Colleges respond to social media panic over alleged clown sightings

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Colleges are victims of a social media hoax, prompting concern that people dressed as clowns were stalking students and challenging campus security leaders.

Review of ‘Heinrich Kaan’s “Psychopathie Sexualis” (1844): A Classic Text in the History of Sexuality’

Until Michel Foucault mentioned him in passing in the first volume of his History of Sexuality (1976), the Viennese physician Heinrich Kaan’s role as the pioneer in medical research on paraphilias seems to have gone unnoticed. The title would have gone by default to Richard Krafft-Ebing, who published the first edition of his encyclopedic Psychopathia Sexualis in 1886. And the long disappearance of Kaan into that work’s shadow is even more unjust given that he was the first to use the title, more than 40 years earlier. (Kaan goes unnamed in the English rendering of Krafft-Ebing’s 12th edition -- whether the omission is the author’s or the translator’s I don’t know.)

As remedy to that neglect, Cornell University Press has published Heinrich Kaan’s “Psychopathia Sexualis” (1844): A Classic Text in the History of Sexuality, edited by Benjamin Kahan, an assistant professor of English and women’s and gender studies at Louisiana State University, in a translation by Melissa Haynes, a classicist at Bucknell University. Judging it “too dangerous to hand over to the general public” until “its utility and integrity can be proven,” Kaan wrote his treatise in Latin, but he hoped that it would meet with sufficient professional approval that he could arrange to have it “translated into a vernacular language such as French.”

The index contains reviews from medical journals of the day, which are decidedly mixed. One of Kaan’s peers vents his irritation that “people continue to belabor themselves and others” by writing in a dead language that is inadequate for modern purposes “even when it is masterfully employed!” The reviewer then strongly implies that Kaan is “among those who must still struggle with vocabulary and syntax” and “would do best to simply avoid it altogether.” Another critic praises it as “creditable to the author,” unlike most publications “on the revolting subjects of which it treats.”

Understandably, then, no clamor for a translation was heard in Kaan’s own day. “As far as I am aware,” Foucault said during his course of lectures for 1974-75 at the Collège de France, “it is the first treatise of psychiatry to speak only of sexual pathology but the last to speak of sexuality in Latin.” (Presumably Foucault meant that it was the last monograph to be composed solely in that language: Krafft-Ebing switched from German to Latin whenever it was necessary to describe deviant sexual behavior in potentially salacious detail.)

The liminal status of the first Psychopathia Sexualis -- its position near the end of a centuries-old mode of scholarly discourse and at the inauguration of a new disciplinary organization of knowledge -- render Kaan’s project interesting now in ways that it couldn’t be for its contemporary audience. The book’s structure and method now look peculiar. Kaan announces at the start that he was driven by “a desire to collect case studies, to examine them and from them to deduce general principles, and then to apply to them every kind of theoretical and practical knowledge and, thus, to derive from them rules useful to physicians.” But unlike Krafft-Ebing, much less Sigmund Freud, the author keeps those case histories (and his “deductions” from them) mostly to himself.

Instead, Kaan moves directly to a high level of generalization: plants, animals and humans alike are distinguished from the inorganic world by “the vital force [vis vitalis] by means of which the organism comes into being, is nourished and sustained.” This vital force subsists through two modes of reproduction, internal and external, corresponding to an organism’s nutrition and propagation, respectively. Kaan then gives an overview of the comparative anatomy of the sexual organs of plants, animals and (finally) humans.

What’s striking here -- especially given the text is written in a language with liturgical and theological associations -- is that Kaan begins and remains on a strictly naturalistic level of description and explanation. In discussing the stages of human sexual maturation, he notes that puberty “begins around the twelfth year in girls and the fourteenth in boys, at which age the Old Testament laws allow for marriage” -- but this, like Kaan’s few other scriptural citations, is given as historical background rather than divine revelation. He expresses a definite belief in “the absolute necessity for monogamy and marriage” without trying to demonstrate its necessity.

Insofar as customs in such matters differ around the world, Kaan implies that it can be explained as the product of variations in the intensity of the libido -- which are, in turn, the function of environmental, biological and psychological factors. The hotter the climate, the darker the skin and the closer to the land, as he posits it, the stronger the sexual drive.

The source of nutrition is also important: erotic gratification is experienced “most vigorously among cannibals, less so among carnivores and flesh eaters, and least of all among vegetarians.” Here we can only lament the author’s failure to disclose his research methods.

Kaan establishes (to his own satisfaction, at least) a scientific basis for taking the monogamous, heterosexual, procreative couple as normative. But medical experience has taught him that deviations are alarmingly frequent, even among European noncannibals. His treatise takes the initial steps toward understanding the range and etiology of sexual disorders and, ultimately, curing them. And in a way the title is his first contribution to the cause: he uses the expression “psychopathia sexualis” to subsume a few practices and preferences under a common heading.

