J. (John) Michael Bailey, the Northwestern University professor at the center of recent controversy over a live sex act in his classroom, apologized Saturday for allowing the demonstration to occur.
“I apologize,” he writes. “As I have noted elsewhere, the demonstration was unplanned and occurred because I made a quick decision to allow it. I should not have done so.”
He said he was surprised by the public outcry over the after-class incident in the Ryan Family Auditorium, where a man used a high-powered sex toy on his girlfriend in front of 100 students.
“During a time of financial crisis, war, and global warming, this story has been a top news story for more than two days,” Bailey wrote in his statement. “That this is so reveals a stark difference of opinion between people like me, who see absolutely no harm in what happened, and those who believe that it was profoundly wrong.”
His statement comes two days after Northwestern’s president, Morton Schapiro, said he was launching an investigation into the after-class live sex demo, saying he was disturbed, troubled and disappointed.
Bailey said that while he regretted allowing the sex toy demonstration, he also does not believe those who were offended made a good case for why the act should not have been allowed.
“Those who believe that there was, in fact, a serious problem have had considerable opportunity to explain why: in the numerous media stories on the controversy, or in their various correspondences with me,” the statement reads in part. “But they have failed to do so. Offense and anger are not arguments. But I remain open to hearing and reading good arguments.”
I strongly support Professor Bailey and the demonstration, which was not required for students to attend but was voluntary. His intention was to show, in real life, how a woman becomes aroused to orgasm, and further whether she ejaculates as men do at climax. (By the way, she DID ejaculate! Congrats all around.)
In a world when students are given detailed information on a wealth of topics without relevance to their lives, this unusual teaching opportunity is an honest breath of fresh air. Almost all people have sex. Few have good sex, and even fewer have fantastic sex. Shouldn't we encourage people to better their sex lives and understand the workings of their bodies?
Female orgasm is often problematic for couples. A life-action demonstration is a great way to see how and what happens during the woman's arousal cycle. I wish I could have been there, too, and I'm 54!
I say Bravo, Professor! I hope you continue to teach human sexuality in real, honest, and memorable ways so that your students will have much happier lives after university.
I found this issue so intriguing that I have included a wealth of information below, primarily from the campus newspaper, which initially reported the story. Note: I have also included links to the paper's websites.
[Above photo: Faith Kroll, 25, and fiance Jim Marcus, 44, pose for a photo in Chicago. The couple engaged in the demonstration in the human sexuality class Feb. 21 at Northwestern University. Kroll took her clothes off and graphically demonstrated the use of the motorized sex toy that was adeptly deployed by a different man.]
Here is the first article from the Daily Northwestern:
Class sex toy demonstration causes controversy
Prof. John Michael Bailey defends demonstration as educational
By Patrick Svitek
Published: Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Updated: Saturday, March 5, 2011
Northwestern students and administrators are defending an explicit after-class demonstration involving a woman being publicly penetrated by a sex toy on stage in the popular Human Sexuality course last week.
University spokesman Al Cubbage has released the following statement regarding the incident: "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. The university supports the efforts of its faculty to further the advancement of knowledge."
The optional presentation last Monday, attended by about 120 students, featured a naked non-student woman being repeatedly sexually stimulated to the point of orgasm by the sex toy, referred to as a "fucksaw." The device is essentially a motorized phallus.
The 600-person course, taught by psychology Prof. John Michael Bailey, is one of the largest at NU. The after-class events, which range from a question-and-answer session with swingers to a panel of convicted sex offenders, are a popular feature of the class. But they're optional and none of the material is included on exams.
[Above Photo: Professor J. (John) Michael Bailey]
Last Wednesday, Bailey devoted six minutes of his lecture to addressing mounting controversy regarding the incident and articulating his educational intent. He told the class he feared the demonstration would impact the after-class events, which are sponsored by the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, and he explained the educational purpose of the events.
"I think that these after-class events are quite valuable. Why? One reason is that I think it helps us understand sexual diversity," he said, according to an audio file obtained by The Daily.
