“The only unnatural sex act is that which you cannot perform.”
—Alfred Kinsey, Indiana University
“Our criteria for consent…are conscious, coherent, and into it.”
—Zoe Hayes, Purdue University
Maybe the old gray mare just ain’t what she used to be, but the rest of these here Disunited States have seen their heyday, too. Even so, Indiana remains the Land of Babbitt, brimming with old-fashioned folk of down-home sensibilities who worship God and the GOP and wait with bated breath for basketball season. Yet Indiana’s state-funded universities have long taken pleasure in kicking Everyman Hoosier in the gonads, spending his hard-earned money to mock his morality.
It’s a subversive tradition stretching back to the hoary days of Alfred Kinsey, the Indiana University eugenicist who pioneered sex research, bringing the bedroom into America’s living room and befouling both. For his own pigsty version of a bedroom that he presented as normative is the kind that a smart maid wouldn’t clean without arm-length rubber gloves, protective eyewear, and a stiff upper lip. Although his “scholarship” later was discredited as the inked ejaculations of a sex-crazed fiend, that happened long after he popularized perversion and lubed the Sexual Revolution’s pistons before his 1956 death.
Flash forward to today. The Sexual Revolution groaned to a halt decades ago, its hulking engines rusting into the cultural soil like the abandoned steel mills littering northwest Indiana. But it petered out only because it reached its destination. Its major precept is more or less accepted by most people under the age of 60 and embraced ecstatically by pop culture: Sex is a means of self-gratification. How and when to express it is a matter of choice. In fact, sexual expression’s only modern-day restriction is that it be consensual—although this can be a messy gray area, as noted below. Otherwise, anything goes.
The mere hint of questioning that sole restriction, however, can set the stage for a modern-day morality play. When protagonist and antagonist sing in the same chorus, however, it makes for a comedy of the absurd, like crossing Electra with The Mikado.
Such a scenario played out the other week at Purdue University, archrival of Kinsey’s IU, but only on the playing field. When the game is subsidizing ideologically skewed scholarship that ends up polluting the cultural mainstream, both schools wear the same colors.
This play was cast into motion by a cartoon. Every Friday, The Purdue Exponent features a comic strip called “The Sex Position of the Week” (SPOW), depicting figures performing acts that make the Kama Sutra look positively Amish in comparison. Presented to a literate audience, the lurid twists and turns are accompanied with how-to descriptions that shoot for laughs if not—given some of the positions’ challenging nature—actual emulation.
According to the daily Exponent’s online archives, SPOW occasions the occasional letter of complaint from Christians and sundry troglodytes.
But on Friday, September 17, 2010, the paper went too far. Much too far. Like, all the way. This would be the first time moral revulsion came from the other side, i.e., sexually liberated liberals.
First, the cartoon strip. An artless three-panel graphic, it features a scenario called “The Prestige,” a take on a 2006 movie about dueling musicians. The first panel depicts a man in silhouette taking the back-alley approach to a woman crouched on all fours, an attempted humanization of bestiality that does our doggy friends no respect. The second shows the man quickly exiting and high-fiving his buddy waiting in the background, who promptly takes over—so fast that the woman doesn’t realize the switcheroo. The third shows Man #1 waving outside the bedroom window at his tag-team partner and the silhouetted woman who, pointed in the opposite direction, remains literally in the dark. “If properly executed, the receiving partner will be astonished as if a magic trick has just occurred. Tah dah!”
Just another Friday feature of the SPOW show. Or so the editors thought as they went home for a weekend of laidback study and kinky sex.
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