Friday, March 18, 2011

Wanting Privacy versus Being Ashamed

A recent event at Northwestern University that I won't bother to describe in detail (but if you've been following it, you might want to see Bailey's apology here) raised an issue I've been meaning to write about. Said event involved public "demonstration" of a live sex act in a classroom in the context of a course on human sexuality. Since the "demonstration" apparently resulted in orgasm, I'm not sure how the "demonstration" is different from a regular ol' live sex act, but let's leave that issue aside for now.

In discussions of the event, various commentators claimed that the problem here wasn't the sex act but the "sex negative" attitudes of people who felt uncomfortable about the "demonstration." Some of these commentators have gone further, to imply that people who were troubled by what happened are downright ashamed of sex.

I think this attitude reflects a naive assumption that I used to share, namely that anything which you want to keep private is necessarily something of which you are ashamed. I used to think this with regard to people's attitude towards atypical genitalia: if parents felt the need to consistently hide their child's atypical genitalia, then the parents were ashamed of those genitals, and that shame would be transmitted to the child.

But this assumption is indeed naive.