"Sticks and stones may break your bones, but watching naked people on stage doing pleasurable things will never hurt you," he said to loud applause at the end of his speech.
Bailey declined to comment for this article due to class preparations that he said last until Friday.
[Above Photo: The sex toy used in the demonstration is referred to as a "fuck saw." An identical motorized device is depicted above. The one used during the demonstration was equipped with a phallus.]
Chicago sex tour guide Ken Melvoin-Berg, who operated the device, emphasized the instructional value of the hour-long session, which also included a question-and-answer period.
"Talking about it doesn't always lend itself to this sort of thing," Melvoin-Berg said. "We're not just talking about it. We're actually doing it."
The shock value could be attributed to offended parties "not really knowing why they're upset, but knowing they're upset," he added.
NU administrators on Tuesday afternoon offered approving but cautious responses to the demonstration, with Dean of Students Burgwell Howard admitting he was "somewhat surprised" upon first hearing of the after-class presentation. The event, however, most likely "falls within the broad range of academic freedoms — whether one approves or disapproves," he wrote in an e-mail.
Laura Anne Stuart, the sexual health education and violence prevention coordinator at University Health Services, said after hearing of the event she consulted with a few members of SHAPE, the on-campus sexual health group she advises.
"As a sexuality educator, I do think that demonstrations of specific arousal techniques — those definitely have educational value," she said.
Stuart added that the sexual display's appropriateness depends on the class context, audience makeup and the professor's ultimate goals.
Bailey is no stranger to controversy. The 21-year professor, who repeatedly has been named to the Associated Student Government Faculty Honor Roll, including in 2010 and 2009, has drawn criticism for the research and conclusions of his book "The Man Who Would Be Queen," which explores male femininity and autogynephilia, a sexual fixation in which a man is sexually excited by the thought or image of himself as a female.
Interested attendees were warned five to 10 times about the intense nature of the demonstration, said McCormick senior Nick Wilson, who was present for the after-class event. He estimated at least 20 students began "trickling out" due to the warning.
McCormick junior Ellen Kourakos described the sex-toy implementation as "a little more explicit than expected."
Administrators and students interviewed said because the event was optional, it is a permissable addition to the class.
"Personally, I probably wouldn't want to witness that, but a student can take or not take the course," said Christine Woo, a member of NU's Christians on Campus chapter. "It's their choice."
Howard wrote in an e-mail Tuesday evening that hopefully students aimed to "plan their attendance accordingly," especially given the popular but provocative nature of Bailey's course.
Wilson downplayed the controversy, adding students were present because they chose to be and some were actually trying to move closer to the front of the room during the demonstration.
"Everybody's blowing it out of proportion," Wilson said. "It's one small thing. It's an intense thing, but it's a small thing."
In an e-mail sent to the students of his 600-person Human Sexuality course, psychology Prof. John Michael Bailey offered his account of an optional after-class sex toy demonstration that has sparked controversy on campus and in Evanston.
The February 21st Demonstration: Bailey's Account:
"I teach a large (nearly 600 person) human sexuality class at Northwestern University. During class I lecture about the science of sexuality. Many days after class I organize optional events.
These events primarily comprise speakers addressing interesting aspects of sexuality. This year, for example, we have had a panel of gay men speaking about their sex lives, a transsexual performer, two convicted sex offenders, an expert in female sexual health and sexual pleasure, a plastic surgeon, a swinging couple, and the February 21st panel led by Ken MelvoinJBerg, on "networking for kinky people." These events are entirely optional, they are not covered on exams, and I arrange them at considerable investment of my time, for which I receive no compensation from Northwestern University. The students find the events to be quite valuable, typically, because engaging real people in conversation provides useful examples and extensions of concepts students learn about in traditional academic ways.
