Yesterday I read the opening pages of my book to about 200 students and faculty at my university. I was heartened by the number of times the audience laughed out loud. When talking about sex, humor takes the edge off. But I had to step back before I chose to take this reading opportunity to think once again about the wisdom of revealing intimate details about myself to the general public, which ultimately will include my children. (I admit that I would not have gone public while my mother was alive.) I have obviously decided to damn the torpedoes, but when facing 200 college-age students, some of them in my present or former classes, the subject comes up again.
I believe it is better for young people to know what they’re up against than to pretend that a pumpkin is a carriage and a frog is a prince. Let them know that people have all sorts of weird desires and habits so they aren’t blind-sided when they encounter them. They don’t need to know of each quirk and habit, but they should know to expect them. Let them also know that almost everyone has sex in one form or another, sometimes only in their dreams — fat people, ugly people, old people, priests, even their professors.
My students come from many different ethnic and religious backgrounds, and I always feel I am treading on uncertain turf by reading publicly. In class, I never refer to my own opinions about romance, child-rearing, politics or the like. Students make assumptions, but they are often wrong. By reading publicly, they learn what my personal opinions are. (Most of them are not aware of this blog.) I don’t want to hobble their brains — they so often want to please their professor and occasionally cannot accept that as long as they make a solid argument in their essays, they can believe as they wish. I’ve had students successfully support an argument to make Serbia the 51st U.S. state, and perhaps the next most heretical was a solid argument for the benefits of a year behind the counter at Wendy’s. Both A papers.
Damn the torpedoes. Tell them the truth.