“The types of these aberrations are numerous enough,” he writes, “but the most common are onanism or masturbation, the love of boys (paiderastia), lesbian love, the violation of cadavers, sex with animals, and the satisfaction of lust with statues.” He defines lesbianism as “an aberration that consists in the satisfaction of the sexual drive either between men or between women by means of tribadism, or rubbing” -- which, as definitions go, seems at once very broad and surprisingly unimaginative. Kaan does not elaborate on the statue kink, but Krafft-Ebing gives a number of examples.

The most remarkable thing about Kaan’s catalog is how brief and undetailed it is (even compared to Krafft-Ebing’s, less than half a century later). Furthermore, “these types of deviation are merely one and the same thing, and they cross into one another.” Having identified autoerotic activity as one form of psychopathia sexualis, Kaan soon informs the reader that it is not just the first on his list but the matrix of all the rest. Not that everyone who masturbates will go gay or interfere with public sculpture, to be sure, but it is a dangerous practice and should be discouraged in children. Among the availability modalities of treatment, Kaan especially recommends very cold water.

For reasons cultural historians continue to debate, masturbation was a topic of fierce public concern for more than a century before Kaan’s treatise and for just as long afterward. Self-satisfaction had been condemned on religious grounds before that, of course, but without generating anything like the alarm over its terrible effects on mind, body and soul that began in the early 18th century. One of Kaan’s reviewers grumbled about how he had added to what was already an enormous and very repetitious literature on the subject.

His Psychopathia Sexualis is far from the most hyperbolic or obsessive example of such discourse, but the 21st-century reader cannot help feeling that each medical warning -- every injunction to parents, teachers and other responsible adults to watch for and prevent autoerotic activity -- must have created the very disturbances they were supposed to prevent.

At the same time, the original Psychopathia Sexualis does more than repeat the old “thou shalt not” in nonreligious terms. As Foucault pointed out in his lectures, Kaan’s work had some important implications. It treated human sexuality as entirely explicable within nature -- with nonprocreative forms being, in effect, the accidental effect of a natural force being redirected via the brain: sexual deviations are caused by masturbation, which is, in turn, an activity engaging the imagination (i.e., an organic capacity of our species). Kind of obvious once you think about it, but not until then, and it was Kaan who, pardon the expression, mastered this domain.

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Controversial Pick Close to Kennesaw Presidency

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens moved a step closer to the presidency at Kennesaw State University Tuesday when a Board of Regents committee recommended him for the role despite stiff student and faculty opposition.

The University System of Georgia Board of Regents is now scheduled to vote on making Olens the next Kennesaw State president at an Oct. 12 meeting. The selection is controversial because of both the process and person involved.

Olens has been criticized for antigay stances during his career, including his defending of Georgia's ban on same-sex marriage as attorney general. His office also represented the state and joined a lawsuit seeking to block the U.S. Department of Education from ordering colleges and universities to provide bathroom facilities consistent with transgender students' gender identities. In addition, critics have taken aim at Olens's lack of higher education experience and a presidential search process that was not national.

A Republican, Olens was first elected attorney general in 2010, then won re-election in 2014. He was formerly the chairman of the County Board of Commissioners and a commissioner in Cobb County, where Kennesaw State is located.

"If I’m fortunate enough to be selected by the Board of Regents, I will do everything I can to earn the trust and support of KSU’s faculty, staff and students," Olens said in a statement.​

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UNC Wilmington Orders Evacuation of Campus

The University of North Carolina at Wilmington on Tuesday ordered all students to evacuate the campus by Thursday morning because of the possible arrival of Hurricane Matthew shortly after that. Officials are meeting with students to help them plan to leave campus.

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Furman U guarantees internships, research opportunities and mentors for each student

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Furman University seeks to set itself apart by focusing on students' career and research experience, and the liberal arts university will create a team of mentors for each student, often including faculty members.

Professor Accused of Harassment Sues Accusers

A professor at the University of California, Berkeley, accused of sexually harassing students is suing his accusers, The Guardian reported. The defendants, who recently went public with their allegations of unwanted touching and sexual comments, say that Blake Wentworth, an assistant professor of South and Southeast Asian studies, is trying to silence them. In his suit he accuses the women -- two current graduate students and one former undergraduate in his department -- of defamation and “intentional infliction of emotional distress,” according to the Guardian. Wentworth says that the women made “false statements” in their sexual harassment complaints and to the Guardian, which reported on the case, and he says they acted “in an outrageous manner and beyond the bounds of decency tolerated in a civilized society.” A Berkeley investigation determined last year that Wentworth had violated university policies against sexual harassment, but a review of the case is pending. Wentworth is on paid leave.

