Sex Ed in Higher Ed

College instructor teaching human sexuality rants about the dumbing down of America, the lost art of manners, grammar and (the perfect combination of both) the thank you note. Also includes random rants about life, pet peeves, and sometimes raves about favorite things.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Who Spilled the Beans?

I am a spineless jellyfish. There. I said it. For all my self-righteous indignation about "kids today," when a student says, "But doctor-so-and-so has extra credit questions on HER exam," I will inevitably sigh and say, "Okay, fine. I'll come up with something." So when I gave the second midterm last week, I added extra credit questions. I know. In college. All together now: I suck. At least I know this. This makes it even more significant that I'm not having children. Because that would go like this:

Child I don't have: Mom, Timmy and all the other kids are doing crack.
Me: Hmm. (Sigh.) Okay, I'll see what I can do. Where are they getting their crack, do you suppose?

I decided that if I was going to be handing out the crack (aka "extra credit") I could do my best to make it interesting. In chapter 9, we discuss not just the sexual positions best known to man (like the Flying Mango), but all kinds of sexual behavior, including (dare I say it? Joycelyn Elders said it and lost her job) masturbation. I often share a little anecdote with the class about the sin of Onan (I learned this from one of my favorite books - Don't Know Much About the Bible - slightly humiliating to buy as a former Catholic school student, but totally worth it. Great for keeping inappropriate sister on her toes, if nothing else). For those of you who were never Sunday school teachers, here's the short version:

Onan is the middle son of Judah (who is just one of the sons of Leah and Jacob - as in "Jacob, Jacob and Soooooons!" for you Broadway musical junkies). Er (nice name, no?) is Onan's older brother who marries Tamar. At some point in their Old Testament lives, Er does something bad (mixing plaids and stripes?) and God "strikes him dead." Judah (dear old Dad) then orders his next son, Onan, to sleep with his brother's widow (Tamar) because that's considered the nice brotherly thing to do at the time. Onan does NOT want to have to raise kids who are technically his brother's heirs (don't ask me - I don't get it either) so he "spills his seed" every time he goes to um, visit, his dead brother's wife. God is very displeased with him and strikes him dead. Kind of a high body count for that family.

Apparently, this little known story has served as justification for tormenting teenage boys for hundreds of years. But, according to Kenneth C. Davis, the author of the Don't Know Much . . . book, Onan's sin was actually coitus interruptus, not "self-abuse" as the little old Sunday school teachers liked to call it.

This story shocks and amazes students (esp. IBAS, since they believe their Biblical knowledge to far surpass mine and they have never heard this little tale) and it's a good opening for a conversation about many of society's "rules" about what is considered appropriate sexuality and what is considered inappropriate sexuality and the origins of these rules.

All this for a two-second bit about extra credit. Still with me? I decided that the extra credit question would be, "Who was Onan, and what was his sin?" A little "shout-out" as the kids would say, to the students who actually show up to class. So, I'm spending spring break like the rock star I am, doing Tequila shots and grading exams. Yesterday, I come across an exam of one of my favorite (yes, teachers have favorites - sorry to break it to you) female students and her response to "Who was Onan and what was his sin?"

Onan was some guy from the Bible and he spilled the beans.

Well, kind of. I gave her partial credit.


Blogger SANER said...

Intensive study of the story of Onan will show that "God struck him dead" because of his motives! Not his actions! Fun Fact # 342 And all the catholics choke?

March 30, 2006 10:44 PM  
Anonymous janet said...

once again, so funny. I love your blog! I think "spilled the beans" might take on a new meaning in my vocab now...

March 30, 2006 10:45 PM  
Blogger Art Nerd Lauren said...

Love that answer! I've gotten some good ones from exams- for instance there's a sculpture called Doryphoros, which means Spear Bearer. Of course, to 18 year old freshmen in art school, a perfectly acceptable form of either of those is "Dude with Spear" or Dorky foofus. And another, which, according to the SNL skit with Chevy Chase and Richard Pryor, results in dead honkeys, so I will just digress...

So that's where the word onanistic comes from! (ack, dangling modifier, or is it preposition?! hell, I don't care!) I use it in my thesis. Something about "painting as onanistic indulgence" or something like that. See, with your blog, I laugh, AND I learn something!

March 30, 2006 10:55 PM  
Anonymous sweatpantsmom said...

I'm such an adolescent, but right away, I saw 'Onan Er Tamar' and could just hear it in my head as a schoolyard taunt.

"You're such an onanertamar!"
"Am not!"
"Are too!"

Is it the teacher in you that's bringing this out?

March 31, 2006 4:24 AM  
Blogger liberalbanana said...

Maybe "God" didn't strike those men dead, but instead they died of, let's say, syphilis? Caught from Tamar? I think one of Er's kids (Er, Jr.?) wrote a book about it. (see second book pictured)

March 31, 2006 8:23 AM  
Blogger Art Nerd Lauren said...

Also, I've always felt, being Catholic-school educated myself, that the Church doesn't really encourage Bible study. I think they feel that we need it interpreted. Which, though I think I can do my own interpreting, thank you, I like. Kind of discourages a verbatim reading of the Bible, to which I am opposed with all my might! But I digress. Again. :)

March 31, 2006 8:53 AM  
Blogger ColoradoCastaway said...

In my line of work Onan is a generator company that makes RV Generators, their sin is that they have shitty carburators LOL. However, here we are again talking about how involved "God" used to be. I guess he's decided he'd have to just kill us all off these days if he were to continue enforcing his rules like he did back then.

March 31, 2006 10:36 AM  
Blogger Teacher lady said...

Lauren - aren't student answers the best (I laugh so as not to cry!) Does anyone ever answer the Doryphoros question with something about Doritos? Because that's the first thing I thought of (it's also lunch time.) And also - ditto, sistah. Now I know what Doryphoros means. I learn something every day from you folks!

March 31, 2006 11:57 AM  
Blogger Jess Riley said...

"Mixing stripes and plaids"..."spilling the beans." Oh, Teacher Lady, you are a gift to us cubicle dwellers.

March 31, 2006 12:40 PM  
Blogger Sue said...

Hey, I spent MY spring break and am working on my KID'S spring break doing Tequila shots. Ok, maybe not shots, but tossing back the Margaritas is close enough, right?

P.S. - I want to take your class, it sounds interesting (plus you give extra credit...I see an A+++ in my future). LOL!

Of course, I also want to march into my son's high school and really enlighten his horny schoolmates by teaching Child Support 101 and the Real Costs of Raising Babies 101.

March 31, 2006 1:42 PM  

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