for said that “in sexuality nothing is wrong if it feels good and neither hurts you or makes you feel ashamed”.

    2. It’s all good, Tdawwg. How ’bout you and I meet at the friendly neighborhood Home Depot — you know the aisle… don’t act like you don’t — and we riff on those pesky OSHA “guidelines”? Cool? I’m sure they’re none too pleased about this either.

      And for the record, I’d have much preferred pixie or nymph or even elf. Compliment nonetheless though.

  4. From the Daily Northwestern linked above:

    Bailey will, however, be teaching two 300-level Special Topics courses — one titled “Dangerous Ideas” — next school year, according to the document.

    LOL. Guess he’ll have a lot of material, if he manages to keep his job (which he likely, hopefully won’t).

    1. why “hopefully”? were these not all adults? for fuck’s sake what’s wrong with everything

    2. Tdawwg:

      Universities are the only place where this kind of thing could take place as an educational pursuit. If the students are all consenting and aware of what they are about to see, then there is *absolutely* no problem with what professor Bailey did.

      Thankfully universities usually have the insight to understand that universities are supposed to foster new and original perspectives and ideas, however that may come about (within the confines of the law). Just because Professor Bailey’s “alternative” teaching techniques jibe with your prudish sensibilities doesn’t mean the guy should lose his job. Get over yourself, mate.

      1. I am not your “mate,” Teapot.

        I guess I’m wondering how a live sex show is educational or instructive, and in ways that require being presented in a college course. I’m especially wondering how this is educational and instructive to the degree that you claim, i.e., that a university is the only place where these things can be handled as, in your winning phrase, “an educational pursuit.” Why, to think of all that time I’ve wasted playing with sex toys myself, and in the company of others, but without a trained academic professional to show me where to insert the Fucksaw, how to wield it properly, and how to clean up afterwards! Someone might have been hurt! All the porn I’ve watched, all the sex I’ve had: all wasted, all so . . . uneducational. Thank heavens for brave professors willing to throw themselves into the breach of our ignorance, brandishing Fucksaws on high like the very Tablets of Knowledge!

        You seem to be quite clear on these issues, so I’ll leave you with that.

        1. That was a tad harsh. I do find words like “mate” used in such a way to be manipulative, though, especially when they’re the last word of a thinly-veiled ad hominem. But in pointing out and resisting such a diatribe one mustn’t sink to the same level. (Sad face.)

  5. Maybe it’s just the recent stripper GF breakup talking, but today I really hate the world in which I’m living.

    Not because people are trampling the freedom of this prof to teach/demo things of this nature (which I really do want to get behind), but because I live on a planet where people feel compelled to watch other people fuck power tools.


  6. So who was hurt by this? Canceling the class and starting an investigation is unwarranted. So many people have such a weird attitude towards sex…

    1. Replace the word “people” with “Americans” and the story will start to make more sense.

  7. Instead of completely banning the course, I think the wiser thing for the college to do would be offering the course under a different professor, with a more… “restrained” syllabus.

    Honestly, I’m all for free and open speech in colleges, especially on the topic of sex and sex ed. You’re an adult, there to learn. If you can’t discuss mature matters in school, even if they’re potentially uncomfortable for some, how will you function in the real world? But a live sexual demonstration, with toys, seems questionable at best and not really necessary for the topic discussion, IMHO.

    1. But a live sexual demonstration, with toys, seems questionable at best and not really necessary for the topic discussion, IMHO.

      “Necessary” shouldn’t be the guiding line. Almost no individual bit of a lecture is truly necessary. Consider other criteria such as “more effective than not”, “more effective than average”, and so forth.

      Note that this demonstration was given after the scheduled class time, and staying was not expected or demanded, but completely optional.

    2. If you’re all for free speech, except when you aren’t, then you aren’t all for fee speech.

    3. The course was probably controversial to begin with and I”m sure behind the scenes there was a lot of reassurances of “Don’t worry it’s not what it sounds like” then this happened.

      Pretty stupid move if you ask me. Almost like the guy wanted to get fired.

