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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Blame Mom: A Late Mother's Day Gift from CNN, Peggy Drexler, and UC San Diego

Like most universities, the University of California, San Diego strives to assure parents that their university is a safe place for the children that parents will be sending there. These parents trust the University with the physical and mental well-being of their children. To assure parents, the Sexual Assault and Violence Prevention Resource Center at UCSD has a web page entitled "UCSD Parents and Families--Frequently Asked Questions" that has this wise statement:

"Sometimes victims and survivors feel responsible, or are made to feel responsible, for what happened to them. Know that experiences of sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking are not your student’s fault."

I totally agree. But maybe that statement needs a slight tweak, courtesy of CNN: "But it may be the parents' fault, especially if they complain about dirty old men on our faculty who pressure their children to get naked for final exams."

Just hours after Mother's Day, CNN responded to the shocking events at UCSD (50-something male professor requires his entire class to get naked in front of him to take their final exam) by providing an incredible response from Peggy Drexler insisting that that the real problem in this story was the mother who complained about the situation, not the man behind it. (See, but don't look too closely due to the appalling photos from CNN's lewd related stories, the story "Helicopter mom wrong on naked exam," May 13, 2015.) The mom who felt that her daughter had been victimized and dared to challenge this unsafe university is the one we need to blame. She's just a "helicopter mom" who refuses to let her little girl be an adult. This, from the radical professor of gender studies who tells us in her book Raising Boys Without Men that boys raised without fathers but lesbian mothers are actually even better off than when raised in a more traditional family with a father (see the review by Albert Mohler). The hostility of Drexler and CNN toward a mother in this case really surprised me, but given the warped politics and moral debauchery of academia these days, nothing should surprise me anymore.

When the adults in charge have lost all common sense, when the "normal" heavy drinking and sexual promiscuity of co-ed dorms is base enough for a university, when anybody in an authority position can require all the students in a class to get naked in front of members of the opposite sex, there is a need for parents to speak out, even when the class is optional. The fact that the nudity requirement was announced long before the final exam does not make it acceptable, in my opinion, but I recognize that is just my opinion. My point is that when something that may be highly questionable is going on, to expect the students to be only ones with the right to object is unreasonable. Parents ought to be able to do more than fork over cash.

Hurray for parents who are to stand up to authority figures that put their children in harm's way, even when they are 18 or older. Sometimes young people, even after age 18, need parental help, and not just financial help. 

I've raised four boys. I know how hard it is for them to be different and to challenge local school authorities when things are absurd or out of control. We've had long discussions about some of the problems they've seen and in a case or two, felt a need, with their support, to step in and speak out to school authorities. Nothing that drew media attention, thank goodness, or CNN would surely have let the world know that the problem was the parents. Yes, that was high school, not college, but parents ought to still care and be ready to protect when there is an abusive situation and pressure on the child.

Many parents will pay large amounts of money to the university to fund the education of their children. Many will continue to be responsible for their children long after graduation when they find that their major does not seem to have any value with the people who need capable employees. Parents should be able to speak out against abuse and sexual exploitation without being blamed as if they were the problem, not the perpetrator.

The parents' page at UCSD also states:
Sexual assaults most commonly take place between acquaintances in familiar surroundings. SARC educates students on this issue using various campaigns and workshops. SARC also provides comprehensive services to victims, including individual and group counseling, support groups, on campus advocacy and accompaniment to police interviews, medical evidentiary exams and court dates. SARC is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week throughout the year. 
Just wondering of SARC has looked into this case. What is being done with the photographs from the final exam? Maybe this is a non-issue, but has anyone asked? Were there hidden cameras? Open cameras? Anything done to prevent photographs from being taken and shared? Any counseling offered to the students? Any recognition of the abusive situation this created? Any actual adults there at the University who don't live in a fantasy land where anything is OK (except parental objections)?

Children, young adults, and even older adults need moms. Moms who do more than just pay for their miseducation. We need moms and dads, in fact, though it doesn't always work out that way. We need to support parents in their parental roles as protectors, not just check writers, and not blame the mom when a seriously misguided professor at a university instructs a daughter or a son to undress in front of the opposite sex for a final exam or for any other purpose.

Universities are not especially safe places these days. Some seem to condone binge drinking. Most seem to condone and promote promiscuity. Abuse of many kinds is far too common. A friend of mine, while on the faculty at a philosophy department at a major US university, told me it was common knowledge in the department that one professor had required some of the females in a class to sleep with him to get a good grade. That's not safe. I'm not aware that any of the victims had the courage to share the problem with mom and have mom step in, but they would have been better off to resist that pressure and not go along. One good "helicopter mom" could have helped. Might have been blamed, censured, and ridiculed, but she would have helped.

