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That's what she did...

Northwestern sex scandal makes us uncomfortable, but is it wrong?

Last week's fiery global news story of the day took place at none other than my alma mater. The headline read: "Northwestern to investigate controversial sex demonstration."

Last month, Professor John Michael Bailey, who taught a popular human sexuality course at the school, permitted a guest speaker to get naked and use a sex toy to achieve orgasm in front of about 100 students during an optional after-class demonstration.

The woman, who was more than willing to perform for the audience, was aided by her fiancé, who used a (terrifying) sex toy called a "fucksaw" on her.

Bailey and his guests have defended themselves saying that the class was warned several times about what was going to ensue-- and that peeping the show was purely optional. However, the rest of the world is incensed. Intense media attention on this controversy has helped facilitate a widespread backlash against the the professor's conduct as well as the university.

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So much so that Bailey, also a psychologist, issued an apology, sort of, about what happened:

This is an excerpt of his statement:

Those who believe that there was, in fact, a serious problem have had considerable opportunity to explain why: in the numerous media stories on the controversy, or in their various correspondences with me. But they have failed to do so. Saying that the demonstration "crossed the line," "went too far," "was inappropriate," or "was troubling" convey disapproval but do not illuminate reasoning. If I were grading the arguments I have seen against what occurred, most would earn an "F." Offense and anger are not arguments. But I remain open to hearing and reading good arguments.

Clearly, Bailey doesn't sound too thrilled to admit to any wrong doing, which is why his apology reads more like forced lip service in a vain attempt to appease an angry mob with torches and pitchforks (but apparently, no dildos) than a tearful repentance of his transgressions.

You know what? I don't blame him.

Bailey may be unconventional, but he is absolutely right.

If it looks like a duck... and quacks like a duck

All of these students are at least 18 years old. In this country, 18 means adulthood and all of its perks. If we can vote, suffer the agony of jury duty and be privy to girl-on-girl-on-cup porn, we should also be treated and trusted as adults, meaning we don't need our parents and older concerned adults still making decisions for us, especially when it's about our education.

In a recent blog post on CafeMom, Kim Conte writes that she was "creeped out" by the incident, but fully admits: "They're adults. New experiences are a big part of what sex is all about." Conte has her opinion, but she recognizes that her personal preference is nobody's but her own. Unfortunately, if you're an adult-- it doesn't matter how stupid or immature you are-- you still get the benefits of being one. And in America, it means that you have the power of consent (which these kinds exercised).

Sex trumps all news

In his half-assed apology, Bailey continues:

"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."

Did you know while this sex act was taking place, Libya was "descending into unprecedented chaos"? Or that Yemen's security risk was reaching a level so high, the U.S. State Department was warning its citizens to leave ASAP?

Something tells me, in the big scheme of things, these latter two events might make more of a global impact that one little orgasm ever will. Don't you think? Yet, according to Google, more than 1200 articles were written about this story in less than a week.

The American media have always been sex-obsessed. We salivate with morbid delight when we read headlines with words, such as: "rape, lewd sex act, Paris Hilton," regardless of the story's content. Why should it be any different this time?

No harm, no foul

What exactly did Bailey do that was so harmful?

Was it that the professor corrupted the chastity of his students' virginal minds?

Is the class scarred for life now that they've seen a woman come to orgasm (which frankly, I think is a welcome lesson for many)?

Are men angry because they now know that women, too, can climax?

I think the only person that has been harmed is Bailey himself. And more than 800 Northwestern students, who have signed an online petition defending him, agree.

What happened was "uncomfortable" and "inappropriate." Yes, Okay. So what? We experience uncomfortable and inappropriate things all the time. Tampons and farting in public would both fit in this category, but no one is doing anything about them.

Not everything is by the book

Shall we go through a list of history's great unorthodox lesson plans?

Remember professor and psychologist-Philip Zimbardo, of the famed Stanford Prison Experiment? In 1971, 24 student volunteers were divided into prisoners and guards in a mock prison to help students understand the psychology of incarcerated life. After only six days, the students turned all "Lord of the Flies"on each other, and the experiment was shut down. In this scenario, however, students were actually harmed.

Zimbardo was embroiled in controversy, obviously. But today, his social science project is regarded as one of the most widely referenced and studied experiments in psychology.

A few decades later, college English teacher Richard Wimmer seemed to have seized the daily lesson plans of eccentric teacher, John Keating from "Dead Poets Society."

Wimmer's unconventional educational approach consisted of asking students to write essays describing very personal subject matter, such as taking showers or having the dreaded "birds and bees talk" with their parents.

Wimmer submitted his resignation after three students complained about his unique teaching methods and lack of structure. However, a month later, he rescinded his resignation and demanded to plead his case. Nearly 200 students signed a petition or wrote to administrators in support of him.

And, in 2010, President Obama awarded South Florida science teacher Allan Phipps for his uconventional lesson plans. His environmental science projects range from conducting cake excavations to auditing students' home energy bills and building solar powered vehicles for racing competitions. 

The point here is that there are different methods of teaching. Just because something makes us "uncomfortable," it doesn't mean we can't learn from it.

If we had continued to learn everything the same exact way, we wouldn't have blogs, the Internet, or even America, for that matter.

Follow me on Twitter: ThisJenKim

Jen Kim is a former Psychology Today intern and a graduate of Northwestern University.

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