Sex toys arouse outrage at Duke

A call by university researchers for vibrator-seeking women has the local religious community hot and bothered

Topics: Sex, Broadsheet,

Duke University researchers are looking for female students to attend a sex toy party, “engage in sexually explicit conversation” with other young ladies and, if they so desire, buy some titillating playthings at a great discount– all in the name of science. Wait a sec, no, make that “were looking,” past tense — all of the participant spots have filled up rather quickly. Fancy that.

Know who else has responded to the study just as feverishly? A religious leader on campus, whose blood pressure has risen for an entirely different reason: He’s pissed. Father Joe Vetter, director of the Duke Catholic Center, said: ”I think it can give the impression that the university is endorsing behavior that I don’t think the university should endorse.” God forbid the university allow its researchers to issue an open call for women — that’s right, adult women — who are interested in attending a sex toy party to help further the study of sex. No one’s being forced into a sex den filled with vibrating silicone and rubber. Women are volunteering to check out some naughty novelty items and, both before and after, speak openly with researchers about their attitudes toward sex.

The school’s vice president for public affairs, Michael Schoenfeld, bless him, has issued an utterly rational response to Vetter’s public outrage: “Not all research will make people comfortable,” he said. “In fact, there’s a lot of things, there are a lot of questions, there are a lot of issues that are studied at a university that make people uncomfortable. That’s how we get an understanding of things like ethics [and] behavior.” Science — not always politically correct!



Vetter is under the impression, although he doesn’t say why and researchers have remained mum on the topic, that the study is driven by a “concern about promiscuity on campus.” He seems to believe that the study is looking at sex toys as an alternative to partnered sex. If you think a man like Vetter would celebrate such an goal, you’re wrong. While he is “concerned about promiscuity,” he’s more concerned that “these students are in this developmental phase,” he told The News & Observer. “I don’t think it’s a good developmental practice to just tell somebody to just sit around and masturbate. I don’t think that promotes relationships.”

I’m 99.9 percent sure the researchers aren’t asking young women to “just sit around and masturbate.” But you gotta love the apocalyptic fear of sexuality on display here; the assumption seems to be that self-pleasuring women will lock themselves in their rooms with no more motivation to relate to the opposite sex.

Tracy Clark-Flory

Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter and Facebook.

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