Kennesaw Presidency May Go to Opposed Candidate

Students and faculty members have been mobilizing against the rumored candidacy of Sam Olens, Georgia's attorney general, for the presidency of Kennesaw State University. On Monday, state officials acknowledged that they are considering Olens and not planning a national search. Hank Huckaby, chancellor of the University System of Georgia, acknowledged Monday that Olens would interview for the job today, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. “Initially, I was planning to conduct a national search to find the next president of Kennesaw State,” Huckaby said in an email to KSU students and faculty. “Yet, through sincere and earnest conversations with Mr. Olens, I now believe he should be considered at this time.”

Critics have said that the position deserves an open, national search. Many have also criticized anti-gay stances Olens has taken, and his lack of experience in higher education administration.

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Clinton Campaign Criticizes Mandatory Arbitration

As part of a broad statement on corporate regulation, the presidential campaign of Democrat Hillary Clinton on Monday criticized the use of mandatory arbitration agreements in higher education. Some colleges, primarily in the for-profit sector, require newly enrolling students to agree to settle any disputes through arbitration rather than through a legal challenge. Consumer groups and some congressional Democrats, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, have said the companies' approach to arbitration often is unfair to students.

The Obama administration recently sought to ban mandatory arbitration agreements for all federal-aid-eligible colleges, as part of a proposed set of rules aimed at clarifying and expanding students' options for applying to have their federal loans forgiven. Clinton appears to support that move, saying mandatory arbitration clauses too often tilt the playing field to corporations.

"When the for-profit Corinthian Colleges collapsed, leaving thousands of students saddled with student loan debt, students were generally unable to sue because they had unknowingly signed away their right to take the school to court," the campaign said.

Some major for-profits, including DeVry Education Group and the Apollo Education Group, which owns the University of Phoenix, in recent months have voluntarily ended their use of the arbitration agreements.

Researcher Denied Immunity in Harassment Case

A federal court has upheld an earlier court decision denying a researcher qualified immunity in a former student’s sexual harassment case against him and the University of Minnesota. The plaintiff, Stephanie Jenkins, was a Ph.D. candidate in natural resources and wildlife management at the university, and she's been public about her case. She alleges that starting in 2011 during a research trip to the Alaskan wilderness, Ted Swem -- then a scientist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services in Fairbanks assigned as her mentor for field research -- began to sexually harass her, repeatedly telling her, for instance, that he wanted to kiss her and date her, and taking a picture of her buttocks and calling it “scenery.” He allegedly encouraged her to drink alcohol at night and joked about sharing a tent.

Jenkins repeatedly denied his advances, according to the suit. Jenkins was assigned a shared office with Swem back on campus that fall at Minnesota, where he was working on a one-year research agreement. He allegedly continued to seek a relationship with Jenkins but refrained from sexual comments. Jenkins still tried to avoid being alone with Swem, according to the suit, working elsewhere. She eventually told her academic adviser about the alleged harassment and was transferred to a different office, though it wasn’t fully usable for some time, according to the suit.

In early 2012 Jenkins resigned from the university and has since been diagnosed with anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The university has argued that Swem was not one of its employees at the time of the alleged harassment, while Swem has argued that he, as a federal actor, should not be personally liable in legal proceedings.

A panel of judges in a U.S. District Court in a decision released Monday reaffirmed an earlier ruling that Swem was not entitled to such immunity. “Although disputes of facts remain, when the facts relied on by the District Court are considered in the light most favorable to Jenkins, she sufficiently showed that Swem’s conduct toward her was unwelcome harassment, and that it was serious enough to alter a term or condition of her employment,” the decision says. “She also showed that Swem’s conduct violated a clearly established right [not to be sexually harassed], based on the particular facts of this case.” Swem could not immediately be reached for comment.

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Law: California CCs Must Negotiate With Adjuncts

In a win for part-time faculty members at California community colleges, Governor Jerry Brown on Friday signed into law legislation mandating that college districts negotiate with adjuncts over re-employment and termination rules, The Sacramento Bee reported. The legislation is a pared-down version of an earlier bill that would have guaranteed a workload for long-serving adjuncts. It nevertheless has significant support from part-time faculty members who seek consideration of seniority in reappointments and increased job security.

“There are over two million students in California community colleges, and part-time faculty play a critical role in their success,” Jose Medina, a Democratic assemblyman who proposed the legislation, said in a statement. “By improving employment practices for part-time faculty, this legislation will benefit both these dedicated educators and their students.”

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