Hurray for moms and dad who dare to challenge the insanity of universities. My condolences to the students at UCSD. Stay close to your parents. You may need more than just their moral support based on the quality of education you seem to be getting.

Note: The class in question was optional, and the requirement for nudity in the final exam could, according to the professor, be fulfilled in other ways without necessarily taking one's clothes off, though the desired and intended outcome is obviously full physical nudity, and that's what all the students did in this year's class and apparently that's what nearly everybody does, though I read one one report of someone in the past keeping their clothes on. The optional aspects, like optional attendance at the university itself, does not lessen the questionable nature of the requirement for nudity in a final exam at a university, especially one running on tax dollars, nor does it lessen my discomfort with blaming the mother instead of recognizing the obvious problem of student nudity in front of a professor.

Yes, I admit that I have strong biases and may be overly harsh in viewing that activity as unwise and lewd. But I think parents should be able to speak out about the environment their kids are in without being treated like they are the problem.


Orbiting Kolob said...

I'm pretty confident that getting naked was optional rather than required by the professor. That's what the university itself says, and it's consistent with the practice in similar courses at other universities, including my own, where as a department chair I oversaw one such course. It seems very likely to me that this story was misreported by a sensationalistic media eager to get page views by stoking people's anger.

Say what you will about the assignment itself, you at least ought to make an effort to get the facts straight. To do otherwise is to become one of those irresponsible bloggers who feed the rumor mill and misinform the public. (Sad to say, Dan Peterson has been guilty of this as well.)

As for Peggy Drexler, maybe you should slow down a bit and at least consider that the way you grew up is not the be-all and end-all of effective child-rearing. There are stable, successful cultures out there that raise children quite differently than we do -- children who turn out just fine.

For starters, you might read up on China's Mosuo people. Mosuo society is basically matriarchal and lacks anything like marriage as we know it. And yes, boys are raised without a father in the house.

Check it out here -- it's fascinating stuff. Oh, and consider for just a moment that maybe Drexler is not as outlandishly radical as you think. There are more things in heaven and earth, Jeff, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Yes, the class is optional and the professor says there is the option of getting naked emotionally, whatever that means, instead of physically naked, which is the expected norm that everyone seems to do. None of that makes it any less outrageous. The final exam requirement for nudity, even if physical nudity were the exceptional option rather than the default norm for this class, would still be something that should draw the ire of parents and of any sane university administrators. You don't see a problem with that? And if the professor has cameras rolling, would it bother you as a parent? If the class were required, would it bother you? Just wondering if there are in-class nudity scenarios you would find offensive, abusive, or morally wrong.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Of course there are scenarios that would bother me -- for instance, if the assignment were required, which of course it was not.

Does misrepresenting reality bother you? Does passing on half-truths bother you?

Does it bother you at all that you have, on rather slender evidence, publicly branded someone a "lewd pervert"?

Don't you think that, before making such accusations, you ought to look into things a bit more closely?

What kind of man are you?

Jeff Lindsay said...

Yes, I think a male authority figure having girls to undress in front of him is questionable, lewd, and perverted. That he dresses the nudity requirement in rarely exercised options for alternative forms of nudity obviously doesn't prevent him from achieving nearly 100% success in getting his young students to undress. Is that a half truth? That outcome, young women naked in front of him and the men in the class, is lewd. Optional or not, that's what he achieves, and it's lewd. Not in your eyes, I recognize.

Maybe you think he doesn't intend this to have erotic overtones and isn't an erotic thing for him, so maybe he's just a misguided sincere professor. Do you think he doesn't view this in an erotic context?

To give him and his ilk a benefit of a doubt, I've softened my statement as follows--let me know if you are less offended by it, but I think you are always on Auto-Offend in such matters, so I expect you'll still be peeved. Here it is:

We need to support parents in their parental roles as protectors, not just check writers, and not blame the mom when a lewd pervert or even just a seriously misguided professor at a university instructs a daughter or a son to undress in front of the opposite sex for a final exam or for any other purpose.

There, I've provided an out for him. I think he's lewd and I think the event has erotic meaning for him (he uses "eroticism" to describe the event, so that's one clue he's not blind to the erotic element here), but I'll leave open the possibility of just being misguided--based on my sensibilities and biases, of course, which I think most parents will share.

