My Students Rise In Protest

Yesterday, I started the class by telling my students the following:

“The mini-quiz we are writing today will be very hard. But the good news is that, to reward ourselves for the hard work we have been doing, we will spend next week watching a movie.”

The reaction of the students can best be described as a mini-riot. I never have any problems establishing and maintaining discipline but this time I just couldn’t get them to calm down and start preparing for the quiz.

For almost 15 minutes, we maintained the following conversation.

“Will there be nudity in the movie?”


“Because I had a prof who showed us a movie with nudity.”

“And my prof showed us a movie with full frontal nudity.”

“And I had the worst prof ever! She showed us a movie with full frontal male nudity.”

“Guys, there is no nudity in the movie we will see next week. I promise. None whatsoever. So let’s just settle down and start preparing for the mini-quiz.”

“Are you sure there is no nudity? Or sexual scenes?”

“Yes, I’m very sure. Now let’s go over the conjugations of. . .”

“Because it is stressful to sit there in class and watch sex flicks!”

“Yes! I’m so over that, too!”

“Guys, I promise, no sex flicks are scheduled in this course. Now, back to the conjugations. . .”

“I just think it’s wrong to make people see nudity for a grade!”

And thus it went on.

As an example of a sex flick they saw in class, students named Motorcycle Diaries. I watched this film several years ago and it struck me as anything but erotic. I don’t even remember if there was any nudity there.

This wasn’t a regular discussion of the kind that I always have with students. I described it as a mini-riot at the beginning of the post because it was loud and very highly charged emotionally.

As a result, I have had the very first old-age discussion of the “Kids today!” variety. When I told N. about this, we spent a while talking about how “in our times, kids this age wanted nothing more than look at some nudity for a grade.”

And this is how I became a “when I was your age, things were different” person.

29 thoughts on “My Students Rise In Protest

  1. Your class sounds like the most prudish bunch of college students that I have ever heard of. Also, I think that there might have been bare backsides in the Motorcycle Diaries, but I haven’t seen that movie since it came out.


    1. I could see that they were genuinely worried and emotional. I don’t want to traumatize anybody, so I choose innocuous films. But I don’t get it. It’s just naked bodies, that’s all. What’s so scary about them?


  2. The appropriate solution is to withdraw the movie candy bar and advise them that next week there will be another mini-quiz since they love them so much! They sound like a bunch of children. Are they old enough to be in class?


  3. What is a mini-quiz? Aren’t quizzes by definition “mini”? Is this supposed to sound non-threatening or something?


  4. This is clearly one of the cultural gap things that I may be destined never to get, no matter how hard I try.

    Because I read this anecdote and was thinking, “Clarissa teaches college students right? That’s uni age, I’m sure that the equivalent. Why on earth do they think they get a say in the course content? Why is nudity such a big deal? And why on earth would they think a professor would show them something inappropriate – let alone be so convinced it might happen that they feel the need to pre-emptively object – and WASTE CLASS TIME doing so?”

    Erm yeah. I really don’t get it.


  5. I don’t really understand. If they want to watch a movie with nudity in, why don’t they just do it in their free time?

    They’re just pushing you to see how much shit they can get away with in class.


    1. ” If they want to watch a movie with nudity in, why don’t they just do it in their free time”

      – The point is precisely that they don’t.

      “They’re just pushing you to see how much shit they can get away with in class.”

      – No. This was a very genuine emotional outburst.


  6. Ouf… your students would not have appreciated the movie my students and I watched in my Spanish cultural studies course last year.


  7. I think it’s cultural and not generational. I love the midwest, and I’m hesitant to say it is more sexually conservative than other areas of the country, but the prudish influence is very strong. At my high school we were not allowed to see pg-13 movies on the chance that there might be ass or a breast here and there.


  8. Almodovar’s Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras chicas del monton. We are miles away from Almodovar’s insipid movies from the 1990s on.


  9. Holy cow. And I thought *I* was a prude because I don’t like watching that sort of thing… but I would in the case of a class when it was cultural, etc… That is really horrifying. I’ll bet this is also the “abstinence-only” education brainwashed generation, right? They’re all over 18, right? Honestly, it sounds to me like these students need a lot more than just watching a movie. They need some serious (sex) education before they get out of college.


    1. “They need some serious (sex) education before they get out of college.”

      – Sex education should happen before the age of 10 and AT HOME. That’s the only way to make it work. It shocks me profoundly that here it is considered the job of teachers to talk to children about these issues.

      And we really don’t need to offer sex ed in colleges. This is enough of a kindergarten as it is. I’d like to preserve some semblance of dealing with adults.

      But yes, totally brainwashed they are. 😦


      1. Sorry, I guess what I meant to say was: someone needs to teach these kids what adult life is like NOW before they get to the real world and get themselves into serious trouble. Yes I agree, it shouldn’t be college’s responsibility (though I believe that done well and with younger students, it should be partially a teacher’s responsibility to educate kids about their own bodies. Especially if parents don’t.)


  10. In a sense, I understand your students’ reaction. Perhaps it is because I’m a prude in some ways. Actually, I have no problem with watching practically anything. But if I’m watching something with nudity with certain types of people (parents, etc.), it becomes awkward. My guess would be that perhaps the students do watch movies with nudity on their own time and just find it awkward to see them with an instructor present.

    On the other hand, when I was in high school (or even middle school), if there was a hint of nudity in what we were watching, people got excited, not distressed. I don’t remember anyone caring one way or the other when I was in college, and that wasn’t so long ago.


  11. Have you spoken to professors in other departments of your university? There would be visual representations of nudity in Anthropology, Art History, maybe History, and surely there would be required reading in English Literature which would have some sexual references. What do they make of this strange reaction? If your not going to expose students to nudity in art, your cutting off a huge body of material.


  12. Disturbing. Is it a cultural shift to the more puritanical, women hating reality? First, it’s in class. Second, in law. See the newest exhibit:

    “Judge rules Washington state can’t force pharmacies to sell Plan B”
    Washington state may not force pharmacies to sell Plan B or other emergency contraceptives, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, saying the state’s true goal is to suppress religious objections by druggists — not to promote timely access to the medicines for people who need them.


  13. “And this is how I became a “when I was your age, things were different” person.” I had that experience recently also, not sexual but also where the kids were much more inhibited. It does feel weird:

    When we were kids we used to have the run of the whole neighborhood and we took advantage. Empty lots and woods between houses, construction projects, a deserted day camp, old fields of a nearby farm, etc. When my brother visited recently after many years, we took my nieces, who are growing up in the same neighborhood, for a walk through our old haunts, or at least those that remain. They kept saying things like “isn’t this private property?” “are you sure it’s okay to go here” “isn’t this dangerous?” “maybe we should go back home now” “there are ticks in those woods”.


  14. I suspect that they have been brainwashed into believing that thinking about sex is a sin, and are deeply fearful that they would be unable to resist the temptation to think about sex if confronted with nudity. When people believe that certain thoughts are evil, in and of themselves, they can be terrified of anything that might provoke there thoughts.

    However, I believe that one of the goals of a college education is to break through such beliefs. Students with these attitudes need to see that they will not be struck dead by lightening if they happen to think an impure thought or have an impure emotion. I went through this myself, as a teenager, so I know what I am talking about, at least to some extent.


      1. Muir Glen has several varieties/flavors of tomatoes. Which ones have you tried? I like the ones with green chili peppers best, I think. I’m glad you like them. Most canned tomatoes have added sugar, which ruins the taste, as far as I am concerned.


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