  8. This guy’s getting more flak for the fucksaw demo (which hasn’t hurt anyone) than for his “autogynephilia” “research” (which has often been used to legitimize transphobia).

    1. ….so that they can design these sorts of things themselves.

      however, your concern about all this foolishness on your lawn has been noted

    2. what’s wrong with math AND sex toys? it’s worked well for me, although the sex toys part was extra-curricular. if you’re going to have an academic approach to sexual behavior, then why not show typical human sexual behavior? ah, but whether or not to have such an approach in the first place would be a hard question, so instead people snipe at this so-called “extreme” case.

    3. Kosmoid said:
      Meanwhile, the students in China are doing math.

      It even worse than that. Some time ago China worried that they may have not accounted for around 350 million engineering graduates due to a rounding error. That’s right, China misplaced a group of engineering students about the size of the entire population of the United States due to a statistical error.

      The fucksaw is our only hope.

      1. noen wrote: “Some time ago China worried that they may have not accounted for around 350 million engineering graduates due to a rounding error … China misplaced a group of engineering students about the size of the entire population of the United States due to a statistical error”

        Not buying this. The population of China is 1.3 billion (give or take). 350 million would be about 25% of the population. I doubt that 1 Chinese person in 4 is not merely an engineering graduate, but an engineering graduate who was overlooked because someone in the bureaucracy can’t do math.

    4. HaHA @ Kosmoid!yeah i’m all for being comfortable with sexuality, but the “fucksaw”?? Really?? At least use something that sounds and looks more appealing. I would not want that thing near or in me. Couldn’t he have just played a video on consensual couple masturbation in order to demonstrate his lesson? All I know is that those students saw a class no one at any other college has ever seen.

  9. I’m an NU employee. FWIW Here’s the message that was sent out by the University President back in early March when this first occurred:

    Statement by Northwestern President Morton Schapiro

    I have recently learned of the after-class activity associated with Prof. Michael Bailey’s Human Sexuality class, and I am troubled and disappointed by what occurred.

    Although the incident took place in an after-class session that students were not required to attend and students were advised in advance, several times, of the explicit nature of the activity, I feel it represented extremely poor judgment on the part of our faculty member. I simply do not believe this was appropriate, necessary or in keeping with Northwestern University’s academic mission.

    Northwestern faculty members engage in teaching and research on a wide variety of topics, some of them controversial. That is the nature of a university. However, in this instance, 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.

    Many members of the Northwestern community are disturbed by what took place on our campus. So am I.

  10. America is a country of six-year-olds, governed by nine-year-olds.

    If only Europe had more lax immigration policies, I’d be out of here in a New York minute.

  11. It looks more like a power tool than a sex toy – where the heck did he find it??? Any sensible person wouldn’t get that implement anywhere near them – wow!

    1. It looks more like a power tool than a sex toy – where the heck did he find it???

      That’s because it is a power tool. Specifically, the one linked to by Xeni looks like a Chicago Electric Power Tools reciprocating saw (sold by Harbor Freight for $29.99). So all you enterprising Makers out there could easily rig up your own funmaker for far less than the $169 charged for the premade version. (Be sure to remove the actual sawblade to avoid incidents like the one linked to above.)

  12. In any other subject a professor would be going above and beyond to bring in someone to offer up a demonstration on their topic, like a chemistry teacher who brought in a demo on molecular gastronomy for example.

    Also, it was completely voluntary and many warnings were given in advance. Based on that, I’ll be going to an R rated movie later and then suing the theater for letting me see scandalous things. If there wasn’t demand/interest for the demonstration no one would have been there. 100 students are responsible for their own actions and their professor shouldn’t be punished for those 100 individual choices.

  13. Extra credit: calculate the harmonic frequency required by the fucksaw to trigger a G-spot orgasm.

  14. Shit, I need to look into that fucksaw – a friend of mine had one, and I couldn’t use it on him because it was just too heavy and ungainly for me to hold while it was running. I swear, his fucksaw was long enough that if I sat it on its end, it would have reached my hip. (Not including the phallus part.)

