Remember Wesleyan University? That's the elite liberal-arts college in Middletown, Connecticut, where in 1999 students could take a course called "Pornography: Writing of Prostitutes." Taught by Professor Hope Weissman, this class included Hustler magazine and the Marquis de Sade on its reading list and delved, according to the official class description, into "the implication of pornography in so-called perverse practices such as voyeurism, bestiality, sadism, and masochism." "So-called" is a nice touch; what would Professor Weissman call such practices? The course also required that students create their own pornography. "I don't put any constraints on it," Professor Weissman said. One student, freshman Abbie Boggs, shot photographs that "included oral sex with her ex-boyfriend."
Wesleyan no longer offers the porn course. But parents shelling out the $34,690 per annum that Wesleyan currently charges may wish to ponder other elements of student life at "the Independent Ivy," as the university likes to call itself. Most readers will have fond memories of the student organizations they joined in their college years: a political union, perhaps, or a glee club or dramatic society. At Wesleyan, though, students can also belong to a club devoted to—how to put it? Think of a four-letter vulgarism for the female genitalia beginning with "c." Wesleyan has a club of that name, which, as The Wesleyan Argus reported, recently sponsored its first-ever "C*** Celebration Day." Students could stop by the Campus Center to pick up "health and pleasure pamphlets," buy "vagina-friendly pins," and admire the "pro-c*** chalkings across campus."
There's more: club members "placed mirrors and diagrams in women's bathrooms to help female students learn more about their own anatomy." The club also screened a film "geared toward teaching women about self-love and masturbation." The Argus reporter seemed surprised and gratified that this feminist event appealed to the opposite sex: "The audience for the film, many of whom were men, almost filled Shanklin 107." Very broad-minded of the men, don't you think? Says one C*** Club member, Julia Marcus ‘03: "It's amazing to hear that some people have never talked about this before. I've become closer to my parents and can now say ‘vagina’ to them." How proud her parents must be!
C*** Club president Cara Herbitter ‘03 noted that the celebration's purpose was "to educate women, demystify the c*** and move away from shame." I think she and her friends are likely to succeed—at least on the latter two counts. Whether that's cause for joy is another matter. In another context, the nineteenth-century writer Walter Bagehot warned about letting "daylight in upon magic." Sooner or later it will dawn on Ms. Herbitter that in moving "away from shame" she has not become liberated but only shameless. At $34,690 a year, it's an expensive lesson.