Thinking Sex: Representing Desire and Difference
A Feminist and Gender Studies Course
Bryn Mawr College, Fall, 2002

Archive 9: Course Commentary and Requirements

For previous postings, see course forum archive

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  This week's queries
Date:  2002-09-21 11:12:46
Message Id:  2822
Please post, this week, any insights you gain from writing your paper and/or--even more interestingly--from reading those of others in the class (I'll post all these in full before the week ends). You might also post your reflections on the upcoming readings about the necessity of using the language of sex in the classroom (IS it necessary?). Finally, I also invite you to reflect here on how we are doing in this class: what's working, what's not? What adjustments can you suggest/might we make before we get "in a rut"? (Oh, this sexual can we HELP but use it?)
Name:  Nancy
Subject:  Can we do it? (refrain from using sex puns, that is...)
Date:  2002-09-26 17:24:14
Message Id:  2913
Today's articles have provoked a few questions. First of all, who says one type of "sex ed" can work for everyone. Even if we design a program especially for a certain group of people, who is to say it will be any more effective than the programs we have now? Emily already pointed out the flaws that come along with grouping individuals; within any group the differences among members is as great as the differences among members and nonmembers. So now I am beginning to question whether or not we can design an effective and specific program without presenting it in a 'utopian society''.

I also think that Sex Ed programs have been less effective mainly because of fear on the part of parents. While children and young adults may tend to be more liberal and accepting of the idea of a comprehensive sex ed program at a young age, many parents confuse informing kids about sex is in essence enabling them to have sex. This kind of thinking, pretending that if we wait until our children are old enough to be deemed (by adults) 'ready to learn about sex' , some teenagers (or children) will already have had sexual experiences.

I think it would be amazing to somehow workshop our class. I don't think i realized until today what an open dialogue we have and that, even in a college setting, that is probably rare.

Name:  Sarah
Subject:  not so utopic?
Date:  2002-09-26 21:11:58
Message Id:  2917
I don't know whether this is because Julia and Amanda's project was repeatedly introduced to me as utopic and I was therefore prepared for something outrageous, but did anyone else not find this THAT utopic? We've read and talked a lot about sex ed curriculums never working; we've joked a lot about the cheesy movies we had to watch and "just say no" plugs we've heard but what about those of us who had a better experience? I never knew the sex ed. that I received was at all unique but I think I'm aware of that now. Did anyone else have a positive experience? If so, I'd like to know about it since I tend to attribute anything I had as a result of an all girls school.
Name:  Chelsea
Date:  2002-09-26 23:48:40
Message Id:  2923
I have to say I agree with Sarah, I think that the curriculum Amanda and Julia designed is much more feasible than we've been allowing. I mean, what's really stopping a school from trying it out, at least? If you found one school to do this , and used the (surely) positive responses to it from those involved, you could certainly then take it to more schools, and eventually it would get around; even if not always in its original form, I think it would go a long way toward revolutionizing the way sexuality is taught.

It was really funny, actually, becuase the classroom was set up very much like my senior english and humanities classes, and the teacher actually got in trouble with the administration for having couches. She was told it would "encourage sexual behavior among children in the classroom"- because she won't notice that they're having sex while she's teaching, right? I think it actually says more about our administration than the kids- I mean, who was it again that thought to have sex on the couches?

Name:  Jess T.
Subject:  Utopia of Amanda and Julia's project...
Date:  2002-09-27 18:41:30
Message Id:  2957

Both Sarah and Chelsea have commented on how they don't believe that a utopic environment would be needed for Amanda and Julia's curriculum to be used. I wanted to address these comments.

I understand completely why the two authors made the claim for a utopic environment for their project, because I cannot think of high school that would put this curriculum in place. The course deals with issues of gender roles, gender identities, sexual orientation, reproduction, masturbation, non-intercourse sex, abstinence, abuse and rape, contraception (history and options ), AIDS and other STDS and includes R rated movies like Boys Don't Cry. All of these are or can be hot topics in relation to sex ed. (I italicized options, because I believe this section of the course my have covered the topic of abortion, which is always an issue of great conflict.)