    What this world needs are more manageable fucksaws.

  15. You are all just jealous that they didn’t have this when you went to college and all you got was some physics professor pushing himself across the floor in a rolling chair with a fire extinguisher.

  16. I know J. Michael Bailey, and one thing he isn’t is prude, which perhaps led to his decision. Context wise, however, we are talking about an optional, after class activity, involving two consenting adults with the sex toy, and about 100 students who were there voluntarily and were, from what I hear, about as well warned of the graphic nature of the demonstration as could be. Oh, and at what is considered a pretty liberal institution.

    From what I have heard, NONE of the students actually present complained about the demonstration, and I suspect that most of the people complaining to the administration had no ties to the school at all. I have always thought that this was a tempest in a teapot, and it would be too bad if Mike Bailey lost his job over this nonsense.

  17. For a class teaching people about human sexuality, it would seem to me that we should start from the position that watching real live people having sex SHOULD be a legitimate part of the learning.

  18. I went to an all boys Christian Brothers school. This shit would have been talked about for all time if it went down in my Alma Mater. Closest thing we had was the obligatory kid always drawing
    penises everywhere.

  19. Right. There’s nothing wrong with allowing 6 yr olds to use realistic weapons in videogames to blast their opponents’ spleens clean out of their bodies, but heaven forbid that adult students see anything sexually graphic.

    1. There you go again, getting personal.

      I think here I’m expected to say something impossibly transgressive, or prudish, or perhaps both, like, “But, wait, I’m the MAKER of the Fucksaw!” or “You sexually liberated and joyously orgasmic people are sick!” or something.

      Since even trolling is a form of communication, what is it you wish to communicate, O trollish museincognito?

      1. Tdawwg, maybe I’m misreading you. When you say “Generally good teachers don’t divide up the class into the squares and edge-players”, it sounds like you’re saying classes / curriculum should be the same for all students enrolled in particular class lest some students get an unequal educational opportunity. That sounds nice and egalitarian but it seems to be more focused on trying to guarantee equal outcomes versus equal opportunity. I infer that you think it is bad pedagogy to offer extra credit, or to even make a list of suggested additional reading. What if the teacher suggested watching certain movies or visiting certain porn sites as a matter of further learning on the topic? And I know this sounds silly, and not what you intend, but by this logic, it would seem unfair to subsequent classes if the teacher revises his syllabus, because previous students would have not had the same educational opportunity as later students. This is a gross characterization, but it seems like you are saying good pedagogy should teach to the lowest common denominator in a class.

        If I taught a comparative religion class and offered the option to visit a small store front church to witness someone cast out the devil from a congregation member, would that also be bad pedagogy? If I teach applied material sciences and offer an optional demonstration on explosives, is that bad pedagogy?

        1. It is bad pedagogy to offer extra credit. For one, it’s traducing the contract outlined on the syllabus, which contract, while not exactly legally binding, is understood to be operative at all times. Extra credit is also unfair: if student X gets an A for doing a standard amount of work, I rather devalue this A by allowing others to do extra work and obtain a similar grade. (Put conversely, student X gets no “extra” help or incentive, not needing any, and is thus punished, his or her work devalued, by the other, less-legitimate As.) Finally, extra credit is rather unworkable: if a student can only make a B or a C doing the standard amount of work in a standard amount of time, how could they do better by doing more work in less time? Since scarcity–of time, effort, energy, talent–always obtains, extra credit is unfair to all concerned, even if it weren’t a violation of the syllabus.

          Subsequent classes aren’t an issue, as every syllabus applies only to the course covered by said syllabus. Syllabi can be revised mid-course, of course, but only equally and for all.

          Dunno about your hypotheticals. If you arrange and participate in said exorcism or explosion, then I’d say yes, as you’re endorsing the extra event, and perhaps being unfair to those who can’t or won’t attend. If you’re drawing their attention to the events, then of course not: there’s nothing wrong with hipping students to events outside the classroom.