Are you a parent, by the way? Curious as to why you can't see a problem with how this old man has young girls get naked for the class. Old man, young naked girls, public university--is that a half-truth? Which half isn't true?

It's optional--the whole university is optional--but optional or not, parents have the right to expect more common sense and less lewdness from the so-called adults they trust their young adults to.

Jeff Lindsay said...

OK: ..."if the assignment were required, which of course it was not."

Uh, no, the final exam REQUIRES nudity. If one dares to object, one can substitute metaphorical nudity in some way for the physical nudity that he's obviously encouraging and achieves, but "nudity" is the requirement. Physical nudity is not absolutely required because those who want to object and be the odd man/woman out can do so, but nobody did in that class.

Please don't tell me you can't understand the dynamics of pressure from peers and authority figures in that kind of setting. Even if he got just 1 girl to undress in front of him instead of the whole class, I'd still say it was inappropriate. Even if he weren't 50-something and was a young teenager or 20-something himself, I'd have trouble with this, but 50-something man and naked girls - come on, man! Parents need to call the university on this one.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Now it's just "seriously misguided professor." Toned down a notch, thank you.

Jeff Lindsay said...

As for Drexler, I grant that lesbian moms and single moms can do a good job in raising children. But to argue that women on the average do better in raising sons without fathers around, and that we should celebrate instead of worry about boys raised without men, is radical and contrary to a huge body of peer-reviewed data and common sense. Children do best, on the average, when they have a loving mother and a loving father in their lives. That's something we should encourage when possible. That's not just Mormon hate speech.

The Mosuo example is interesting, I'll admit. But this small group people, with an average income of around $200 a year, doesn't seem to be providing a lot of positive results in how its boys turn out, or am I missing something? How are they doing in terms of, say, economic progress, education (bad), inventions, or literary achievements? Given that they don't have a written language, I'm guessing the literary achievements are not all that great. Maybe there are some other criteria that make their social system look a lot more successful, but it looks rather uninviting at first glance. But they've got a system that is definitely great for tourism!

Ryan said...

I am definitely with Jeff on this one, and I have a further question. If a student opts not to undress, can that student also opt not to witness his or her peers undress? Or are you still required to be present and engaged?

Orbiting Kolob said...

Jeff, the class itself is optional. It's kind of like a clearly signed nude beach: no one has to go there if they don't want to, and if they do go there, they have no cause to complain about what they see. Ditto for this class, unless there's some mysterious kind of peer pressure to take the class in the first place. If there is, it must be pretty weak, given that 99% of UCSD students seem to be resisting it.

It's also quite possible that there's a plausible educational rationale for the "naked" option in this class. I don't know what it is in this case, but such rationales do exist -- e.g. in a figure-drawing class. Just because you can't imagine what the justification might be doesn't mean there isn't one, and before potentially libeling someone, it seems to me you'd want to at least consider the possibility. (Have you made any effort to understand what the rationale might be?)

Maybe you think that nakedness in this context is simply beyond the pale, so much so that no rationale can exist. But obviously not everyone agrees with you, including, apparently, most of the students in the class.

Again, consider the example of a nude beach. Those who bathe in the nude seem to feel there's some real benefit in it that goes beyond mere lasciviousness or exhibitionism, and most governments usually set aside a place for it. Ditto, apparently, for the many universities with classes like this one.

Also, you might want to consider how your fastidiousness about 50-something instructors and 20-something women will sound to people who get antsy about, um, a certain middle-aged prophet marrying several teenage girls, some of them as young as 14.

Glass houses and all that.

Ah, but of course you will say that Joseph Smith did what he did for very good reasons.

But if you say that, you ought to be able to extend the same courtesy to others who claim to have good reasons for what they do -- just as you expect anti-Mormons to make the effort to understand plural marriage.

FWIW, I know that my grown children have been to certain clothing-optional hot springs, and presumably disrobed there, and I'm fine with it. (I myself have been there, done that.)

Also FWIW, to revisit an earlier exchange of ours, over the past several days I've had a chance to watch The Hunger Games (in fact all three of the HG films thus far released). They're not the greatest films ever made, and it's obvious that they're based on young-adult novels, but they're nonetheless well worth watching. I would definitely recommend them to teenagers, especially if they've already read some dystopian science fiction (e.g., Brave New World) and understand the basic idea of the genre.

The heroine, Katniss Everdeen, strikes me as a very good role model. The films have some perceptive things to say about reality TV and about propaganda, and I certainly don't see anything you'd object to in their basic moral messages. Tyranny is bad, democracy good; when destiny calls, it can be hard to step up and lead; sometimes you've got to set aside your personal concerns for the benefit of others; etc. Good stuff overall.