There are many reasons that this program could not easily be used. One of them is laws and funding. Different areas have implemented laws or decision by the education boards regarding what can and can't be done in sex ed classes. An example of this is some of the abstinence only decisions. If programs go against these guidelines they can lose funding (or for the people involved their jobs).

Also I earlier posted a link to the Detroit Free Press about how parents are blocking a video from being used in Sex Ed classes this year. (Another link to the article: Parents lobby for less sex in sex ed) Conservative parents all over the country are limiting sex ed and I'm sure that they would have huge problems with this curriculum.

My experience with private schools leads me to believe that they would also be very hesitant to the suggested curriculum. Private schools are very afraid of losing tuition dollars and even more so of being sued. I don't believe they would risk anything as controversial as this program.

(In my personal experience at a private high school, some very inovative stuff that dealt with controversial issues occurred. But there was no sex ed class. Of the things I sited above as hot topics I only really remember gender roles and sexual orientation being dealt with, but that was part of Diversity Day, not part of sex ed. We never had any class about sex, contraceptive, let alone anything like masturbation. Although I'm sure that if you needed/wanted to you could go talk to either the school nurse or counselors about these issues.)

As much as I think Amanda and Julia developed a good sex ed program, I just don't see it being implemented popularly. There might be a few schools who are willing to try something like this, but I believe an overwhelming number of them would be bound laws/rules, funding issues and parental approval. I understand why the authors made the claim of a needed Utopia for this program, because I don't think the class has a great opportunity to exist in the reality of the US.

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  pattern-seeking
Date:  2002-09-28 14:31:10
Message Id:  2967

I was telling you guys this week about The New York Times Magazine (August 11, 2002) title story called "Coincidence in an Age of Conspiracy," which I think is very important essay. It says, in part,

"Human beings are pattern-seeking animals...[conspiring] to make coincidences more meaningful than they really are....our brains fill in the factual blanks.....optical illusions.....prove that our brain is capable of imposing structure on the world...One of the things our brain is designed to do is infer the causal structure of the world from limited information. If not for this ability...a child could not learn to speak. A child sees a that others around him are obviously communicating and it is up to the child to decode the method. But these same mechanisms can misfire....It's why we have the urge to work everything into one big grand scheme..We do like to weave things together. But have we evolved into fundamentally rational or fundamentally irrational creatures?"

