Jerry Sandusky, Penn State's class catalog, and sexual deviance...

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If you take a look at the Penn State University catalog as I did this afternoon, you will find a long list of classes meant to inoculate students to sexual deviance. Here are a few of the courses and their descriptions:

ENGL 245(GH;US) (WMNST 245) Introduction to Lesbian and Gay Studies (3) An introduction to the study of homosexual identities across a wide range of disciplines and methodologies.

An introduction to the study of homosexual identities across a wide range of disciplines and methodologies, this course explores the history of modern, “western” ideas about sexual identity as manifested in both writing and images. The class examines sexuality not as a “natural” or consistent phenomenon, but as a set of beliefs that have changed over time and manifest themselves differently in different cultural and historical contexts.

Starting in the late nineteenth century, scientific and medical authorities began categorizing individuals into sexual types based on their manifestations of gendered characteristics and their erotic attractions and practices. This medical typing corresponded with the development of subcultures associated with deviance from sexual norms; these subcultures produced a rich variety of texts, images, performances, and social forms, many of which are now considered central to both vernacular and high culture.

This course explores this rich archive. It investigates constructions of sexual conformity and how sexual nonconformists positioned themselves as a shared group identity. It examines how sexual distinctions between gendered, raced, and classed bodies were historically produced and culturally contested. It considers what commonalities gay identities may – or may not – share with lesbian identities and how the increasing visibility of bisexuality, transgender, and transsexuality has altered perceptions of sexual identity. The course explores the relationship of the avant-garde to mass-mediated politics of GLBTQ subcultures and the impetus to “normalcy.” Comparative study of issues of sexual mobility beyond and between the borders of the United States expands the course’s critical scope beyond dominant forms of western culture.

This course does not propose definitive answers to the questions of identity it addresses. Instead it negotiates the ways sexualities have enabled individuals to articulate – and disarticulate – themselves within social bodies past and present.  This course, therefore, has wide relevance for students interested in how group identities come into being and transform over time in dynamic relation to other historical forces. Exploring a wide variety of texts and images associated with the history of sexual identity as well as a variety of interpretations of that history, this course opens students to an archive with the potential to inform and enrich their understandings of many kinds of challenges to regimes of normativity today.

BB H 251(US) Straight Talks I: Advanced Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity Peer Education (3) Exploration of social justice issues, diversity leadership, and group facilitation skills related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and ally issues.

Straight Talks I provides students an opportunity to explore various lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and allies (LGBTA) issues from an educational perspective. Students will be exposed to theories, terminology, and various speakers who will approach topics such as LGBTA history and multicultural issues. The course projects are designed to enhance both written and oral skills, and provide students an opportunity to work together. Finally, the course challenges students to think critically about the social, economic, and political cultures around them and how these cultures affect sexual and gender orientation issues.

Course Objectives:

Philosophical

1. To think critically about your spiritual, social, economic, political and cultural existences and their relationship to your understanding of sexual and gender orientation issues.

2. To develop a critical consciousness that will bring awareness of the ways custom, ritual and tradition helped shape and continue to shape our daily lives.

3. To develop a fuller understanding of the way gender and sexual orientation are conceived of by other people and the ways in which these conceptions link with other elements of identity including ethnicity, class, gender, ability etc.

4. To challenge you to consider the following questions: a) What does it mean to provide educational programming? b) What does it mean to be a peer educator? c) How do I influence others by my involvement in this program? d) How do I what to influence others by my involvement in this program? e) How do I change the world so that it is a better place when I leave it?

Praxis

1. Develop facilitation and presentation skills

2. Obtain knowledge about LGBTA history and current issues and concerns.

3. Conceive of and articulate what it means to 'come out'.

4. Acquire information on sexual orientation, identity development and queer history.

5. Refine your ability to provide programming activities in the form of facilitation, discussion, skits, and exercises.

6. Develop a sense of community and rapport with other panelists through class discussions and projects.

ART H 225(GA;GH) (ENGL 225, WMNST 225) Sexuality and Modern Visual Culture (3) An examination of the visual expression of gender and sexual identities in English-speaking cultures since the late nineteenth century.

The terms "feminist" and "homosexual" were invented by the Victorians and reflect profound shifts in conceptions of identity. Another invention of the nineteenth century was the idea of the literary and artistic "avant-garde," a minority contingent with politically and/or aesthetically advanced views. These ideas of minority culture were deeply enmeshed with one another, and have exerted profound influence ever since. This course explores that history with the objective of developing a more sophisticated understanding of how the history of ideas affects our sense of who we are and how we read both texts and images. The course will be relevant to students of American and English studies, art, art history, and women's and sexuality studies.

To find hundreds of other classes like the above, you can enter “gender” or “sexuality” or “gay” or “homophobia” in the search box on the catalog page (upper right corner).

What got me thinking about the classes offered at Penn State? The damning report from Freeh and company on Penn State’s failures to deal with their resident homosexual predator, Jerry Sandusky, got me thinking about it (...by the way, the word “homosexual” is not present in the 267 pages).

Now you think about it for a millisecond: when the administrators and professors of our universities carefully create a culture in which their own sexual deviance is protected, promoted, and professed, can we be surprised that Jerry Sandusky could roam those revered halls and hallowed locker rooms for decades sodomizing 9 year-old boys? For many--certainly not for all, but for many--Jerry Sandusky is the embodiment of their very own lectures. 

Andrew Dionne is the pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Spartanburg, SC. He and his wife Sarah have six children. Read more from Andrew here.