Anonymous said...

"Please don't tell me you can't understand the dynamics of pressure from peers and authority figures in that kind of setting. "

I hope someone is bookmarking this quote. It could come up again when discussing making convenants in the temple before having explained what they actually are.

Anonymous said...

Why does the university allow the "professor" to continue to make students strip in front of everyone. Why is the professor not fired.

The RA of my dorm told every female student to stay away from a certain teacher because the teacher would only sleep with the cute female students, and if the student refused to sleep with the teacher the student was failed....regardless of previous exam and assignment grades. Thankfully the teacher was fired due to the fact all the females worked together to get the pervert.

To this day I help my young adult children in certain situations.

Anonymous said...

Bully for you Orbiting Kolob!

Anonymous said...

An issue I'd like to see addressed is Drexler's assertion that lesbian moms are superior to heterosexual moms, based on a biased selection with obvious intent to advocate for same-sex marriage.

She would have done well to listen to one very pro-gay adult who was raised by lesbian moms, and now recognizes how much was lacking, though they did the best they could. The story of Robert Oscar Lopez, also a professor in California, is something worth looking at. His "dangerous" account: Not all children raised by gay parents support gay marriage: I should know, I’m one of them. Related: Growing Up With Two Moms: The Untold Children’s View.

How the Left / mainstream academia responded to him is what's really amazing about the story. See: A Tale of Targeting.

This kind of hate against those who exercise free speech for the "wrong side" of a debate is unsettling. That animosity still drives some antis because of the voice of the Church in advocating for traditional marriage.

Anonymous said...

Orbit, why so enthused about the Mosuo example? Looks like a bad example to showcase the grand new vision of Drexler's fatherless society. Regarding how well they do in raising boys, it looks like the men have become uneducated, impoverished, and unproductive, without much of a role in their society other than getting an occasional woman pregnant.

Rotary International has chosen them as one of the groups in need of their charity work to promote some basic education.

Regarding the success of Mosuo moms in raising boys without men, just what is it you see that's so appealing? What about this impoverished group of 40,000 people living an unusual lifestyle makes you describe them as a "successful culture"? How do YOU define success?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like someone swallowed Fox New's rant whole. Or had too much indoctrination about porn shoulders.

It's an elective class which no one is required to take. It is sanctioned by the UCSD Art Department with the full knowledge of the department. Art Departments have featured nude figure models since sometime not long after the Renaissance and Drama departments have been doing nude performances since Isadora Duncan.

If someone registers for this particular class they are told at the first class meeting what the requirement is. Meanwhile, there is an option for an expression or nudity in lieu of actual nakedness.

It seems to me this is a problem of people who don't trust their college student children or have either control issues or issues of prudishness or both. And characterizing a college professor in the performance of his instruction as some leering pervert is slander.

Anonymous said...

Another example of I'm offended so no one should have the experience.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Anon 6:55, you write of the Mosuo that "it looks like the men have become uneducated, impoverished, and unproductive, without much of a role in their society...."

A better way to put this would be to say that the outside world has finally caught up to the Mosuo. They had a matriarchal social system that worked just fine for centuries. Apparently it survived assaults by powerful outsiders ranging from Ming Dynasty reformers to Mao's Cultural Revolutionaries. (Compare this durability to the flimsiness of LDS polygamy, which despite its putatively eternal status lasted a mere 40 years and couldn't even stand up to the administration of Benjamin Harrison.)

The immediate point is that Mosuo matrilinearity does not itself produce the results you mention. Rather, like any other social system, it is more or less effective, depending on the circumstances in which it finds itself.

I trust you'll agree with me that a marriage/family structure that worked reasonably well in Utah Territory in the 1860s does not work so well in the changed circumstances of the 2000s.

The larger point is that circumstances are constantly and rapidly changing for us as well, with the result that, for us as well as the Mosuo, there simply is no eternally ideal model for the family. We can't even say for sure that what worked for us one generation ago will still work best a generation hence.

This is just one of the lessons I wish religious and cultural conservatives would learn. Were they to acknowledge this basic truth, they would cut all their nonsense about "traditional marriage" and "the traditional family." These things don't exist. Jeff's monogamous marriage and nuclear family are radically different from those of Brigham Young, which were radically different from those of Abraham, etc. To claim otherwise is supremely silly.

Anonymous said...

Lopez is positive about Regnerus study, and cites an overview of it here: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/06/5640/. Fair summary?