          Maybe because I teach in a public university in a big city, I’d just never think of scheduling extra events without tons of lead time. My students have jobs, duties, commitments that often exceed their scholastic ones.

          1. Yeah, extra credit–probably unfair I get that. I probably should not have even brought up that particular item.

            But I just don’t see how optional non-credited learning opportunities are bad pedagogy.

            I mean, suppose the professor presented regularly at a local BDSM club. Would it be bad pedagogy to tell his students that he conducts these presentations? To say, “Come on by if you want to learn more?” It just seems like it’s not black and white…that there’s a continuum of educational opportunity in life, and some people are going to be able to take advantage of it and others aren’t.

            I get that doing it in the classroom lends a certain “air” to the demonstration, but I think it differs in degree and not kind from a demonstration outside of the classroom. And as long as it is uncredited, the opportunity is the same with regard to the contracted syllabus.

            I guess a related question is, what if the some students had specifically requested this demonstration outside of class? If the instructor declined based on the grounds of unequal educational opportunity, wouldn’t it be bad pedagogy to ignore students’ earnest request for more instruction?

            I can see how it can be easy to take your position in the face of equality issues, and I think there’s something to be said for what your saying. I think there’s an inherent tension between maintaining equality of opportunity and maximizing learning opportunities, and I think calling it a question of good pedagogy distracts from the real question of resolving (or at least balancing) the tension between those two goals.

          2. I have to agree with a nonny mouse, as does my professorial spouse — not-for-credit extracurricular activities are valuable pedagogical tools, provided all students have equal opportunity to avail themselves of them. To say otherwise is to prevent the professor from ever buttonholing a visiting lecturer for an impromptu not-for-credit talk, or organizing a trip to the one-weekend-only Dura Europus exhibit at the museum, or saying, “Oh, hey, by the way, I just read this great book on this subject. If you’d like to learn more, go check it out.” It’s the professor’s job to create opportunities for learning, inside or outside the classroom, for credit or not, planned or impromptu; it’s the job of the students to take advantage of them as best they can or will.

          3. The BDSM club is an interesting issue. While there’s nothing wrong with extra learning opportunities, and while it would be ungenerous to hide one’s intellectual work outside the college from students, there are interesting role-boundaries issues present, as well as possible controversies surrounding sex, BDSM, etc. I think it is something I would not do but I do not lecture at BDSM clubs. I think it’s one thing to want to treat students as adults and young learners, but another thing to actually confront particular and minute issues with treating them in a certain way. Dunno if the students specifically requested a demonstration. I think generally befriending students off-campus and outside of class is problematic for a number of reasons, at sex clubs or not.

            I do think it’s fair to deny doing extra work for students based on the impracticality of said work. If the point of teaching is to effectively impart knowledge and to effectively create conditions for more knowledge acquisition blah blah, then having a low turnout due to scheduling conflicts isn’t exactly effective. Throw morality in the fire: only 100 out of 600 for LIVE SEX, that’s terrible pedagogy!

          4. I keep seeing you bang the “it’s bad teaching!” drum (pedagogy basically means teaching, for all you peeps out there that don’t speak the Uni Pretentious dialect). That’s because you don’t want the specific material to be taught.

            On the most basic level, I can see what your problem is: The only form of sexual discussion that should made in any collegiate forum, in your mind, is vanilla sex. As in, straightforward missionary sex between man and woman. Now you may protest this, but it has been repeatedly pointed out that your sticking point (the fucksaw class) is an extra class, completely voluntary, and more than likely moderated to a degree so as to prevent injury. Clearly, standards were established beforehand.

            Now you may say “But this was sudden!” Oh no it wasn’t. This is a “Human Sexuality” course. Human sexuality is far more complicated, far more intricate than you let yourself believe. Arguably, you could make an entire major out of all the things you can discuss with human sexuality. Maybe even a graduate-level degree, if you can swing it. It would be more shocking if they hadn’t discussed the extremities of sex toys. This extra class, if it wasn’t on the syllabus, was planned well in advance at least.