Name:  HY
Subject:  Forum #5: A Range of Languages . . .
Date:  2002-09-28 15:09:10
Message Id:  2970
Sorry for the lateness of my response.
Our multi-disciplinary readings have set a nice back drop for the discussion of which type of language is best for expressing and communicating sex(uality). I have to agree with other students that one language is not better or more comprehensive than another. A combination of the languages of science, social science, and humanity are necessary (especially in the educational discussion on sex). What these three disciplines fail to leave out is individualized language and language that does not take a lexicon form (what of painting, music, touch, body language, etc.). We humans tend to forget that we are multifaceted - both different from others and different within ourselves. Along the lines of what Emily said concerning the sexual subgroups, attributing one language (or label) only underlies the differences within a group. To propose something tailored for education, a curriculum incorporating as many forms of language thinkable (science, social science, humanities, art, touch, music, silence, statistics, religion, so on and so forth) would be ideal. Amanda and Julia's curriculum comes close to that for me.
Personally I cannot say I have a preferred language for expressing or communicating sex(uality). Jenny and Bea mentioned music. I think it would depend on how I was feeling about the experience, who my experience had been with, who I am (or am not) communicating to, etc. I am a very physical person and on most days I can say that I really love touching in order to express myself - but NOT EXCLUSIVELY of course!
In sum, I think we have an infinite range of languages with which we can express our sexual selves. And my definition of language is very broad. It is a matter of openness - openness to discovery, to challenge, and to mistakes! But doesn't it sound like so much fun - if there are an infinite number of doors waiting to be opened, what are WE waiting for?
Name:  HY
Subject:  Forum #9: Language of Sex in the Classroom . . .
Date:  2002-09-28 15:23:48
Message Id:  2971
I believe that not only should the languages of sex be put in the classroom, sexuality as a whole (through language or otherwise) should be found in the classroom from Pre-K to the end of the educational career (do we ever stop learning). And sex in the classroom should not be confined to a skimpy two week unit once every few years. The language of sex should permeate the classroom all year round. If the classroom is the setting where children grow both academically and socially, it should also be the setting in which the child can grow as a sexual being. We humans are sexual beings and removing sex from the classroom is only curtailing that healthy growth (do not ask me to define "healthy," I am being loose here). If we have spaces were children can learn the alphabet and long division, and places where children learn to "Play Safe" and mediate conflicts ("Conflict Management" groups is school, sports, etc.), why can we not have a place where children can "learn" to love. I do not mean here that one needs to learn to love rather "learn" the ways in which love and sexual feelings can be expressed?
The problem here is defining this space I keep eluding to. Many people think that sexual education should take place in the home. But the home is not always the most ideal space. Just as some children prefer home-schooling or single sex schooling or Montessori style schooling or private school schooling, some children may prefer to learn about sexuality at home, at school, in the tree house, or in the back alley. For a society that is supposedly overly-consumed by the individual, the United States is extremely conservative in allowing liberty and acknowledging differences for the individual.
Name:  HY
Subject:  Reflections on Course Thus Far . . .
Date:  2002-09-28 15:26:13
Message Id:  2972
I love the course and have no reproaches! Sharing our sexual subgroup papers was wonderful! I was glad to see the diverse range of sub-groups.
Name:  Monica Locsin
Subject:  Paper writing/Reflection of class
Date:  2002-09-29 01:42:36
Message Id:  2977
I used my family as a sexual subgroup for my first paper. I did not think that it would be such a hard group to talk about in an essay involving SEX. To be honest, I was wrong.Writing this paper has actually made me learn more about my family and how we are so different from other people. Being part of this family, I feel like an outsider in terms of talking about sex because I am more accepting and I more open to new things. The second essay has been on my mind and hard for me to start. I really do not know where to begin! Having a family that does not talk about SEX at all makes it a challenge to write a sex ed curriculum for.

I have enjoyed the readings in class. The sex ed curriculum written by Julia and Amanda has served as a good example for us. Some of the readings have shocked me in the sense that it is okay for children to touch each other. I mean I am an open person but I guess from where I am coming from, it is not right. I did enjoy the little skits we did in class about children learning more about each others bodies but at the same time when I think of the fact that I might have children one day, I would not want that to happen.

I am enjoying and loving this class to death. I love the fact that everyone in class is open and willing to listen to each other with a lot of respect. I am glad to be a part of this class:)

Name:  Nancy
Username:  nevans
Subject:  Sex Ed by Betsy Sholl
Date:  2002-09-29 13:31:20
Message Id:  2990
This is a great poem, and I think it is especially relevant to what we are discussing right now!

Sex Ed
Well-dressed, demure, jammed into those
politely arranged desks, it's hard to be
serious, but we are. No one even parts lips
to acknowledge what used to drive us crazy
in the back seats of cars, what kept us up
half the night reliving the last slow dance,
girl on her toes, guy bent at the knees
to press in against her.

The instructors speak precisely about
the importance of our children knowing the facts,
so surely none of us in our high heels and
neck ties is going to admit how our first mistakes
have suddenly blossomed so tender and lovely
we've been forgiven a thousand times,
a thousand times forgiven and repeated ourselves.

But fingering the graffiti on this desk,
I remember being braille to you, being read
like a steamy novel, and how those lessons
stayed with us, practical as driver's ed, those hours
of simulation behind the wheel of a parked car.
The truth is I don't regret having studied with you
though I do feel inarticulate, like an athlete
asked to speak in a room of kids, who has nothing
to say except, "practice, practice."

