Professors at Northwestern University are locked in a bitter censorship battle with administrators that has a bizarre beginning: A professor’s vivid account of receiving oral sex from a nurse back in the 1970s.
As reported over at Inside Higher Ed, the feud began over a year ago with the publication of the Winter 2014 edition of Atrium, a bioethics journal published by the faculty of Northwestern’s medical school. The issue was titled “Bad Girls,” and dealt with the intersection between disability and sexuality.
While an odd topic, it’s also a valid one (there are many disabled people and most of them still have a sex drive, after all), yet shortly after publication the issue was suppressed. Why? Apparently, it was due to an irreverent piece titled “Head Nurses” written by disabled professor William Peace.
Peace’s essay dealt with a related topic: Receiving oral sex from sexy hospital nurses. After suffering a spinal cord injury as a young man back in the 1970s, Peace was coping with existential questions like “Did my dick still work?” and “Could I still fuck?” He had these questions answered in a manner straight out of a porno film:
These bad girls were called “the head nurses.” Initially I thought this was an urban legend if not a bad practical joke. Yet I was told again and again that, at some point during my rehabilitation, a nurse I knew or had never seen would answer the call bell late at night and give me a blowjob. There was no privacy in rehabilitation centers at the time. Rooms usually held four to six men. All that separated me from the other paralyzed guys was a flimsy curtain. We did not even have a television in the room. Just the physical set-up alone made the stories seem like impossible fantasy.
But sure enough, late one night I was awoken by the guttural sounds of deep moaning. I turned to see the silhouette of a young shapely woman giving my roommate a world-class blowjob. I remember this night with crystal clarity because it was the first time since being paralyzed I got an erection. My dick was alive! Who needs a doctor when you have a head nurse!
A week or two later, I received my own visit. It started out badly. It was late at night and I had pissed all over myself and the bed. I hit the call button, upset. I thought I had had a handle on bladder management at that point. The nurse that came to help was one with whom I was very close. She changed my sheets and came back as I was washing myself. I was playing with myself without much luck. She explained I had to be a bit more vigorous and try non-traditional approaches. Then she rubbed my leg and pulled the skin on my inner groin, and sure enough I grew hard. I started to cry in relief. She wiped away my tears and then went down on me. She brought me to orgasm, and I was taken aback when I realized no ejaculate had emerged. She explained to me that this is common for paralyzed men and that it involves a retrograde ejaculation. She assured me it would not affect my fertility or my sex life in a major way. My son is living proof she was correct.
Whatever the medical relevance of Peace’s tale, it apparently left Northwestern administrators queasy. According to professor Alice Dreger, who guest edited the Atrium issue and spoke to Inside Higher Ed, “soon after publication, medical school administrators asked Atrium’s editorial team to remove parts of the essay from the web, because the content was considered inflammatory and too damaging to the new Northwestern Medicine ‘brand.'”
In response to the school’s meddling, Atrium’s editors took down all of Atrium’s online content, initiating a yea-long standoff. The controversy remained in the shadows until recently, when another censorship controversy erupted at Northwestern. Prof. Laura Kipnis faced a formal Title IX investigation over an essay she wrote in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the sexual politics of American universities. Following this incident, Dreger threatened to go public, and Northwestern allowed all of Atrium’s content to go back online. According to Dreger, though, the school says future issues of Atrium will have to be approved by a group of administrators and public relations staff to make sure they are acceptable.
Northwestern, so far, has avoided comment, but it is still being barraged with outside criticism. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which launches legal actions to defend the free speech rights of students and professors, sent a letter to Northwestern urging it to reaffirm its stated commitments to academic freedom. The letter was sent three weeks ago, but has not received a response.
Peace, for his part, has strongly defended the validity of his peace over at his blog Bad Cripple.
“Despite 40 years of progressive legislation designed to empower people with a disability, negative stereotypes stubbornly cling to people with a disability,” Peace writes. “One of those stereotypes involves sexuality. People with a disability are viewed as having spoiled identities and bodies. We are perceived to be inferior, physically deviant, and asexual.” By writing his essay, Peace hoped to break the taboo on discussing sex for disabled people.
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