I haven’t had many lectures where terms like necrophilia or bestiality came up. That’s why, among all the classes I’ve taken over the past four years, the sociology course I’m taking this semester, Sexuality and the Law, stand outs.
It wasn’t until the second class that the professor really delved into the ‘makes you feel uncomfortable and avoid eye contact with the other students’ material. Penis rings, polygamy, chastity belts, the Kama Sutra, and the lack of a female counterpart to Viagra were all discussed, in no particular order of uncomfortableness.
Next, the professor gave a brief overview of popular books that explore the concept of sexuality, most of which had clever-yet-discomfiting subtitles such as, “The Clitoral Truth: The Secret World at Your Fingertips.” Another book, about sensual massages, (I must have blocked out the title), featured a cover with an almost-naked woman being massaged by a pair of arms that look like they belong to Arnold Schwarzenegger. On an Uncomfortable Scale of one to ten, where a five is “watching a movie with your family that contains an explicit sex scene,” sitting in that lecture hall was a solid eight for me. But it was about to get worse.
At the end of the lecture, which involved every word ending with ‘philia’ and ‘ality’ that you can think of, plus a few more, the professor asked the class, “Who was surprised by today’s lesson?”
I and only four other students raised our hands. I had been operating on the apparently wrong assumption that, given a room full of 50 people, the vast majority would be willing to go out on a limb and say, “Necrophilia just isn’t cricket.” If someone had told me that morning, “You’re going to be faced with something weirder than necrophilia and beastiality,” I would have sarcastically responded with, “what, the NDP winning a landslide in Quebec and becoming the Official Opposition?” But that’s what happened. I was confronted with a room full of people who, when confronted with necrophilia and beastiality, act all blasé and shrug. Yawn, too mainstream.
Scott Dobson-Mitchell is a fourth-year Biomedical Sciences student at the University of Waterloo.