Critics branded Northwestern University with a giant scarlet A after its sex scandal in February. In case you missed the University’s infamous “toy story,” controversy ensued after a human sexuality professor allowed a couple to perform a live sex act in his classroom.
According to reports, the demonstration occurred after class. It was optional, not-for-credit and followed a lesson on kinky sex. Professor John Michael Bailey warned the class that the demonstration would get graphic and asked students to leave if they felt uncomfortable, said reports. Remaining students then watched as a man used a mechanized sex toy to bring his 25-year-old fiancee to climax on stage.
Reportedly, Bailey intended for the session to help dispel false information about female sexual pleasure, particularly the misconception that the female orgasm is a myth. However, many critics questioned the academic merits of the lesson.
“I was kind of shocked,” said Maria Des Jardines, a senior at Madison County High School.“Its actually really disgusting, and I don’t think it really served an academic purpose.”
Others, like fellow Madison County High School senior, Carly Mayne, endorsed Bailey’s decision. “I think it is a bit absurd how people are making such a big deal over something merely educational. Some students might have taken it as pornography, but I think it was for the good of the classroom. After all, the class is about sex.” Like many supporters of the demonstration, Mayne’s argument focused on the importance of educational freedom in the classroom.
“[Students] were warned beforehand and were always welcome to leave,” said Mayne. “I probably wouldn’t have stayed for the demonstration, but I would appreciate the opportunity.”
However, Kennesaw State University Associate Professor of Communication Katherine Kinnick believes the demonstration is part of a bigger issue.
“When respected mainstream media consistently feature sex-saturated content, there is a message of tacit endorsement or approval,” said Kinnick. “There is a belief among teens and the general public that surely if it was too risque, respected media channels wouldn’t allow it. Similarly, when you have a credentialed professor at a respected university inviting students to view a live sex act, there is a message sent that ‘this must be okay,’ or the university wouldn’t allow it. People don’t want to speak out for fear of being labeled “prudes” or of being accused of foisting their values on others, when in fact, a lowest-common denominator value is being foisted on them.”
While most would not consider the act that took place on Northwestern’s campus to be pornographic, many critics would argue that it represents what some experts have come to refer to as the “pornification” of American culture.
As Kinnick explained in an essay published in Pop-Porn: Pornography in American Culture, “The line between pop culture and porn culture is blurring.”
For instance, take Kendra Wilkinson. People like Kendra. Devotees of her show, Kendra, which aired for three seasons on E!, appreciate her down-to-Earth demeanor. Fans envy her voluptuous figure and her relationship with football-star husband, Hank Baskett. Housewives across the nation posted blogs sympathizing with her struggle to lose the baby fat from her first-born child, and 2.1 million viewers tuned in to her extravagant Los Angeles wedding, according to Broadcasting.com.
With such fandom, it may be easy to forget Wilkinson’s claim to fame in the first place: nude photographs, sex tapes, and a former relationship with Hugh Hefner.
Experts like Kinnick agree that ‘Generation XXX’ has come a long way since the days of hiding Playboys under the mattress.
The popularity of shows such as The Girls Next Door and Holly’s World, as well as Jenna Jameson’s memoir, How to Make Love Like a Pornstar, suggest many Americans are not only comfortable with pornography’s presence in mainstream culture, but are entertained by it.
Most porn scholars, including Kinnick, attribute much of the mainstreaming of pornography to the Internet. “The Internet has taken porn out of adult bookstores and video stores in seedy parts of town and made it accessible to anyone with a computer,” said Kinnick in an interview. “Accessing porn used to be something that people had to go to much more effort to do and had to be much for cautious about in order to avoid being seen by others purchasing porn. The internet has made access to porn literally just a click away and anonymous, and that encourages use.”
In fact, one in 10 websites features pornographic material, according to The Observer. A study published in the journal, Pediatrics, showed that approximately 40 percent of teens visit sexually websites either intentionally or because their “Googling” brings up sites they were not expecting.
So, what does this abundance of pornography mean for the “Digital Generation”? Few debates seem more polarized, yet relatively silent in public dialogue than that over the ethics and classification of pornography.
Some scholars view porn as a “normal part of growing up,” while others view it as harmful smut. Some view pornography as empowering to women while others, like Kinnick, view it as degrading.
“Porn objectifies women when it reduces them to body parts, detached from hearts, minds and souls. Porn culture tells [women] they must lead with their sexuality to get noticed,” said Kinnick.
However, Kinnick says women are not the only victims of pornography. “Porn may be harmful to men by giving them unrealistic expectations about what sex will be like, potentially harming their relationships with the women in their lives if they believe the women aren’t performing the way they want them to, based on expectations set up by the porn.”
Pornography was reported in 2005 to be a $20 billion a year industry in the United States alone. So, whether you consider porn to be art or obscenity, high culture or low, objectifying or empowering, porn scholars agree it is important to recognize the industry’s ubiquity and prevalence in the media in order to be (or not to be) informed consumers of pornography.
By Nicholas Sobrilsky
Kaeli Jones knows about persistence. The 19-year-old said she started looking for retail jobs at age 16 but found no open positions for two years. She enrolled in a business class, in which she built a resume and practiced interview techniques. But her applications were rejected three times for her lack of work experience, and in one afternoon, she drove to three different businesses for interviews.
“You can get really frustrated,” she said.
With an unemployment rate in Georgia of more than 10 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and competition from adults laid off during the recession, teenagers in Athens face strong difficulties finding a job. Knowing how to approach the job search as a teenager will help teens gain the work experience they need for future jobs.
Roy Adams, 51, co-owner of the Adairsville, Ga. thrift store Heavenly Hand Me Downs, receives 10 to 12 job applications from teenagers each semester. He said that a teenager applicant’s knowledge is less important than their willingness to learn and put forth effort.
“You can usually tell if they’re lazy,” he said.
Adams expects his workers both to be dependable and responsible and to provide their own transportation. Teenagers who do not show genuine interest in the position will often not get work, he said, and they should not anticipate high salary jobs while still in high school.
“They’re not going to get rich on the first job,” he said.
Some Clarke Central High School students have not only found work but must work so many hours that they have trouble keeping up with their studies. Sam Hicks, department chair of counseling at Clarke Central High School, said teachers will often send those students to his office for advice on balancing school and work.
“There are a lot of kids here [at the school] who have to work 30, 40 hours to support their family,” he said.
Students who want to work but have a less dire need, Hicks said, should fill out applications to many businesses, form networks with peers and possible employers, and show persistence with possible workplaces.
Jones said teenagers should “find a place that will go along with your schedule.”
Clarke Central students who want more personal guidance through the job search, application and interview processes can visit the school’s career center. But even with school aid, Hicks said, persistence might not be enough.
“Since the economy went south three years ago, those jobs for kids aren’t there anymore,” he said.
As for Jones, one of her interviews finally paid off. In April 2010, she found employment with Smoothie King, a smoothie and health food retailer. She later joined a law firm in her hometown of Macon, Ga. – Anderson, Walker and Reichert, where she has been working as a filer and office runner since May of the same year.
“I never stopped looking,” she said.