The demonstration followed a popular Northwestern University class on human sexuality. About 600 students attended the February 21 lecture at the Ryan Family Auditorium in Evanston taught by psychology professor John Michael Bailey. Around 100 stayed for the optional session Bailey arranged afterward.
A paid speaker, Ken Melvoin-Berg, who is a co-owner of Weird Chicago Tours, lectured on fetishes. With the professor's approval, Melvoin-Berg brought in 25-year-old Faith Kroll and her fiance, Jim Marcus, to demonstrate the use of a sex toy. Marcus performed a sex act on Kroll using a motorized device while Melvoin-Berg narrated.
Melvoin-Berg and Marcus say their appearance was initially supposed to be a mostly question and answer session -- not involve sex. But instead it became a three to five minute demonstration and they say they warned students it would be graphic.
The Chicago couple who performed the sex act says they never expected the controversy.
"I think that's why we were there...to give more information. Not just what the school has to show you on file but what is actually out there. And it's a lot more extreme than most people are use to," Kroll said.
"Everyone in the room consented to be there. Everyone on stage consented to do what they were doing. No one got hurt. Everything was done in safe, sane and consensual way," said Marcus.
Knoll, Marcus and Melvoin-Berg say the goal was education.
"We had kind of a duty, I think, to educate these students in a functional and effective way. Psychology students... and my other reason for doing this-- if these were going to be psychologists then they have a need to know about this esoteric knowledge that could help someone in the future," said Marcus.
The students were warned the demonstration would be graphic and given the option to leave. Many of them did.
"For me, I'm glad I didn't see it. It was a little too explicit for me, and if I were in the class, if I would have stayed for the demonstration, I probably would have left. I know a couple of my friends did get up and leave," said Diana Lorenzini, student
"We gave them plenty of warning. We had nobody leave at that point. We only got positive feedback, 100% positive feedback during and after," said Melvoin-Berg.
Professor Bailey sent an email to students that read, "To the extent that this event provokes a discussion of my reasoning ... I welcome it. I expect many people to disagree with me. Thoughtful discussion of controversial topics is a cornerstone of learning."
Students who were there defend the couple and the professor.
"These after-school demonstrations and guest speakers have been the most educational part of the class...being able to talk one-on-one with these professionals," said Stephanie Hill, Northwestern student
"It reminded me of how comfortable you can be with your body because she was unfazed," said Sam Hazlett, Northwestern student.
Northwestern initially released a statement in support of Professor Bailey, who is tenured. But on Thursday in a second statement, the university's president said he was "disappointed" and "disturbed."
"It represented extremely poor judgment on the part of our faculty member," said President Morton Schapiro. "I simply do not believe this was appropriate, necessary or in keeping with Northwestern University's academic mission."
In addition, outraged parents and alumni have been calling the school.
"This does not fall under the umbrella of education. It's demeaning to women. I just thought it was completely, completely out of line," said Lynn Simmons, Northwestern parent.
In his statement, Northwestern's president said the school plans to investigate exactly what occurred and clarify what is and isn't appropriate for the classroom.
Professor Bailey emphasized in a statement that the lectures are optional and not covered on exams. He also said while he watched the couple he experienced some apprehension, not because of the educational value. Bailey said he is worried about the repercussions and what this could mean to the speaker series in the future.