Once our daughter watched the cat in heat
yowl and slither across the floor, and without
looking up asked, would that happen to her. Sometimes
it isn't shame that makes us speechless. It's not
regret that makes me linger at the curb watching
her toss back her yellow hair and yank open
the heavy doors to school.
by Betsy Sholl

Name:  2002 TS student
Username:  2002 TS student
Subject:  Where we are...
Date:  2002-09-29 20:42:20
Message Id:  3002
I am really enjoying this class so far...i took a risk on an English class...and i am happy i did...The material is engaging. I am a little worried about having the back to back papers due this week but mostly because every other paper is due this week for me, and i feel like i haven't gotten a good enough sense of my feild site in order to write anything of substance.

I really enjoy the interactive nature of this class, i hate being in classes where the professor never encourages us to interact with one another....

Name:  Sarah
Subject:  new word!
Date:  2002-09-29 21:06:27
Message Id:  3003
A new word for the class, and maybe Lauren in particular, if she ever gives up on flexual :)
"PoMoSexual: the queer erotic reality beyond the boundaries of gender, separatism, and essentialist notions of sexual orientation."
Just thought I should get the new vocab circulating.
Name:  Sarah
Subject:  utopia again
Date:  2002-09-29 21:18:40
Message Id:  3005
I think that maybe what I said about the utopia of Julia and Amanda's project was misunderstood. Jess said that a utopia was needed to implement this program which isn't really what I meant; I only meant that the program did not seem so utopic. Also, while I understand that not many schools would implement a program of this nature, some may, and what I am attesting to is that mine did, maybe not exactly as it was outlined but pretty similarly. I think it'd be interesting to hear from anyone else who felt that their experience was also positive and why. And, to address Jess' concerns, how was it possible? Does a school have to be private to allow for that kind of utopic program or does its private status as dependent on parent funding deny any such program?
Name:  ngoc
Subject:  course commentary
Date:  2002-10-04 17:45:22
Message Id:  3124
at first, i didn't know what to say about the course. actually, to be honest, i was very annoyed with the course at first...but now, i can really see that i am learning ... as for how this course should evole, i really don't know what to say ... i think that we can let things go as they will...and with an open mind, i am sure, we'll learn just as much.
Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  course requirements
Date:  2002-10-06 13:13:16
Message Id:  3153
Before you head off on fall break, just a couple of reminders about course requirements you need to have met before you leave campus:

--pay me $18 (check made out to bmc) for the course packet

--review the archives for the two papers (1. how does your sub-group use language to talk about sex? and 2. what curriculum might you imagine to teach them what they don't yet know?) and make sure that BOTH of yours (or a summary of same) are posted. if not, send a copy (indicating clearly which group it belongs to) to, the webmistress for serendip who is helping us all into the technological age....

--review the whole course archive and make sure that you have made a total of 6 postings (one for each week of the course so far; you can count your two papers (or summaries of your papers) in that total; if you are short, be sure to make the rest of the postings before you leave campus.

looking forward, on tuesday, to planning the remainder of the course w/ you all--

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  Instructions for Posting Your Papers
Date:  2002-10-08 21:11:53
Message Id:  3219
This message to you all is from Jan Richards, the webmistress for Serendip, who has been managing this process for us, and asked me to send these instructions around as a reminder:

All of the papers that have been turned in so far are up on the website, I believe. There is now a link from the home page to the second set. I fixed errors in some of the papers, but there are a number that still don't look perfect -- e.g., no paragraph breaks, lines are too short, no title, two titles, odd symbols in place of other punctuation like " and --. Most of these problems arise from not following the procedure below when they post:

1) If your paper is in Word or another word processor format, first save it under a different name (e.g., paper.txt) in format "Text Only" (NOT "Text Only with Line Breaks"). You do this in Word by choosing "Save As" from the file menu, changing the name, and where is says "Save as type:" (may be slightly different in different versions) choosing "Text only" from the pop-up menu. If, after doing this, the file doesn't look any different (i.e., it still has formatting like bold, etc.), then close the file paper.txt and open it again. It should open up without any formatting. If there is no space between paragraphs, you'll need to put in carriage returns. But don't add any formatting because it won't transfer.