I recruited Ken MelvoinJBerg (Ken MB henceforth) because past speakers covering similar topics had not been very interesting—they had merely given powerpoint presentations, of which students get too many already. They were also unwilling to answer questions about their sex lives, which defeated the purpose of that particular presentation. I had met Ken and believe he is articulate, open, knowledgeable, entertaining, and yes, kinky. Sexual diversity is surely a reasonable thing to address in a human sexuality class. I certainly had no hesitation inviting Ken MB, and I asked him whether he could recruit others, as well, to give the presentation. (I especially thought it would be useful to have a woman as well as a man.)
On the afternoon of February 21st Ken MB and colleagues arrived while I was finishing my lecture, on sexual arousal. I was talking about the female gJspot and the phenomenon of female ejaculation, both of which are scientifically controversial. I finished the lecture and invited the guests onstage. On the way, Ken asked me whether it would be ok if one of the women with him demonstrated female ejaculation using equipment they had brought with them. I hesitated only briefly before saying "yes." My hesitation concerned the likelihood that many people would find this inappropriate. 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 all, those still there had stayed for an optional demonstration/lecture about kinky sex and were told explicitly what they were about to see. The demonstration, which included a woman who enjoyed providing a sexually explicit demonstration using a machine, surely counts as kinky, and hence as relevant. Furthermore, earlier that day in my lecture I had talked about the attempts to silence sex research, and how this largely reflected sex negativity. I have had previous experiences with these silencing attempts myself. I did not wish, and I do not wish, to surrender to sex negativity and fear.
Ken MB and friends spoke to the class for a while and then informed students they were about to perform their demonstration. The presentation seems to have lasted about 5J10 minutes of their hour long presentation. While I watched, I experienced some apprehension. None of this apprehension had to do with the possibility of harm to any observer, and none of it had to do with a lack of educational value. As I alluded, some experiences are educational and interesting in non-traditional ways. Rather, I was worried that there could be repercussions that would threaten the valuable speaker series that I have built over the years.
Student feedback for this event (I routinely feedback collect for all events) was uniformly positive. Although most students mentioned the explicit demonstration—which they enjoyed and thought was a singular college experience—most also said that the most valuable part was engaging in a dialogue with Ken MB et al.
Do I have any regrets? 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. I have not enjoyed the press, because I have assumed that reporters will sensationalize what happened and will not provide my side. (A welcome exception to this, mostly, was the Daily Northwestern article.) I suspect that my Dean is not enjoying this publicity, and I do not like displeasing my Dean. To the extent that this event provokes a discussion of my reasoning, above, I welcome it. I expect many people to disagree with me. Thoughtful discussion of controversial topics is a cornerstone of learning."
J. Michael Bailey
The following appeared in The Daily Beast:
By Jessica Bennett
A psychology professor did what?! The story behind the Illinois university’s strange sex demonstration.
Update: Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro said Thursday that he was "troubled and disappointed" after hearing about the sex toy incident—and that Northwestern would be launching an investigation into it. “I feel it represented extremely poor judgment on the part of our faculty member,” he said in a statement. On Saturday morning, the professor behind the controversial class issued his own apology stating that he regrets allowing the controversial demonstration, and that "In the 18 years I have taught this course, nothing like the demonstration at issue has occurred, and I will allow nothing like it to happen again."
It was bizarre, say students—even for a professor who gets off (excuse the pun) on controversy. On Feb. 21, after a lecture on sexual arousal, students in Northwestern University psychology Professor J. Michael Bailey’s human-sexuality course were given the option to stay for a guest presentation. Most were used to these sessions: With topics like “The Gay Guys Panel” (gay men talking about their sex lives) and Q&A sessions with transgender performers, the optional add-ons were part of what made Bailey’s class one of the most popular on campus.
But this particular lecture was, shall we say, different. Led by a man whose website describes him as a “psychic detective and ghost hunter,” it was called “Networking for Kinky People,” and began with a towel placed neatly on the auditorium stage. Next, a woman took her clothes off, and—with an audience of around 100—lay down on her back, legs spread. As students moved forward from the theater’s back seats, for a closer view, “The girl grabbed the mic,” says Sean Lavery, a Northwestern freshman. “She explained that she had a fetish for being watched by large crowds while having an orgasm.”
