Letters to the Editor: Controversy Over DE-Cal Sexuality Classes



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Having recently completed the male sexuality class, I am writing this letter in strong support of the continuation of this class at UC Berkeley ("Continuation of Sexuality De-Cal Classes Uncertain," Feb. 15). I am a 27-year-old returning undergraduate and found a wealth of value in the experience. Together, the male and female sexuality classes constitute a course on human sexuality that should be part of every school's curriculum.

These classes are just about the only avenue available to students who wish to understand themselves and their bodies, filling in voluminous blanks left from the meager sex education classes we were subjected to in preparatory schools.

The male sexuality class is a robust course covering a universe of topics, from masturbation and sex toys to pornography and safe sex. The class features an extensive reader, a plenitude of guest speakers (including Carol Queen, Cleo Du Bois, and James Green), and emotional in-class discussion.

It was shocking and informative to see a formalized depiction of the horrors of male circumcision in a college setting. Learning about this barbaric tradition was an educational high point, and in fact developed into my final project.

One of the standout guest speakers was a transgendered person who shattered my preconceptions about what it means to undergo a sex change.

There is a crucial distinction between what goes on inside and outside the classroom, one that sadly seems to have been lost in this "controversy." The male sexuality classes are impeccable.

The facilitators are kind, attentive, empathetic, and know their stuff. Our class discussions were always engaging and helpful, and it seemed that everyone left the course feeling more empowered, self-confident, knowledgeable, and ready to explore their sexuality.

As for the off-campus activities, nothing I've heard has constituted an allegation of illegal activities. Yes, one of the parties last semester ended with a few folks having a sexual experience. What's wrong with that? As far as I know they were all consenting. Had it been an anthropology party that turned lascivious, I doubt it would have made the front page of The Daily Californian. If there are any concerns about the after-hours activities of the male and female sexuality classes, they should be addressed as separate issues.

The classes and guest speakers must go on. To even consider canceling these educational gems for such flimsy, sensationalistic charges would be a tragedy.

Matthew Taylor
UC Berkeley student

The university was created to exercise the intellect of man, not the emotions of man. As long as my university conducts classes where immature emotions are exercised as "academic" study, I will withhold my support ("Continuation of Sexuality De-Cal Classes Uncertain," Feb. 15).

The intellect is not the only, nor the highest, aspect of man (all aspects are worthy), but it is the intellect that is the proper realm of the university.

The alma mater of my father and I is losing its proper focus and is pandering to those for whom the intellect is foreign territory.

Ronald Pavellas

UC Berkeley alumnus

I have been a facilitator for the male sexuality class for the last five semesters. I am a little upset about The Daily Californian's accusations ("Continuation of Sexuality De-Cal Classes Uncertain," Feb. 15). I feel the article was a bunch of lies and inaccurate statements taken out of context, worthy of publication in a gossip magazine.

I would like to clarify that we are not instructors, as indicated in the article, we are facilitators/coordinators and also students as much as anyone else in the class. I feel this fact alone made for some very inaccurate reporting. We do our best to make sure the classroom is a safe environment where all can share their experiences without fear of being laughed at or ridiculed. We do not teach anything, we learn as much as anyone else. We leave the instruction to the guest speakers, who are experts in their field, along with some UC faculty members. The class is run democratically, as the name of the program implies. We do not force anyone to do anything they are not comfortable doing. Forcing anyone into doing something they are not comfortable with would go against the safe space we work toward all semester long.

Along with icebreakers done in class, we also arrange parties outside of class. Once again, participation is not required. At these parties we play games that would go under the category of icebreakers. They are only meant to allow students to get to know each other and have fun. The article stated our sponsor does not "police the content of the course," and being students ourselves, we do not police the other students while they are outside of class. Things that go on at parties off campus have nothing to do with the curriculum or our sponsorship. I liken them to playing "spin the bottle" or "truth or dare." It is not fair to blame the class because some students played games in the bedroom at a party. It would be the same as blaming the forestry department for students getting arrested for protesting the destruction of a forest.