2) Then, select the whole text but NOT your name or paper title or date, and copy it into the clipboard (Ctrl-C or Command-C).

3) Go to the posting web page and fill out your BRYN MAWR email address (it will be used for choosing the filename, not for emailing you), your full name as FIRST LAST (unfortunately, it won't work correctly if you include a middle name) and the paper title.

4) Inside the big box on the form, highlight the sentence in uppercase that says "REPLACE THIS LINE..." and paste the text from your paper in its place. Do not delete anything above that line. You should only be pasting the text of your paper into the box, not the title, your name, etc. Those will be added to your paper when it is processed based on what you entered in the fields above the text box.

5) Where it says "Paper formatted as:", leave it as "Plain Text" UNLESS you have put in HTML tags where you want space between paragraphs and line.

6) Click the "Submit Your Paper" button. You should see a confirmation back. Remember, your paper will not appear on the website until it the papers are processed, which will likely happen after most of the papers have been submitted.

Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  class planning
Date:  2002-10-10 11:37:49
Message Id:  3247
I just realized that I need to have one more post before break and fortunately for me I thought of something else I wanted to say. :-)

On Tuesday i felt very uncomfortable with the whole process of deciding how to format the rest of class, and what the content will be. Since then i've been trying to figure out exactly what it was that bothered me so much. I think i was mostly concerned that the people who are more naturally vocal got to control the way the class would go - myself included in that group. It seems ineffective to plan with a group of 25 people in 45min and expect everyone in that group's voice to be heard and considered in even close to equal weight. Everything about the process felt very haphazard, rushed.

The least i can do here is offer a better plan but i can't really think of one. It seems that we can all bring to the class without having to all be a part of planning it. I worry about a lack of fluidity in the rest of the class. I'm supposed to be giving suggestions here.... I'll have to think about this over break.

I just wanted to express my discomfort with the situation and my worries about silencing people's voices. Perhaps i'm the only one who felt this way but just in case i'm not i thought i should share.

have a great break ladies! i'll miss your company!

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  A few Other Reminders
Date:  2002-10-08 21:13:46
Message Id:  3220
Dear Thinkers About Sex--

A reminder that in class this Thursday we will be discussing our praxis sites: telling one another where we are, what is happening there or not, what frustrations/opportunities we're beginning to discover. Also due in class on Thursday (unless you've written me to say why not--AND what the details of your extension should be) is your third 3-pp. paper, introducing your praxis site (its clientele, its mission, its funding, its location, etc. etc.) to your classmates, and explaining what sort of language is used there to talk about sex (or not). This paper is intended to "lay the groundwork" for the next one, in which you will begin to sketch out a sex-ed curriculum for your site. You can't do that until you've scoped out the site itself, and what is already happening there (or not) re: the language of sex. Hopefully in doing this you will begin to articulate the sort of language that you will need to be employing in your final project.

Also: here's the schedule we worked out together in class today for the remainder of the semester (note to Bea, Nia & Iris: I need to know which group you are joining, and you need to let your group-mates know too)--

Th 11/7 SEX IN HISTORY/RELIGION--Lauren, Sheri, Sarah, Maggie
T 11/12 SEX AND THE LAW--Fritz, Elisa, Lindsay U, Jessica
Th 11/14 SEX IN THE MEDIA--Sarah, Emily, Chelsea, HY
T 11/19 MULTICULTURAL SEX--Tamina, Kathryn, Michele, 2002 TS Student.
Th 11/21 SEX IN ART--Deborah, Lauren, Monica
T 11/26 SEX IN ART 2--Jill, Nancy, Jenny

When I get a spare moment I'll update the syllabus on the course web site to reflect these additions.


Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  UPDATE on Assignments
Date:  2002-10-24 10:19:48
Message Id:  3335
A reminder that your 3 pp. paper introducing us to your praxis site is due tomorrow, Friday October 25th.
If you have given yourself extensions either on this paper or its sequel, the first draft of your curriculum for this site, BOTH of these papers are due (no exceptions) by next Friday, November 1st.

