When Northwestern psychology professor Richard Bailey allowed a sex demonstration in front of his lecture class last month, he "didn't see the harm in it." After the firestorm of criticism, he still doesn't seem to, despite his admission that he began to feel uncomfortable himself during the demonstration. His apologies have been, really, non-apologies.
At the end of a recent Tribune piece focusing on Bailey's response to the controversy generated by his, er, guest speakers, is this gem of rhetorical criticism:
Bailey also said he has not heard convincing arguments against what happened, echoing Morton's statement when he said arguments such as that the demonstration "was troubling" are too vague.
"If I were grading the arguments against what occurred, most would earn an 'F,' " Bailey said.
There are a number of things that are deeply troubling about the fact that you allowed a live demonstration using sex toys in front of your class, Professor Bailey. I will just name the one that I find the most enraging:the sex toy in question that the man used to penetrate the woman on the stage of your lecture hall was in the form of a POWER SAW that has a phallus-like protrusion instead of a blade.
This normalization of violent sex games is of a piece with the bland acceptance of violence against women in this culture, and it calls to mind this airtight argument about the sort of domestic violence Charlie Sheen has been allowed to get away with while people everywhere shake their heads and have a good chuckle over the drug addict from Bueller. Yes, presumably this demonstration was consensual, and yes, perhaps some couples find this sort of violent theme enjoyable. And yes, this issue sets off interesting arguments about academic freedom that I'm inclined to entertain.
The pedagogical gains from such a demonstration remain to me unclear, but I am certain about one thing: to eroticize violent acts toward women in front of a group of 18-22 year olds in an educational context is both irresponsible, and from my vantage point, reprehensible.