            People will build walls of fear to things rather than take the time to understand them. In some people’s cases, they say people use drugs. In others, they contend some religious wrong. In your case, rather than understanding what was being taught, you thought the teacher and his syllabus was bad.

          5. Everything the prof. has said himself points this to not having been fully planned. The live sex demonstration was at the instigation of one of the guests: it was not planned, nor was it fully thought over by the prof. This is by his own admission in the linked news articles that you have demonstrated your failure to read, or to comprehend.

            Honestly, I find it fascinating that many of you have issues confusing my personal beliefs qua sex with my professional assessment of Bailey’s failings. So by pointing out his lack of preparation, his failure to vet a possibly controversial extra class, the issues involved with extra-curricular activities, and his complete failure to assess the consequences of his actions, this somehow makes me prudish, into missionary sex only, vanilla, etc. This need to project rampantly about my sexual mores and values prevents you from engaging with my arguments, and is really quite sad: really, what proof of kinky fun or wild depravity could I adduce? The mind reels.

          6. Do students study for grades or do students study to learn? If the former, then deviating from a syllabus (or offering optional enhancements to it) is not very good idea, as it does encumber the ability of students to tailor their efforts to a predefined set of rules. If the latter, then a one-size-fits-all approach is terrible – what one needs to learn becomes strongly dependent on what one wants to do with that knowledge.

            Note, of course, that the same individual will almost certainly vacillate between these states throughout the course of his or her academic career. From greater focus on learning in kindergarten, to greater focus grades in middle school, back to greater focus on learning at the tertiary level.

  20. I think it’s actually called a Fuckzall since the original tool name is registered as Sawzall.

    Also, I smell a new TV show for Bob Vila.

  21. A strong female orgasm…in PUBLIC?? He’s lucky they didnt stone him to death.

    The reaction is sad, but to be expected. The worst part is that the administration’s first reaction was to support the guy, citing academic freedom. They obviously didn’t stop to consider the depth of the taboo that had been broken. They were reminded in a hurry.

    Anyone confused by this episode would be well-served to study the work of the infamous renegade Freudian, Wilhelm Reich. He saw more clearly than anyone how the social order armors itself against sexual pleasure as a means of maintaining control, and the misery this causes.

    Still, things are getting better. The guy didn’t even lose his job. Reich did bio-electrical research on orgasms 70 years ago, out of the public eye, and was disgraced and essentially hounded to death.

    Maybe someday we’ll be as open about sexual pleasure as we are about enjoying food, music, dance, etc. Hopefully someday a public female orgasm won’t be cause for alarm.

  22. crimeny, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the world might be a slightly better place if more 21-year-olds got lessons and demos. Happier and more relaxed…

  23. This reminds me to wonder why strip clubs in the US are only strip clubs, and there do not seem to be any live sexual acts performed. There must be some sort of laws that account for why the US is so tame.

  24. Whats the problem here? it was consented to by all parties, i was made clear to everyone what was to happen, extra-curricular and presumably everybody was past the age of consent. What exactly happened here that was so wrong?

  25. It would have far easier if he had done it the old-fashioned way, and show video clips from the web instead of having a live demonstration onstage. That way, it’s not ‘real’, it’s ‘simulated’, since you’re watching a movie. Or something like that. For a nation that hungers for sex, talks about sex, does sex, we certainly have some strange ideas about how we should be dealing with education about sex, especially when we’re dealing with an audience of grownups who are doing it like bunnies.

  26. “The Daily Northwestern quoted Bailey as saying,”Sticks and stones may break your bones, but watching naked people on stage doing pleasurable things will never hurt you.”

    I’m reminded of the warning: “Be careful what you put into your head, because you’ll never get it out!”
    A good rule to follow.

  27. A friend recently said that a significant number of her classmates expressed “discomfort” in a nutrition classes’ on-line questionnaire regarding how they would feel if they were to see a woman breast feeding in public.

    My wife once had a girl scream and run out of a health club’s sauna because my wife was naked.