By 5 p.m. on November 1st,
you also need to post AN ABSTRACT including
--a description your site w/ NO names/identifying markers
--an account of your initial reactions/issues
--a description of what you see as the problems/challenges in creating a curriculum for that location.


Name:  Anne Dalke
Date:  2002-10-28 18:40:57
Message Id:  3388
By 5 p.m. this Friday, November 1st, please submit to me hard copies both of the paper introducing your praxis site and a 3-pp. beginning of a sex-ed curriculum, including bibliography.

You also need to post by that deadline, on our on-line web forum,
AN ABSTRACT including
--a description your site w/ NO names/identifying markers
--an account of your initial reactions/issues
--a description of what you see as the problems/challenges in creating a curriculum for that location
AND THE SEX-ED BIBLIOGRAPHY [THIS AN ADDITION TO INITIAL INSTRUCTIONS--because this is a way for us to be helping one another along on this project].


Name:  lauren h
Subject:  archive 9: course commentary and requirements
Date:  2002-10-29 10:38:39
Message Id:  3408
Course Commentary and Requirements

Ok for me what's not working is that for the life of me I cannot remember to post. Damnit I do all the readings and I don't post my comments. I hope this isn't a lost cause yet.

Sarah and Chelsea talked about how Amanda and julia's sex ed curriculum was not so utopic. I really felt it was too utopic. I think it was a great curriculum and probably how sex ed ought to be taught. I think it may be too utopic because I grew up in a conservative area (A side note: I grew up in texas and I really cannot remember having a high school sex ed curriculum.) and I don't think we would have been allowed to present a currilcum which is so open minded to different kinds of sexuality. To me it is similar to how you can't teach evolution without teaching Christianity (like Christianity is the only religion or something) in some states. (I think it was a supreme court case in the last 3 years.. can't remember though). Unless it's a pretty progressive school, it is not going to want you to be so open minded.

As far as the class goes.. I am pretty sure that at that point I was thrilled with the class and had no complaints..
and i am super excited to write my own sex ed curriculum

Name:  sheri
Username:  sfernand@bmc
Subject:  history/ religion & sex
Date:  2002-10-31 17:35:37
Message Id:  3447
I would like everyone to go to this site and find something interesting in the kama sutra section she would like to talk about/ comment on in class. There were so many awesome topics that I couldn't limit us to a sepcific reading.

Questions? email me or post.

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  WARNING!
Date:  2002-11-01 15:45:30
Message Id:  3473
This is NOT the space to post your praxis abstract and bibliography. Go to
Submit Papers to do this.
Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  Thursday's class: emergence
Date:  2002-11-06 11:37:04
Message Id:  3557

pulling together the threads for tomorrow's class:

your reading assignments are 4:

from sheri: kama sutra,

which you'll find @

and then three folders on reserve:

from sarah h (both essays in one folder)

"sexuality and prayer" (pp. 1-7) and

"sexuality and spirituality" (from scott peck's further down the road, pp. 219-231);

from lauren h: "engendering america" (pp 60-63, 111-112, 118-125, 214-219)

from maggie: "memoirs of a geisha" (pp. 164-167, 280-291)

read what you can (you'll see from the pagination, above, that none of the excerpts are long ones, except the kama sutra, and sheri invites us to read around in that) and come w/ your questions-and-answers.

sheri, sarah, lauren and maggie--

would each of you plan to speak, please, for about 5 minutes about the text you selected for us to read: tell us where it came from, why you picked it, what dimension you think it adds to our explorations, what answers it offers, questions it raises for you--

then i'll see what i can do about braiding together a discussion that keeps all the balls in play (how's that for mixed metaphors?)

yes, yes, this feels unwieldy right now, but it also seems a GREAT example of an emergent system (my latest new enthusiasm, about which more later)--

VERY much looking forward to what emerges--


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