Course Of The Month
Puritanical fanatics got you down?

Never fear; UNCG is here!

By Jon Sanders


May 01, 2004

Story photo

When a lecturer writes, "When I ask my students if topics such as masturbation, homosexuality, and sado-masochism were discussed [in their high-school sex education], they tend to look at me as if I was crazy," as University of North Carolina at Greensboro sociology lecturer Steven Sherman did in the student newspaper, it grabs CM's attention.

But poor Steven Sherman! To judge from his March 25 letter in the UNCG Carolinian, he's quite upset at UNCG Chancellor Patricia Sullivan, who is distancing herself from invited UNCG lecturer, porn star, and author of The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women, Tristan Taormino. (Sullivan recently admitted, contrary to earlier backpedaling, that UNCG officials had known of her porn work before they invited her.)

Sherman called Sullivan's response "especially pathetic" and asked, rhetorically, "Could Sullivan BE anymore gutless?" (sic).

Sherman thought the self-proclaimed "Queen of Anal Sex" really could have addressed a sore lack in UNCG’s students' public-school educations, whereupon he cited his class queries as to the extent of his students' prior education in matters involving "masturbation, homosexuality, and sado-masochism." Sherman blamed "puritanical fanatics" for this lack, concluding that's why those issues "have to be addressed at the university level." Here is where Her Majesty could have helped: "I think a speaker with Taormino's history is well suited to do so" (CM is starting to doubt it's only when Sherman seeks to find the extent of his students' sex education that they look at him as if he were crazy).

Spending class time grilling kids about their knowledge of sado-masochism, railing about puritanical fanatics, and harping on the need for universities to make up for that perceived lack is just the thing to earn recognition in CM. It is truly going above and beyond the call of Professor Murray Sperber's thesis, advanced in his book Beer and Circus, that undergraduate education in the U.S. is more and more about keeping students entertained, less and less about insisting that they learn anything of value. So CM is proud to honor Sherman's course:

SOC 222: Sociology of Deviant Behavior
The three central questions regarding deviance (How is it defined? Why do people commit deviant acts? How does society control deviant behavior?) will be explored. Specific issues, such as attempts to control teenage sexuality, the proliferation of surveillance tools, the war on drugs, and the expansion of prisons will provide the context for approaching these questions.

Incidentally, Sherman had one problem with the Taormino lecture — "it was not publicized sufficiently." How strange that it wasn't! After the fact, it was, when Mike Adams spoke (was that publicized?) on campus and happened across a copy of the Carolinian. When Adams reported it in his column, queenship and all, UNCG officials began to hear about it from the public and immediately went into spin mode. Indeed, one might think the event wasn't publicized precisely because UNCG officials expected such an outcry that followed. Is that evidence of Sherman's puritans? Possibly, CM thinks, but not likely.

What's more likely is that news of the lecture exposed UNCG’s habit of "'candy' class" pandering to its students' loins rather than their intellects. (The quotation refers to a previous CM award to UNCG courses on sex that were gleefully declared "'candy' classes" by the Carolinian's "sex columnist," a student who has also written upon his erotic experience of watching peers use the adjacent urinal.)

The results of UNCG's candy-course mentality are on display weekly in the Carolinian, just as it was in the issue that grabbed Adams' attention. For example, in the same issue that carried Sherman's letter on fanatics preventing children from learning about sado-masochism in public schools, one could also read the following:

• A column beginning with the timeless debate over whether guys can actually lose their virginity since "there's nothing to pop" and concluding, "Since two women having sex with each other lack a penis (unless they buy one, which is a separate issue) they are not having penetrative sex, and their act is considered unnatural or even 'not counting.' Two gay men can have penetration, but the normative ideal forces them into masculinized and feminized roles where one is giving and one is receiving."

• A letter that begins "I love sex and, I admit, even love pornography, especially the 'exotic homosexual' kind," which was written to address the propriety of using the word "F—k" in a Carolinian headline.

• A cartoon (which even referred to Sherman’s puritans!) about America's sexual "repression leading to oppression" and favoring a "European" approach to the issue.

• An article by that candy-class enthusiast on his latest "epiphany," this one being "Imagine how much less fun we would have if we were straight."

• A discussion of the events of "Pride Week," which covered a speaker who spoke on "issues associated with transgendered people, transsexuals and sexual orientation," featured a "drag show," and described some people as "suspiciously heterosexual men."

• Another letter on the Taormino controversy, which split hairs over what constitutes porn stardom — "she has only done two films (last time I checked porn stars usually do more then [sic] two)"; forgot to blame puritans for America’s sexual "repression," instead shooting randomly at "the Bible Belt," the "Dark Ages," and "narrowminded nitwits"; and featured the following, stated authoritatively: "If someone enjoys a particular fetish or activity, more then [sic] likely she has written a book on it after researching the subject out."

To judge from the last writer, it's evident that these awful puritanical fanatics are also responsible for keeping students from learning the difference between "then" and "than." Gosh, that deficiency surely ought to be addressed at the university level. Too bad it's not happening at UNC-Greensboro, but hey, first things first.


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