    One can actually be arrested and convicted of “indecent exposure” for peeing against a wall in public in many US jurisdictions, and thus be forced to register for life in a “sex-offenders” registry.

    What I find objectionable is the perverse religionist morality that stigmatizes ordinary human functions: nakedness, sex, breastfeeding, etc. Where do such profoundly destructive and irrational fears come from?

  28. There are, by the way, fucking machines that aren’t based on power saws. No blades and no partner required. If I wanted to see some in use, I would turn butt machine boys into a URL. Or search for a female equivalent.

    1. Your comment almost sounds like a covert advertisement for, as they have all of this covered and more. In terms of exposing one’s self to a certain breadth of sexuality, is highly educational. ;-)

  29. I am an NU alum and ex-employee, and I am afraid my alma mater’s actions do not surprise me. The demonstration by Mr Marcus and Ms Kroll was practically a test for academe: are we in higher education tolerant and accepting of sexual practices or preferences not widely shared (or at least admitted to at Alumni Association cocktail parties), and are consenting adults on campus free to do as they please at an institution that should be defending them from censure and judgement? Fail to Purple, Fail to White.

  30. But even if it was “maybe kind of dumb in our cultural environment” I still think the general reaction to this professor’s “antics” has been an over-reaction. NU is–we now know–obviously not the place to host such a demonstration. Short of NU offering a stronger defense of their faculty, ideally, a couple things could happen.

    –If the professor wanted to stay at NU, he would say, “okay, here’s boundary I shall not cross, and I will adjust accordingly”

    –The teacher says, “this is really important to my curriculum, I will find a more tolerant institution at which to teach this curriculum.”

  31. I AM one of those apparently delicate flower alumni donors to Northwestern, and I’m disappointed in the university, not the professor. Let’s step back and get some perspective here. It was not required. It didn’t happen during class time. They’re all adults. What on earth more is there to say about it? It’s none of anybody’s damn business what this group of fully informed, freely consenting adults decided to look at. I am seriously annoyed by this.

  32. Yes, I am rather suggesting that all students be given equal educational opportunities.

    See, that’s what’s clouding your argument, I think. It seems to me that your first and most strenuous objections were to the content of the “extra class,” and only later did you mention what apparently strikes you as the educational unfairness of extra content that is not available to the entire class.

    The thing is, it was certainly available to anyone who wanted to stay and could spare the time. According to one of the linked articles, approximately 100 of the 600 students in the class stayed to watch the demonstration. Sure, there may have been a few interested parties who reluctantly had to leave in order to get to Calculus on time, and certainly there were many who left because they were either actively repulsed by the idea of seeing it, or were passively uninterested, or somewhere in between. As long as the demonstration played no role in grading or any other class-related factor, and was completely optional, then the students who bailed were not being deprived of anything educationally vital, and those who stayed would be there entirely of their own volition.

    “Dividing” the class is bad pedagogy? Well, way back in the 20th century when I was in high school, I took two years of Honors biology. Sometime during the second year, we were given the opportunity to dissect cats. (The college prep kids were given fetal pigs, for some reason, but we had cats.) Anyone who had any objection to participating (either out of a moral objection or just the yuck factor) was free to repair to the laboratory next door for a more theoretical, less hands-on lesson on the subject, with no negative repercussions on the official level and surprisingly few on the social level. About a third of the class elected to bail, IIRC, and any stigma attached to being “squeamish wusses” was absent as far as I could tell, just as we who stayed and dissected weren’t actually labeled as “bloodthirsty cat-carving maniacs” by those who left.

    I don’t have any idea if dissection is still considered useful in biology classes at the high school level or not, but at the time it was pretty widespread, and the option to bail on it was considered a humane alternative to minimize emotional trauma, fainting, vomiting, or just plain old discomfort on the part of those who did not wish to disassemble a formerly-living animal, maybe particularly not a cute li’l housecat. And this is only an isolated example of students getting slightly different educations without being the result of “bad pedagogy.” If all students are expected to participate equally in every last aspect of education, then God wouldn’t have invented the Permission Slip, and nobody’d ever take a field trip to the zoo. Hell, we’d all have to stay home everytime somebody calls in sick.

