Historical Documents – 1960 Sex Lectures Letter

Dec. 2, 1960, Oberlin Review

[JPG of original article – 316K]

To the Editor:

We freshmen who have attended the two assemblies by Drs. Jean and Jim Stevens on men-women relationships are deeply dismayed by the digressions the two doctors made away from the medical and biological fields of sex and into the fields of ethics and morals.

That they were out of order in leaving their field was manifested by illogical presentation of the moral consequences of sex. They used false premises in comparing the breakdown of existing sex codes to the disintegration of the general ethical values of our society, and the false analogy of comparing social restrictions on sex to the legal rules of the highway.

However, our main objection to these two venerable doctors is that we were required to return with them to the days of unquestioning conformity, Victorian morals, and the dusty pronouncements of the dangers of Communist infiltration if our sex codes are relaxed.

Dr. Jean’s attitude toward homosexuals, ‘that they ought to be pitied, rather than looked down upon,’ is the kind of narrow minded attitude which, in fact, makes homosexuality the problem that it is. Dr. Jean does not recognize the fact that pitying a person is just as bad as looking down at him. Only if homosexuality is accepted as a natural social phenomenon, as it is in England, can we approach the problem objectively, if we agree that this is a ‘problem’ after all.

We should like to say, therefore, that we think the direct value of the lectures is in doubt. Those whose attitudes were nebulous or confused will have left the lecture with unreasoned conclusions as a result of obviously sloppy thinking, and those with more concrete ideas will have left indignant.

Jon Eisen, Lou Goble, George Crevoshay, Jason Walker, Hank Klein, Isabel Tapper, Joe Ball, Joel Sherzer

Prof. Turner Comments On Sex Seminar Letter

Dec. 16, 1960, Oberlin Review

To the Editor:

To the signers of the letter objecting to the Stephenses lectures (Review, Dec. 2):

To me, and to many others who have been at Oberlin since you were in rompers, and longer, your letter seems immoral, rude, and silly.

First, you object to “the digressions the two doctors made away from the medical and biological fields of sex and into the fields of ethics and morals.” We shall ignore your mere verbosity in the “fields” phrases and your ignorance and carelessness in misspelling the name as “Stevens.” What were the doctors supposed to lecture on—refined sexual techniques and contraceptives? I can hardly avoid the inference that something of the sort is what you meant.

However, some former Oberlin students have experienced tragedy because they did not know about the non-medical and non-biological aspects of sex. Few subjects are so closely connected with morality as sex; and in terms of the Christian morality upon which this country—and this college were founded, the implications in your letter are simply immoral.

Next, the tone of your letter is so offensive that I do not see how the letter could have been signed by members of a civilized society. One of the least offensive examples is your calling the Stephenses “venerable doctors.” The word “venerable” implies a greater age than either of the doctors has attained and more respect than you feel. Between the inaccuracy and the irony you achieve a rudeness which ought to make your parents ashamed of you.

Finally (to draw the curtain of charity over your weakness), you do not make ordinary sense. “That they were out of order in leaving their field was manifested by illogical presentation of the moral consequences of sex.” To be illogical is one thing, and to be out of order is something quite different. I have sat through some beautifully logical speeches which were quite out of order, and vice versa.

Or again, you say “pitying a person is just as bad as looking down on him.” One may pity a king or a martyr without the slightest feeling that he is privileged to look down upon him. (To anticipate a possible rebuttal, let me say now that I do not equate homosexuals with kings and martyrs.) Or again, you contrast “nebulous or confused” attitudes with “concrete ideas.” And these statements in the process of criticizing others for “sloppy thinking!” This is silly.

Prof. W. Arthur Turner