I'll Take "Things That Mystify Me" for $400, Alex
However, clearly she had a bee in her bonnet because she marched right up to me and said, "I just wanted you to know that I thought the video you showed in class on Monday was pornographic. I was really offended." Believe it or not, I realize that as a "sex educator" my definition of what's appropriate is probably quite different than the average bird's. Hence, any time I have a guest speaker or screen a video, I tell students that they are permitted to leave at any time if the subject matter or the way in which it is presented makes them uncomfortable. I will not penalize them if they choose to exercise this option. My goal is to make them think, not to make them miserable (although considering how much they bitch in my course evals about how I expect "too much work" you'd never know it).
But my student (let's call her Misty) didn't leave during the class, so I was confused. The following conversation ensued:
me: Which part offended you, Misty? Was it the footage of different couples kissing?
Misty: No, that didn't bother me.
me: Was it the brief frontal nudity of the prehistoric male and female human ancestors?
Misty: No, I don't even remember that.
me: Well, I . . .
Misty: It was the footage of the uterus. I thought it was completely over the top and uncalled for.
me: You mean the little camera that was exploring the inside of a human uterus?
Misty: Yes. That was unnecessary.
For once in my life, I had my wits about me enough to ask a logical question.
me: Was it the fact that it was a uterus, or would you have been offended by footage of the inside of any human organ, like the stomach, a lung, the intestines?
Misty: No, I guess I would have been offended by footage of any organ.
me: Okay, well, um, thank you for your honesty. I will certainly take that under advisement.
I was not offended and honestly? I don't care. I will probably continue to show that video because I think it includes some amazing footage of both internal and external human anatomy. But here's where Misty's comment belongs in the "Things That Mystify Me" category:
I get that I am not my students' generation. There are many differences between my generation and theirs. For example:
- MTV came out when I was in 8th grade. We never had cable in our house so I really never saw it unless I was at a friend's house. The only way I saw music videos with any regularity was if I managed to stay up late enough to watch Friday Night Videos.
- In contrast, most of my students were born after 1984. (Or 1985? When did MTV come out, exactly?) They have never known a world without MTV.
- AIDS wasn't even "discovered" until 1981 and then the CDC called it "gay cancer" or GRID - Gay Related Immune Deficiency.
- All of my students were born after 1981 - they have never known a world without AIDS.
- Magazines like Stuff, Maxim and FHM appeared on the scene some time after I was out of graduate school. These same magazines (which are basically soft-core porn, if you ask me - and I know, because I had a year subscription to Maxim to see what the hell my male students were talking about) must have been required reading throughout junior high and high school for my male students.
- The Calvin Klein commercial that featured Brooke Shields created such a firestorm of controversy, I thought it must have been because she appeared nude (although I had never actually seen the commercial - I was 10 when it first aired.)
- In contrast, I have seen ads in Vogue magazine (one for Dolce and Gabbana stands out in my mind) that could only be called soft-core porn. In fact, if you're not actively trying to determine what the ad is for, you would probably think it was an advertisement for a brothel in Vegas.
- When I was in college, I heard that maybe some fraternities forced their pledges to watch "really gross films" that were "really raunchy." I had never seen one, but I had an idea of what they might include.
- Today, most of my students know who Jenna Jameson - the porn star(!) - is, and not just because she has a best seller on The New York Times list and an E! True Hollywood story.
- Playboy is back - as are all things bunny and even I have been sucked into the exploits of "Hef" and his "girls" at the Playboy Mansion.
- By the time I was 12, I had heard of Playboy, but I don't think I had heard of Hugh Hefner, and I know I didn't know what the hell was going on at the Mansion. Now all kids have to do is turn on E! Sunday nights and viola! They, too, can be privy to the goings-on in the life of an 80-year-old man and his
- Don't even get me started on Fergie and "the Peas." Lordy, have you seen the London Bridge video in which Fergie "performs" at a "gentlemen's club"?
My point is, I assumed - perhaps erroneously - that my students have been exposed to so much more "raunch" than I ever was growing up that it would take a lot to offend them.
And lo and behold, it does - actual footage of the inside of a human organ. Now that's offensive.