    You might have a stronger argument by sticking to the moral objections to the content, square though they may be.

  33. I just wanted to say that I am rather pleased with the level of civil discussion on this subject. While I can’t say that I agree with Tdawwg, he has made me think about elements of this discussion that I had not previously considered. Further, I appreciated a nonny mouse’s non-combative responses and thoughts. I don’t usually see reasonable discussion on internet comments.

    P.S. Rob Cockerham you are my hero. I LOVE “How Much is Inside?” and I would really like to see more videos from you (in the vein of the Starbucks cup video) or a HMiI? video series.

  34. So I just noticed that the um, operator of the fucksaw, Jim Marcus, is in fact *the* Jim Marcus, who many of us aging rivetheads might remember as the lead singer for Die Warzau, Everplastic, and a few other bands. He’s also a kick-ass type designer.

    1. The school should consider themselves lucky OTHER industrialists had not done this demonstration; consider the machinery Survival Research Laboratories would have brought.

  35. Cancelled and apologized?!!! WHY?!!! That’s the first real education any of the students had in their life. Are the Puritans still in charge of this dog-turd country?

  36. Where else will young people learn about the existence of such toys? By prohibiting it you will only make it spread more quickly (Or as Obi wan Kenobi said, “strike me down, and I will only become stronger”). Beware!
    NU is a private institution, and as such, relies for much of its funding on private donations – probably be mostly old, rich and conservative individuals and institutions, who would take issue with this kind of thing – Shapiro knows who butters his bread.

  37. 1. A closed classroom is not a public place.

    2. University higherups should not have a say in curriculae. It’s one thing for a department head to say no, entirely another for Mr. Schapiro (NW president, at least according to anon 20)to say that he is ‘disturbed’ by this.

    3. There has to be a line somewhere for academia, though: shocking people fatally is definitely across it. Apparently so is tricking people into thinking they’re shocking people fatally. Though IIRC there was a UK TV station that tried to run a milgram/weakest link mashup quite recently.

  38. I’m from Sweden and I am in envy.
    A fucksaw, did he really have to use a fucksaw? It wouldn’t be as funny of course, but if he just wanted to show a g-spot orgasm, why not just use one of those dildos with a bent head? He must have really wanted to make some political point. Did the woman recite the first amendment slowly until she came, a la the alphabet street thing? It is very funny, though I think it’s beyond live sex and more in the realm of the Howard Stern squirting contest (which I really did enjoy).
    “Sometimes when a man and a woman loves each other very much, they bring out the fucksaw”

  39. This is a non issue. It was a completely harmless demonstration that 102 adults agreed to be a part of.

    Live interaction and demonstration are considered superior teaching methods in any other educational spectrum. North Western University offers criminal justice students the opportunity to fire weapons using live ammunition. Med and anatomy students are allowed to dissect cadvers. So why is the Human Sexuality course being held to a different standard?

  40. This is where the comment, “Some people are just kind of weird about sex” really applies all over the place.

  41. America is a country of six-year-olds, governed by nine-year-olds.

    Close. I’d say it’s country of six year olds, governed by four year olds, and I live here, dammit.

  42. I just read the specs for that power-tool-cum-sex-toy. Fun’s fun, but a maximum of 41 strokes a second? I’m thinking that even without a blade, that shit is dangerous. Best to stick to the ol’ Hitachi Magic Wand, I say!

    I can almost hear thousands of alumni crying out “this is where my donation is going?”

    I can almost hear them also saying, “How come they never had stuff like this going on when I was in school, goddamit?”

  43. SOME Chinese are studying math. By and large, the ones who aren’t and didn’t are the ones who assembled that cheap $30 Sawzall knockoff in some firetrap sweatshop. Honestly, you’d think these guys could at least use a good-quality tool as the base of their, er, electric hammer.

