Should Students Have Watched a Woman Orgasm?

A Northwestern professor invited students to watch a man use a sex toy on a woman during a classroom demonstration.

I was reading The New York Times online the other night when I came across the headline, "Illinois Prof. Apologizes for Sex-Toy Demonstration." I couldn't help myself… I clicked. The link took me to a story about a Northwestern University psychology professor who let interested students stick around after a class on human sexuality for a special demonstration, during which a man used a sex toy on a woman who stripped down for the show. Participation in that part of the class was optional, and Professor J. Michael Bailey repeatedly warned that it would be graphic. The "models" performed in front of the class willingly, and the woman told the class she had a fetish for being watched by large crowds while having an orgasm.

Word quickly spread on campus about the unusual experience, and Northwestern students, alums, and parents have subsequently condemned the professor for the incident. Although the administration initially defended him, the college's president, Morton Schapiro, recently said he was troubled by what happened and promised to investigate. "I feel it represented extremely poor judgment on the part of our faculty member," he said in a statement.

In response to the uproar, Bailey has apologized. But he seems flabbergasted and dismayed by the outcry. In a public response, Bailey said: "During a time of financial crisis, war, and global warming, this story has been a top news story for more than two days. 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."

Do you think what Bailey did was "profoundly wrong?"

Before you start typing your response into the Comments section, consider this: In medical school, students see and examine naked bodies all the time. (In fact, when I was dating a med school student, he told me that there were people who made a full-time living out of letting medical school students give them gynecological or scrotal exams.) So ... do you think what Bailey did had some educational value?

As someone who never used a vibrator (or learned to have an orgasm) until I was 30, those are interesting questions for me.

If you think it was wrong, is that because it involved a display of sexual emotion or sexual release? A different question is this: Do you think Bailey exhibited poor judgment by not guessing or predicting there would be a backlash against him if he did this? Maybe he could have just gotten approval? Or was this a case of ask forgiveness, not permission?