Sexuality, attitudes on center stage at Hopkins symposium


How are Americans changing their notions of sexuality? Are new attitudes transforming the nature of private and public life?

A wide-ranging field of scholars, including controversial author Camille Paglia, former radical activist Angela Davis, sexuality authority John Money, national AIDS policy coordinator Kristine Gebbie and filmmaker John Waters, will discuss the relationship between sexuality and society at Johns Hopkins University as part of the school's annual Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium series of lectures.

The 27-year-old symposium, which begins next week, is run by university students. This year's theme, "Who Am I? The Changing Role of Human Sexuality," was proposed and organized by 21-year-old Aneesh Chopra, a social science and public health major, and his roommate Joe Molko, 20, a student )) in the writing seminars.

"Issues of sexuality are now on the forefront of the political realm," Mr. Chopra says. "And they are impacting lives. When a judge in Virginia tells a woman that she can't have [custody of] her child because she is a lesbian, then it crosses the line into [individual] privacy."

"We wanted to consider where government should step in and make decisions on people's lives through such issues as censorship in the arts, gays in the military and AIDS policy," says Mr. Molko.

The two seniors consulted with professors from various departments to create their diverse list of speakers. Lecturers will examine such subjects as the genetic basis for homosexuality, sexual harassment, date rape, popular images of beauty, attitudes toward erotic and pornographic material, race and sexuality, art censorship, the history of America's views toward sexuality, attitudes toward minority women -- and the "trashiness" in films.

There is an increased need for such broad discussions of sexuality, says Dr. Money, professor emeritus of medical psychology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

"We're right bang in the middle of a counter-reformation as far as attitudes toward sexuality and eroticism, a reaction to the sexual reformation of the '60s and '70s. . . . The signs you get are the anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-feminism and anti-pornography [movements]," he says.

The 10-lecture program -- it is the most extensive Eisenhower symposium to date -- will cost about $44,000. The students received a grant of $30,000 from the university's student activities fund and have raised approximately $14,000 from other sources.

A list of lectures and special events follows. All programs are open to the public free of charge. Unless otherwise noted, they are held at 8 p.m. in Shriver Hall on the Homewood campus.

* Sept. 23: Dr. Roger Gorski, director of the neuroendocrinology laboratory of the Brain Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, has studied the genetic basis for sexual orientation. He will speak on his research.

* Sept 28: Camille Paglia, professor of humanities at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and author of "Sexual Personae" and "Sex, Art and American Culture." She will speak on questions surrounding gender roles, sexual preference and gender identity as well as the issue of beauty and its implications for pop culture.

* Oct. 8: Angela Davis, professor of the history of consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz, radical political activist of the late 1960s and former vice presidential candidate for the Communist Party. She will speak on race and sexuality and issues for minority women.

* Oct. 13: Dr. Ralph E. Reed Jr., executive director of the Christian Coalition, will speak on censorship and government funding for the arts.

* Oct. 19: Patricia Ireland, president of the National Organization for Women, will speak on women in society.

* Oct. 26: Jim Petersen, a senior staff writer/editor for Playboy Enterprises, will speak on the history of America's attitudes toward sexuality.

* Nov. 9: Kristine Gebbie, national AIDS policy coordinator, will preside at a town meeting scheduled at 2 p.m. that day.

* Nov. 15: Dr. Ruth Westheimer, nationally known psychosexual therapist, will speak on sex and the college student.

* Nov. 18: Dr. Money, best known for his pioneering work with transsexuals and gender abnormalities, will speak on the misconceptions which still attend the subject of masturbation.

* Nov. 30: John Waters, writer and film director, will talk about sexuality and film.

In addition, the symposium will hold a town meeting to discuss sexual relations in the university's fraternity system at 7 p.m. Oct. 25 in the Glass Pavilion adjacent to Levering Hall at Johns Hopkins University.

(Two art exhibits will also be shown as part of the symposium. "The Clothesline Project," a traveling display of T-shirts aimed at reversing the harmful effects of violence to women, will be shown from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 22 in the Glass Pavilion. Local artists' work on the topic of sexuality will be shown from noon to 10 p.m. Nov. 3 in Levering Hall.)

For additional information on any of the lectures or programs, call (410) 516-7692.

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