  44. I really don’t see why anyone has a problem with this. It was a human sexuality class, using a “fucksaw” is apparently something that is part of human sexuality. Also they were warned about it. It wasn’t like two naked people jumped out of the classroom’s supply cabinet and ran around the class fucksawing each other.

  45. German Officer: “What he did not realize was that, in this country, we use 220 volt current. He was found impaled upon a large electrical device.”

  46. outta line.

    Yeah it’s OK to push this boundary among other adults. (Not OK at a university IMO, but I can imagine the other side. engineers.)

    But 9/10ths of the country considers this repulsive, and they will vote by feet and hands to keep sex ed away from all levels. People SHOULD know how their body functions, how it is susceptible to disease, and heck–where babies come from. And it is THIS level of sex ed that is being withheld.

    I’m sorry, but this is not a public good, it is genuinely pornography. It does not help the cause of improved sex ed, it sets it back.

  47. “LIVE SEX”!!!!!!

    Yes, fellow earthlings, even plain vanilla, totally monogamous, everloving LIVE SEX would have been uproarious. In a Human Sexuality course at a prestigious university.

    And yet population wildly increases every…. oh, nevermind.

    Ooooo, look! Over there! Homo sapien conceives entire litter! In one try! Without sex! Awesome! Just look at ’em! Winning!

  48. My university has a nude beach less than 5 minutes walk from campus… And really, anyone who thinks sex doesn’t have a place on campus, hasn’t actually gone to college.

  49. That thing looks limp compared to the Funbeam Screwmaster.

    @danfan “America is a country of six-year-olds, governed by nine-year-olds.”

    Total agreement, with the minor quibble: I’m pretty sure it’s vice versa.

  50. Didn’t I hear about this months ago? Or was that a different teacher and a different “demonstration?” If it was someone else I’d dare say this is just a copycat looking for publicity.

  51. Only in America are the people so prudish. I remember how everyone went nuts over Janet Jackson showing a breast on TV, you people have your priorities all wrong: graphic violence all over the TV, guns in every home, a huge percentage of the country locked up in jails, and yet you get offended by a woman’s breast?

    This was a sex education class, the students got sex educated. OK, using a fucksaw was a bit extreme, but sex toys definitely have a place on the curriculum of a sex ed course.

  52. I’m reminded of the time that Annie Sprinkle came to Brown University and gave an explicit slideshow. Quite the opposite reaction… it just dragged on and on over several hours and most people had left by the time she showed a video of lesbian five finger orgasm. The only outrage was over her un-politically-correct role play of Native Americans and Blacks.

  53. Teapot said: “Universities are the only place where this kind of thing could take place as an educational pursuit.”
    They have demos and workshops at Babeland sex toy shop (for instance). It’s not for credit, but it sure is edumacational. Seems that the prof could’ve done a field trip… just sayin’.

  54. This class was an offshot of a psychology- and sexuality-related course, right? As in, these people are training in a discipline that is quite likely to involve them having to deal with sexually dysfunctional people such as paedophiles, zoophiles, people with incestuous fantasies, and people who know vastly more about the human body’s sexual potential than most people do. Honestly, a live sex demonstration should be compulsory for these people, if they can’t stomach it, they can’t do the job they’re training for and should stop wasting their and the university’s time. All this demo did was show off a fetish for being stimulated in public, that the G-spot exists and that women can be made to orgasm by stimulating it. This should be required knowledge and taught in the most direct and efficient manner possible.

    As a paedophile, the fact that I can’t rely on an open and pragmatic view of sexuality is a small factor that restricts my ability to seek help openly(the main factor is that UK law makes even illustrated pornography, which I use as a controlled release to prevent involuntary fantasies about real boys, illegal). If I can’t assume that a psychologist is going to understand that I really can’t just stop thinking about boys and need help safely managing those desires, or is going to go off on a wild goose because he thinks my urethral sounding is self-harm-related, I can’t assume a productive and trusting relationship, and thus have to assume my therapist could turn hostile. It’s a lot to ask that I trust some random’s goodwill when being outed would result in prison and a ruined life for me and a very real danger of my family and friends being attacked or harassed.

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