EVANSTON, Ill. (CBS) — The Northwestern University professor who allowed a live sex toy demonstration to take place in his classroom last month has apologized, although he maintains he sees “absolutely no harm” in what happened.
“I regret allowing the controversial after class demonstration,” Northwestern professor John Michael Bailey said in a statement posted on the university’s website on Saturday. “I regret the effect that this has had on Northwestern University’s reputation, and I regret upsetting so many people in this particular manner. I apologize.”
The students who attended ended up seeing a woman strip naked, lie down on a towel onstage, and allow her partner to use to use a motorized sex toy on her and bring her to orgasm.
Guest speaker Ken Melvoin-Berg had come for a discussion with the class and brought the woman and her fiancé with him to the presentation on “Networking for Kinky People.”
Along with a “variety” of other items, they brought a “sex saw,” Melvoin-Berg said. The device in question was described by the Daily Northwestern school newspaper as “essentially a motorized phallus.”
Before the demonstration, Bailey repeatedly warned students that it would be graphic and most of the nearly 600 students registered for his class had left before the demonstration. About 100 stayed to watch.
“The demonstration was unplanned and occurred because I made a quick decision to allow it. I should not have done so,” Bailey said. “In the 18 years I have taught the course, nothing like the demonstration at issue has occurred, and I will allow nothing like it to happen again.”
Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro has launched an investigation into the incident, saying that he was “troubled and disappointed” by Bailey’s decision to allow it.
“I feel it represented extremely poor judgment on the part of our faculty member,” Schapiro said. “I simply do not believe this was appropriate, necessary or in keeping with Northwestern University’s academic mission.”
Schapiro said even though academic courses will often explore controversial topics, the sex demonstration crossed the line.
“I have directed that we investigate fully the specifics of this incident, and also clarify what constitutes appropriate pedagogy, both in this instance and in the future,” he said. “Many members of the Northwestern community are disturbed by what took place on our campus. So am I.”
Bailey originally defended his decision to allow the demonstration, after news about it became public on Wednesday and, despite his apology on Saturday, he maintained that he saw no harm in the demonstration.
“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 moral harm in what happened, and those who believe that it was profoundly wrong,” Bailey said.
He also said that the demonstration was relevant to the topic of his course and that “although unusual, had no harmful effect on anyone.”
“Observers were Northwestern students legally capable of voting, enlisting in the military and consuming pornography, as well as making many other serious decisions that legal adults are allowed to make,” Bailey said.
He also took a shot at critics who have condemned his decision to allow the demonstration.
“Those who believe there was, in fact, a serious problem have had considerable opportunity to explain why. … 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,” Bailey said. “If I were grading the arguments I have seen against what occurred, most would earn an ‘F.’ Offense and anger are not arguments.”
–Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producer