No, the girl involved was not a student. Yes, she was over 21, we’re told—and the guy stimulating her was introduced as her boyfriend. “It was a committed couple who did the demonstration, and it happened at the end of the class,” says Ken Melvoin-Berg, the guest speaker, who helps operate a tour company called Weird Chicago that offers sex tours.
We'll spare you the gory details — but let's just say they involved the woman's boyfriend bringing her to climax on stage, using a contraption called a "fucksaw," and plenty of gasps, not just from flabbergasted students. “I was gauging everyone’s reaction,” says Lavery, who’s been in Bailey’s class since January. “I think everyone was just like, ‘Is she really doing this right now?’”
The demonstration, as you can imagine, has become the talk of campus — a story that will undoubtedly become fable for subsequent classes of incoming freshmen. It will also certainly become a rallying cry for sex-education critics, and parents of fresh-faced 18 year olds for whom Northwestern is suddenly at the top of their college wish lists. With the story first reported in Northwestern’s campus paper, The Daily, on Tuesday, it’s safe to say that the influx of criticism has only just begun.
But Bailey, for his part, has never shied away from controversy. His 2003 book, The Man Who Would Be Queen, ruffled feathers with its argument that some transgender men who wish to become women are driven by erotic fascination rather than biological desire; Bailey has said himself that he enjoys turning intellectual taboo on its head. But he resigned from his post as the chairman of Northwestern’s psychology department in 2004, shortly after allegations that he had unethically published confidential information about many of his subjects. (The claims were never substantiated, and Bailey has vehemently denied them.) Now a professor of clinical and personality psychology, Bailey is not licensed as a clinical psychologist in Illinois, nor has he been, according to the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation.
Back on campus, Northwestern is still defending its longtime prof, despite Bailey's comments in another class, quoted in the student newspaper this week, that "Sticks and stones may break your bones, but watching naked people on stage doing pleasurable things will never hurt you." "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," the university's vice president for university relations, Alan Cubbage, told The Daily Beast in a statement. "The university supports the efforts of its faculty to further the advancement of knowledge."
Bailey declined to be interviewed for this article, but seems to have gained at least a bit of perspective since his earlier remarks. Late Wednesday, he posted a lengthy explanation of his behavior to the Northwestern faculty site, in which he acknowledges he had "some apprehension" about the display—though more for the personal repercussions than any lack of educational value. "Do I have any regrets? It's mostly too early to say," he writes. "I certainly have no regrets concerning Northwestern students, who have demonstrated that they are open-minded grownups rather than fragile children." Grownups, yes; but also open-minded enough to assess the display for themselves. "I was like, 'OK, she orgasmed on stage,'" says Lavery, the freshman, who is 18. "What're we supposed to take away from that?"
[Jessica Bennett is a Newsweek senior writer covering society, youth culture and gender. Her special reports, multimedia packages and original Web video have been honored by the New York Press Club, the Newswomen's Club of New York and GLAAD, among other organizations.]
The next news account appeared in the Business Insider:
That Human Sexuality Class At Northwestern That Everyone Is Up In Arms About Was The Best Class Ever
Mar. 7, 201
Last week, the Daily Beast published a story about a human sexuality class at Northwestern, which, on a particular day, culminated in a woman and her "boyfriend bringing her to climax on stage, using a contraption called a 'fucksaw.'"
The reaction was one of shock, indignation, and a fair amount of disgust littered in the comment sections of any publication — including ours — that discussed the story.
Some of my close friends went to Northwestern, and have talked about the class before.
It's one of the university's most in-demand courses, and Professor Bailey is a big name not only at the university, but within the field of human sexuality more broadly.
I knew that because of those two details (and the fact that those who signed up for the class and were lucky enough to score a seat, knew what they were in for) it was only a matter of time before someone energed with a retort to the Beast's article.
It turns out that one of those retorts comes from a friend, Joe Bernstein, who explains at the AWL, why "That Northwestern "Human Sexuality" Class Was The Best Course I Ever Took."
