Posted on | April 1, 2014 | 110 Comments
Readers will please pardon my long silence this evening, but I was doing deep research on (yet another) long post about feminism, the completion of which will have to wait because . . . this:
Emily Nagoski is a Ph.D. “college health educator in Massachusetts.” Both an atheist and a progressive, Nagoski has “worked for well over a decade in the field of sexuality education and has grown into an impassioned advocate for social justice through sexual fulfillment.”
All of which is to say, no one could accuse Professor Nagoski of being a homophobic right-wing Christofascist. (Like us.)
So, in the fall semester of 2010, Professor Nagoski was eight weeks into teaching an entry-level course in Women’s Sexuality when she gave her lecture on the subject of “gender”:
After it, I received an email that, among a great deal else, described my curriculum — the entire curriculum, mark you — as “unintentionally heteronormative.”
Which made me stare, with one eyelid twitching, at my computer, because it means that for the last 8 weeks I have been failing, for two hours each week, over and over again, to make the most fundamental point of the class.
Because my class is neither unintentional nor heteronormative.
What’s the problem? In a word, science:
I’m, like, SO active in not assuming that anyone has any particular sexual orientation or gender identity and in teaching students not to make assumptions, to think critically about the science and the politics that live in the science. And of course I have an entire lecture on gender variation and another entire lecture on sexual orientation and identity (that’s next week).
But I AM teaching that humans are a sexually reproducing species wherein some have sperm (males) and some have eggs (females).
(Oops. Is it still legal to say that in Massachusetts?)
I suppose I’ve been relying on students to find their own way to embracing biology as a valuable way to think about sex. But this point of view is so foreign to many of them, many of them Sociology or Women’s Studies majors who have never thought about sex in terms of biology or reproduction, many politically active around these issues without ever having studied them academically. And I suppose it was too much to ask that they get there on their own.
I wanted them to find their way to the notion that it’s not “heteronormative” to recognize that sex is an evolutionarily adaptive reproduction strategy that, in humans, involves males and females; it’s just our biology, and there’s a complex, mutually interacting relationship between the biological and the social. I’ve been working toward that all semester. But they have not gotten there.
You see where the advocates of Progress and Equality have led us: The basic biology of sex is now politically incorrect, so that even an avowed progressive cannot escape condemnation for the unforgivable Thought Crime of preferring facts to theory.
Professor Nagoski might want to invite me up as a Women’s Sexuality guest lecturer. My daughters have been instructed in the subjects of “Boys Have Cooties” and “Keep Your Britches On,” which I would argue are the most valuable lessons of all.
“Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
– Matthew 19:4-6 (KJV)