No instructor had sex with anyone associated with the class. Once again, it is unfair to call us instructors and then say we had sex as part of the class. It does make for some great reading, I'm sure, but it is very inaccurate. We do have an end of the semester party where we go out to a strip club. During the course of the evening the club allows for anyone in the audience to get up and do a dance for the crowd. Some of the students did get up and do their dance, taking off clothes as part of it. This is not illegal, either. It was actually a lot of fun for all.

This class has opened up many a students eyes to how they really feel about themselves and their bodies. These students are intelligent, young adults learning how to be responsible, while living the life of a college student and all its pressures. My experience is that the class has not hindered this process but rather helped it in ways not available anywhere on campus. I know you will find other students willing to support this class and its right to continue.

Drew Navarro

UC Berkeley student

On behalf of all the female sexuality DE-Cal facilitators, I wish to say that the article appearing in The Daily Californian on Friday misrepresented the female sexuality DE-Cal course ("Continuation of Sexuality De-Cal Classes Uncertain," Feb. 15). Inaccurate accusations were made, quotes were taken out of context, and the reporter writing the article mischaracterized her intentions. The male and female sexuality classes are two separate classes and are in no way affiliated. We support and defend the curriculum of our course as educational and empowering for our students and we are looking forward to teaching this class for years to come. 

Kimberly Brodsky

UC Berkeley student

Certainly, if students wish to participate in orgies and other sexual activities, they are free to do so ("Continuation of Sexuality De-Cal Classes Uncertain," Feb. 15). Giving actual university credit for them is another subject. No wonder respect for universities has been on a downhill toboggan ride over the years.

Michael Cregan

Santa Barbara, Calif.

Having taken the course last semester, I absolutely believe that male sexuality is one of the most healthy educational experiences of my life ("Continuation of Sexuality De-Cal Classes Uncertain," Feb. 15). The course offers a comfortable environment for all participating students to express their emotions in a variety of ways, and the instructors make certain that every student is respected. It's a perfect example of the standard of excellence that UC Berkeley sets in effective education and should be treasured, not questioned, by the university community.

Steven Alvarado

UC Berkeley student

Strip clubs? Sexual fantasies? "Sex classes" taught at UC Berkeley and other progressive, liberal universities have completed the descent into lunacy ("Continuation of Sexuality De-Cal Classes Uncertain," Feb. 15). I would give a truck driver a job over a college graduate from this university. Close it down! Aren't there any adults left? Good grief, the idiots that approved this nonsense are nuts.

Bonnie Dougherty

Southern Pines, N.C.

As a student in one of the male sexuality decal sections I was upset at the recent article published about it, and further dismayed by an e-mail by my instructor saying it had been cancelled until further notice ("Continuation of Sexuality De-Cal Classes Uncertain," Feb. 15). I read the article and I believe it misrepresented the course curriculum.

Someone unfamiliar with the class would, having read this article, probably believe it was nothing more than a kick-back class where people party, chat about the sex they've had, and watch porn. Nearly every line in that article either mentioned an activity of the class without giving any background or explanation, or focused on the lack of structure within the course. The article failed to mention what the class meant to those taking it, or possibly how those who had taken it felt in retrospect.

This "expose," responsible for stopping a course, though seemingly objective, was one-sided and obviously biased. It was irresponsible to write a story like this on a class that so many students appreciate, and not include those students and their opinions.The course challenges the often subconscious idea that there is some form of "normal" in an area of life where the word does not exist. This class has every right to continue.

Aaron Pollack

UC Berkeley student

Don't Change Zoning

The Berkeley City Council will be holding a public hearing on the re-zoning of a portion of the 1100 block of Hearst Avenue today. This is the last chance to oppose this short sighted attempt to stop our development of a 14-unit residential apartment complex. Which is more important: the creation of critically needed new housing on privately owned land that is appropriately zoned, or the emotional appeals of well-organized neighbors? If this reclassification is approved it opens the door for neighborhood groups to use reclassification as a weapon against future development.

Changing the zoning will reduce the potential for more affordable housing since the new zoning will make it economically not feasible to build "inclusionary units" (low income units). How can the city of Berkeley say the creation of housing is a high priority while reducing the potential for new housing by downzoning?

Lynda Hart

Berkeley resident

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