Bernstein writes, "I won’t comment on the most recent demonstration. I wasn’t there. But the fact that these events have been going on for years leads me to believe that the current controversy has a lot more to do with the word “fucksaw” than anything else. These demonstrations clearly existed to expose a group of smart but sheltered young people to the staggering spectrum of human sexual behavior. Sometimes people need to be shocked out of their assumptions.
It has barely been reported that the “fucksaw” demonstrators led an hour-long discussion after their shocking act. Can we extrapolate from this fact that some knowledge about human sexuality may have been gleaned?"
He adds that one of the major shock points for those reading the Daily Beast or watching CNN, was that students are shelling out $40,000 to watch a couple on stage, armed with an unusually-named sex toy. But in Bailey's class, Bernstein felt like he was the having the experience a student is supposed to have at college -- that is, primarily, to be intellectually challenged.
"It certainly wasn't his presence that made Bailey the best professor I had at Northwestern. He lacked the performer’s intuition that the great lecturers have, the sense of drama, of revelation... But he taught major, contentious areas of sexuality research that we all have a stake in: about the genetic basis for sexual orientation; about the evolutionary costs and benefits of rape; about real, observable differences in male and female arousal patterns... Bailey assumed that we were not in the class just because it was about sex or, worse, to fulfill some silly course requirement. He assumed we were in class because we were as interested in the mysteries of human sexual experience as him."
The following is the complete response written by Bernstein:
by Joseph Bernstein on March 7th, 2011
In three years as an undergraduate at Northwestern University, I only saw one professor argue with his students. It happened several times in the same class, Human Sexuality, and I will never forget the first time it happened. It was the winter of my sophomore year, 2005. The professor, J. Michael Bailey, had been leading us through some provocative research, which suggested that if you control for a whole variety of factors, adults who were sexually abused as children are not much more likely to have psychological pathologies than adults who were not. The implication, that the sexual abuse of children might not be as damaging as our culture has long assumed, naturally upset some members of the class, and Bailey, as was his practice after introducing a controversial topic, halted his lecture for ten minutes of questions and answers.
A dark-haired young woman in the back of the class stood up right away. This was not an insignificant act; Human Sexuality was one of the most popular courses at Northwestern and hundreds of people gathered in the huge lecture hall on North Campus every winter to attend, so hundreds of heads turned to look at her.
“You’re talking about sexually abusing children,” she said, in tone that would have been hectoring if it hadn’t been so surprised. “No matter what the research says, that is morally wrong.” Bailey said that his moral judgment had nothing to do with the matter, that he was presenting research and that was all. This was clearly unsatisfactory to the young woman, who asked in response, “What would you say if one of your daughters was molested?”
Everyone has taken a class where the lecturer loses the respect of the students. This, I thought, was on the verge of happening. If Bailey responded defensively or, worse, derisively, he would lose the audience, maybe for the rest of the semester. I was sure that he would take the temperature of this woman’s voice, deflect the question and move on.
“If one of my daughters was molested, I would be devastated,” he said. “But I would take comfort in knowing that the molestation would not necessarily ruin her life.”
The young woman sat down. Bailey got back to his lecture.
Why am I telling you this story? J. Michael Bailey is the person at the center of the controversy currently burning on the Western shore of Lake Michigan, fed by gusts of air from every prurient corner of the Internet and every red-faced moralist who can sit through the Fox News or MSNBC or CNN makeup chair long enough to release his outrage.
What happened is this: Bailey, as he does several times every semester, organized an after-class demonstration, which in this particular instance took the form of one non-student Chicagoan applying a device known as a “fucksaw” to the vagina of another non-student Chicagoan, who apparently reached orgasm, though we have made the collective mistake of assuming so. (If "Seinfeld" has taught us nothing else, it is that only she knows for sure.)
