Is a Sex Toy Demonstration Educational?

I’ll admit, when I first read that Northwestern University Professor J. Michael Bailey had stirred up controversy with an after-class demonstration, I wasn’t too surprised. I took Bailey’s “Human Sexuality” class five years ago, and it was anything but tame.

But a live demonstration of how to use a saw-shaped sex toy? In a classroom? In front of more than 100 people? When did Evanston, Illinois turn into Amsterdam?

Within a few days, the story, originally reported by the campus newspaper The Daily Northwestern, spread like wildfire. The Chicago Tribune, the Huffington Post, CNN and even the BBC ran shocking headlines like “Live sex toy demonstration held on Northwestern campus.” After a while, I wasn’t amused or embarrassed for my school anymore. I was sad that this scandal is what Bailey’s class was reduced to.

“Human Sexuality” has always pushed boundaries. Bailey passes out sex surveys for his students to take. He devotes a lot of time to talking about fetishes. The entire course is about confronting taboos and making people uncomfortable.

The after-class demonstrations are an important — but not mandatory — part of the class. Five years later, they are still some of my most memorable moments inside a classroom. During the annual discussion with gay men, one panelist talked about losing his virginity in one of NU’s dorms. Two other panelists, who were in a committed, but open, relationship, recounted how many sex partners they’d had (it was in the hundreds).

But the raciest talk I attended was the panel on sadomasochism. Two dominatrixes, dressed to the nines in leather and spikes, and their submissive (who was only referred to as “Danimal”) talked about the S&M lifestyle and demonstrated some of the tools of trade — whips, paddles and even nipple clips. But the tenor of the demonstration was educational. There was never noticeable stimulation. The panelists discussed safety and told personal stories about how they found the S&M community and why it felt like home.

Was I uncomfortable? You bet. But did I learn something? Absolutely. That’s what college is about — pushing your own boundaries and getting exposed to new ideas and lifestyles.

Sexuality is an important part of that. It’s central to human life, and thus it’s appropriate to teach a psychology course about it. Furthermore, it’s educational to hear stories about how people discovered and came to terms with their own sexual proclivities. Mostly, it’s valuable to get out of your comfort zone, confront taboos, understand why they exist and question whether the do-not-cross line should be moved. Being able to do this in the safe environment of a classroom is a good thing.

But you don’t need to watch two people demonstrate a female orgasm to learn how it works. You don’t need to watch live sex to understand its importance, and you don’t have to go to extreme lengths and shock people to make them question sexual norms.

If anything, the live sex toy demonstration takes away from the value of the class. Now, people aren’t talking about the portrayal of sex in our society or psychology of desire. They’re talking about the f$#ksaw. That doesn’t serve anybody.

What do you think? Was the sex toy demonstration appropriate?

Related stories:

Basketball Star Kicked Off BYU Team for Premarital Sex

Tennessee Bill Banning Discussion of Homosexuality in Schools Back Again

Photo credit: Zol87


Froodo F.
Past Member 2 years ago

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Lindsey Williams
Lindsey Williams6 years ago

too much....thats ridiculous

Bernadette P.
berny p6 years ago

better be more informed than not enough...lets get real!

Elizabeth M.
Elizabeth M6 years ago

Thanks for the article Emily.
Since this was outside of the class,only ones interested or curious whould attend. In this case, I see no harm.

colleen p.
colleen p6 years ago

saw shaped? why not get something from baddragon or zetapaws?

Lika S.
Lika P6 years ago

While I think it should be an after class show, where fees aren't applied to pay, it's fine, when everyone is volunteering or coming from private money.

Thing is, the research for female orgasms has not come out to the market yet, and how even among men, how different the turn ons go. Women have a wider variety, and of course social and emotional hang ups don't help the situation, because women weren't always entitled our sexuality.

So, I think that it's good to teach more people how to do it, since it may make for a better couple to please each other, since most often, people cheat because they're not satisfied at home.

Sherri G. - no, porn is geared toward either getting ideas, entertainment, and generally geared toward men. Human sexuality gos so much farther than porn, that you'd have to make that more like "History of Porn", or "Pornography Styles" class, not a human sexuality one.

I just think that it's about time that a real demonstration was held on techniques to truly make a real woman have an orgasm.

Barbara Kanyaen
Barbara Kanyaen6 years ago

" . . .in Germany the Education Department put out a sex education booklet f . . . that instructed fathers to stimulate their little girls clitoris from baby stage onwards to familiarize their child to the positive feelings of sexual stimulation from males , all this in the name of "sex education" After a public outcry the book ( which was written by a convicted paedophile) was withdrawn, but it behoves parents to keep an eye on ALL education . . "

The above partial quote was taken from another poster and of all that I've read here, thus far, it was the most disgusting. Sexual feelings/actions are as much a part of our natural bodily and emotionally functions as is laughter, eating, bathing, walking, talking, sleeping . . and thinking.

The majority of posts here reflect the real beliefs concerning this "hot topic" and that is; self gratification is something we come by naturally, it is personal, and NOT something to be cheapened by exploitation which is basically what this so-called professor has done.

If this sort of 'demonstration' continues how much longer will it be until fathers in this country will be told it's "okay" (normal) to stimulate their little girls clitorises. .

I definitely agree with Tom McCurry on this one. Elle Smith F. also has some good points. But 'Sound Mind'--can't you make a point without the demeaning of others? ("I can see why the nut-case right wingers . . Don't agree with the nuts . .") Sad. Really sad of you.

Loo Samantha
Loo sam6 years ago

thanks for sharing.

Djana Martin
Djana Martin6 years ago

I commented earlier, but i wanted to follow up because I am disheartened by the many narrow minded comments I see here. The article unfortunately lends itself to it, as it is woefully short on the actual facts of the demonstration.

I had imagined, until now, that the Care2 sight was full of enlightened people wishing well on the world.
A lot of these comments are no better than what i see on yahoo hate filled reader response threads.
Really saddens me.

Here is a more enlightened response by an actual parent of one of the students of the class.