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Sex, Sweat, Feet and the Working Class

by Alexander Cockburn

Chalk up another milestone for sex ed. The University of California at Berkeley has put a “male sexuality ” class on ice after the campus newspaper, The Daily Californian, published allegations that as part of their course students were taken to a strip club where they watched their instructor have sex and also participated in an “orgy” at an party. A female sexuality course is also under review.

It seems these courses have been available under the university’s “democratic education” or “de-cal” program, which are sponsored but not funded by the university. They are organized and run by student instructors and can be taken for credit toward graduation. Other courses include Blackjack, useful for those set on careers as croupiers east of the Sierras, in Las Vegas, and (for dissidents) Copwatch, which instructs students “how to safely and effectively assert their rights when interacting with police.”

Christy Kovacs, a Berkeley freshman who was enrolled in the male sexuality course last semester for two units told the Sacramento Bee newspaper that some students in the class were involved in an orgy at a party where some partygoers also took Polaroid pictures of their genitalia, to show that their bodies were not disgusting. Kovacs said the shots were viewed at the party in a “respectful way”. Another student, Jessica McMahon, disclosed to the Daily Californian that students in the male sexuality class chose as their final project a trip to a gay strip club. Students apparently watched instructors strip and have sex.

Kovacs says her class also had an instructive excursion to the Garden of Eden strip club. There, a member of the group who was not a student or instructor stripped on stage. “They didn’t even take off all their clothes, and there was no sex,” the earnest Kovacs continued to the Bee reporter. “It was a class bonding experience,” not to mention “positive”.

This business of introducing yourself at a party by proffering a Polaroid of your genitals has distinct possibilities, particularly for fetishists. As news of the Berkeley ban came in I happened to be leafing through the analysis of a man code-named “Beta,” the foot fetishist in Sexual Aberrations, written by Freud’s sometime pal, Wilhelm Stekel. “I must mention,” Stekel writes with perhaps excessive enthusiasm, “Beta wasn’t in the least animated by women’s ankles, legs or lovely shoes.” No, the dirty beast “wanted to see the shoe fit tightly” and “is promptly enlivened by the sight of corns and envies every chiropodist he sees. He likes only male feet: red, swollen, dirty, sweaty and inflamed feet”.

Beta craved to view and smell only the feet of the poor, not out of class solidarity but because their economic condition meant they had badly fitting shoes in which they worked hard all day: “On warm days, he goes to the Danube where poor working men may be found in droves, bathing their sweaty, swollen feet. It is the sight of these large, red feet which then gives him a thrill. He rushes home to masturbate.”

One can imagine Beta politely introducing himself with a Polaroid of those feet. Ms Kovacs, following in Beta’s wake as she witnessed his activities, would presumably have commented that it was all uplifting and entirely respectful of feet which, after all, have feelings too.

Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

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