Sex, scandal all in a day's work at Cal

    How many of you, if polled, would want to engage in a class involving no professors and lots of hot sex?

    Reality? Not at UCSD, but at UC Berkeley, a school known in times past for its outrageous liberalism and overt sexuality, the existence of such a class is no stunner. You can expect classes such as this when students are allowed to run a class largely on their own.

    The Daily Californian and local media blew up a story concerning such a class to the degree of scandal, but it does provide a juicy forum for students. I am quite sure sex is always a captivating subject. It makes me sit on the edge of my seat laughing just to think of boys and girls giggling at each other’s genitalia.

    The class being targeted at Cal, women’s studies 98/198, is the only one in the women’s studies program that is student-run. There are two versions — one on male sexuality and one on female sexuality.

    These students should appear on “”The Howard Stern Show,”” because in the middle of a class party, participants were allegedly asked (if they were comfortable with it) to do a picture exchange of their private parts and later match them up with their respective owners.

    How comfortable would most students be in a class where extracurricular activities allegedly include orgies and witnessing an instructor have sex at a club such as Sex Exchange in San Francisco? I find it hard to imagine most students being able to handle that without finding it awkward.

    This is a unique flavor of the De-Cal program, or Democratic Education at Cal. De-Cal courses have been part of UC Berkeley for quite some time now. Author John Leo remarked that “”a lot of educational theory says that teacher-led classes are too hierarchical.”” They imply that teachers know more than students do. In De-Cal, instructors are coordinators and facilitators, so everyone is on the same level. Students themselves have said that De-Cal classes fill “”that empty space where faculty can’t go.””

    I encourage the idea of De-Cal classes. They provide a forum for discussion and thinking that most lectures and other university courses cannot. Students can freely offer or share their feelings without the constraints of the usual classroom setting. De-Cal courses also allow more interaction among students, so closer ties with people are formed. All these benefits are good for a healthy student life.

    A problem I see with the sexuality courses at UC Berkeley is probably the main question of those who oppose the class curriculum and material of women’s studies 98/198. Writing about your sexual fantasies, groping your classmates, sucking on their nipples and stripping — do those activities count as serious academic study? There is a big debate about this, because students receive credit toward graduation for De-Cal courses.

    Pornography and other areas of sexual studies among institutions of higher learning are becoming more widespread, as Leo generously points out. A lot of universities and professors see pornography as a study of American society and pop culture, signifying that it is OK to view and study porn. The sexuality class at Cal featured porn star Nina Hartley, local sex shop owners and other connoisseurs of sex as guest speakers. In context, if students are learning about their bodies and modern pop culture and have fun doing so, there is hardly any negativity surrounding the issue.

    If the issue is about control, the students should win hands-down, since this is student-run, democratic education.

    The issue has extended now to morals, ethics and values. This is silly because one of the main concepts taught in this little course at Berkeley is to be nonjudgmental. The class teaches students specifically not to decree what is right or wrong, no matter what they think, because judging others creates controversies we can avoid by being more loving and accepting.

    We should focus on topics such as how the women’s sexuality section discusses the empowerment of women instead of “”hardcore”” elements, as a student in the class, Morgan Janssen, so boldly declared.

    If indeed the “”unacceptable”” behavior of the students is extracurricular and the classes do promote academic learning, the conflict is one of what is right and wrong. De-Cal was born to erase that type of prejudice. What people do at parties and in their own free time is frankly none of anyone else’s business.

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