Pardon the digression; commence the defense. I arrived in Northwestern in the fall of 2003, smart-assed and smug, from the halls of a criminally overpriced prep school in northwest Washington, D.C., which for all of its faults taught me that everything should be questioned, that good argument dignifies everyone and that being intellectually boring is sort of a sin. Let us say that these were not the values I encountered at my new home.
To understand Bailey’s worth to Northwestern, you need to understand a little bit about Northwestern. First, it's full of very smart and very driven people. Second, it's not a place where young people go to have their assumptions challenged. It's not the sort of university where young people go to experiment and find themselves and dabble in campus radicalism and psychedelics and maybe let someone of the same sex or someone in a body suit rub up on them. Due to its prestigious undergraduate programs in theater, journalism, engineering and business, it has an entrenched and sometimes suffocating pre-professional streak. In every way, geographically, intellectually, socially, psychologically, it's the opposite of our South Side rival for academic supremacy. It's also really, truly, appallingly cold. Which is all a way of saying that it's the sort of place that might benefit from a fucksaw every now and then.
I was adrift there. I know, I know: poor little me, paying $40,000 a year to be intellectually alone and sad in picturesque north Chicagoland. But let me say in my defense that 18 to 20 is a really awful age to feel like there's a good conversation going on somewhere and you aren’t having it. The early classes for my English major didn’t help. Sure, I learned how you can interpret The Matrix through a Lacanian lens, but I never heard anyone argue why you should. The students didn’t care and the professors didn’t notice. There were no stakes.
So now you can maybe see why that moment in Bailey’s class was so revelatory for me. I was watching an academic defend his field in the context of his life. There were stakes. It wasn’t life-altering or anything quite so neat as that. But it was an educator taking seriously enough the intentions of his students to expect that they could handle facts that made them uncomfortable. I felt, more than anything, respected.
It certainly wasn't his presence that made Bailey the best professor I had at Northwestern. He lacked the performer’s intuition that the great lecturers have, the sense of drama, of revelation. He spoke in a monotone and in class would basically shuffle around the stage with his microphone. But he taught major, contentious areas of sexuality research that we all have a stake in: about the genetic basis for sexual orientation; about the evolutionary costs and benefits of rape; about real, observable differences in male and female arousal patterns; about case studies of people who can only achieve sexual pleasure by cutting off their own limbs. Bailey assumed that we were not in the class just because it was about sex or, worse, to fulfill some silly course requirement. He assumed we were in class because we were as interested in the mysteries of human sexual experience as him.
I won’t comment on the most recent demonstration. I wasn’t there. But the fact that these events have been going on for years leads me to believe that the current controversy has a lot more to do with the word “fucksaw” than anything else. These demonstrations clearly existed to expose a group of smart but sheltered young people to the staggering spectrum of human sexual behavior. Sometimes people need to be shocked out of their assumptions.
I only remember one demonstration from 2005 well. It was just a panel of gay men, longtime friends of Bailey’s, who sat in front of the class and answered any question the audience could come up with. I simply didn’t know very many gay people when I was 20 years old, and I had a whole host of assumptions blasted by the commonsense, funny, sad answers provided by the men on the panel. There was a moment late in the demonstration when it became clear to the class that the removal of women from the sexual equation results in a lot more, well, sex.
Someone asked the panel: “How many of you have had sex with each other?” The men, who ranged widely in age, looked at each other, and it was clear some major mental math was happening. All at once, the men on stage started just shaking with laughter, and the audience did too. I didn’t leave the lecture hall changed in any fundamental way, except I knew a little bit more about the three or ten (depending on who you ask) percent of men who have sex with other men. I can say that no other professor’s class at Northwestern taught me that much about the way actual people live in the world.
It has barely been reported that the “fucksaw” demonstrators led an hour-long discussion after their shocking act. Can we extrapolate from this fact that some knowledge about human sexuality may have been gleaned? That some 19-year-old from Peoria might not think his new girlfriend is weird or disgusting when he stumbles upon her leather closet? That we all got here from fucking, that we do it in a lot of different ways, and someone should probably be studying it? Or would it just be easier and more satisfying to be scandalized?"
— The Curator