This Is Why I Love the Midwest

November 16, 2006

Reason One: I love the midwest because as I passed the cozy lobby of the Walden Inn on the DePauw University campus (which is where I am tonight, about to read seditious literature to the students), I overheard a group of middle-aged Indianans, or possibly they were Academics and hence fundamentally stateless, playing “It Had to Be You” on lutes.

I think they were lutes, anyway.
depauw.jpg

And if that is not reason enough, here’s Reason Two:

Because the campus paper, The DePauw, this Tuesday published an edition containing a “Sexual Negotiation Agreement” tucked in at the center fold, a two-page spread featuring photos of the last football game. (The sports photos came complete with the obligatory costumed mascot, in this case a tiger, and the pic of the guy in the tiger suit together with a piece of paper that said SEX at the top made me think uncontrollably of furries. But then I got hold of myself and moved on to read the contents of the sheet of paper.)

Now, for starters, DePauw does not think of itself as a super-progressive campus. Close to 70% of its students live in or are affiliated with the Greek system, and all you dirty-minded personal-ad freaks out there should take note that I am talking about fraternities and sororities, not Greek Love. (Which itself is far different from Geek Love — when is Katherine Dunn going to write another novel?)

So at dinner with a number of the Queer/Straight Alliance youth whose organization is helping to promote my visit to campus the issue of frats and sororities came up. One young man said his frat had about a half-dozen gay guys who were out, and all agreed that being gay in one of DePauw’s greek houses probably wasn’t as big a deal as it might be at some other schools; we theorized that this might be due to the high number of students affiliated with the system. You’d just about have to have extra diversity in the houses than you would where frat residence identifies your politics and class background, not to mention your dad’s frat experience and your own putative sexual orientation.

But it certainly is a reason to dig DePauw.

Another reason: the Sexual Negotiation Agreement includes spaces for *three* participants to sign their names, not just two.

Sex toy use is included as one possibly-negotiable erotic act. (DePauw: Good Vibrations salutes you!)

Nice emphasis on consent, including one’s ability to withdraw consent at any point, and emphasis too on drug/alcohol use.

And on the other side of the paper, in case any of you are secretly horrified that I want you to sign a piece of paper before having sex (with me or anybody else), comes the kicker: “Wouldn’t it be easier just to talk about it?” It’s paid for by The Initiative for Sexual Consciousness, whose motto is “Ask Questions. Inform yourself.”

And a couple of pages later, The DePauw features a really, really sensible op-ed about poor sex education.

Now, a school outside the Midwest could do this too, a consciousness-raising semi-spoof that will hopefully leave campus abuzz for a few days and leave a lasting impression in the minds of its readers. But the point is, this *isn’t* UC Santa Cruz or Columbia, home of the splendid “Go Ask Alice” sex ed website. This is a school in Greencastle, Indiana. So what I love about the Midwest is partly that the whole blue state/red state divide is way too simplistic to allow us to understand whaat’s really going on oout here. So many people on the coasts subscribe to that insulting “fly-over state” mentality that any visit to the students, or the queer communities, or the progressive bookstores and sex shops (hello, Left Bank Books of St. Louis! Hello, A Woman’s Touch of Madison!) would likely leave them completely flummoxed. It’s great to go to the midlands or the hinterlands and have “Everything You Know Is Wrong” experiences (I write more about these in the intro to the second edition of my book Real Live Nude Girl) that teach more about diversity in America than any lecturer could.

Also on campus tonight is women’s studies she-ro Carol Gilligan, whose book You Just Don’t Understand exposed gendered communications styles (and whom I studied as an undergrad back in the early ’80s, just before Kendall and the other splendid youth who brought me out to DePauw were born). I’m sure Gilligan didn’t anticipate feminist porn as she was penning that book, and I wonder now, as I get ready to read to the Queer/Straight Alliance and their friends from PoMoSexuals, what kinds of changes to our cultural landscape these young people will inscribe. Kicking around issues at the dinner table as diverse as African-American fraternities, the Rocky Horror Picture Show and Rape-O self-defense condoms, I look forward to finding out.

****

Hey, everybody! Since I mentioned my books Real Live Nude Girl and PoMoSexuals here, you might be interested to know that this month Good Vibrations is having a sale on all the Cleis Press books they carry… including those two. This sale also covers a bunch of Violet Blue’s books (my essay on visiting the Kinsey Institute, my only other time in Indiana, can be found in her Best American Sex Writing tome), The Good Vibrations Guide to Sex, and more.

One Response to “This Is Why I Love the Midwest”

  1. Nona Caspers Says:

    Carol–I think you’d like my book of stories Heavier than Air (University of Mass Press)-“a rare glimpse of Midwesterners” says Booklist reviewer. I’m from rural MN–now in SF but love home. Check it out.


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