Classroom sex demo just the latest trouble for NU professor

The show-and-tell that has landed Northwestern University in hot, steamy water really shouldn't surprise anyone in the administration office.

NU President Morton Schapiro must be feigning outrage that one of his professors allowed a motorized sex toy to be used on a naked woman as part of a class demonstration.

Schapiro claimed to be “troubled and disappointed” that Professor J. Michael Bailey arranged a live sex show for about 100 students in Bailey's human sexuality class.

Notice that the university president didn't say he was surprised by the professor's behavior, which has resulted in an official Northwestern investigation (although I'm not sure what there is to investigate – Professor Bailey admits and witnesses corroborate what happened.)

No one at NU should be shocked and awed by Professor Bailey's controversy because Bailey has been in the middle of earlier storms and has previously been under investigation by both the university and state regulators after allegations of questionable “research.”

While none of the past episodes was as attention-grabbing as the live sex act between a pair of invited exhibitionists with a converted power saw, the previous cases did involve unusual circumstances.

Let's start in December 2002, when Professional Bailey was criticized by some members of congress for using a $147,000 federal grant to study women's sexual arousal. Back then, though, Bailey used slightly more conventional research means than the Black & Decker treatment he employed last month.

The federal tax funds were used to pay women $75 to “watch a series of commercially available film clips, some of which will be sexually explicit, while we monitor your body's sexual arousal,” according to a flyer that solicited volunteers.

Then, in July 2003, Northwestern University officials received complaints from two transsexual women accusing Bailey of research misconduct for his book “The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism.”

The women allege that Bailey never obtained their consent to participate in the study and then made them look like freaks in the book.

One of the subjects, a man who underwent sex-change surgery in 1992, said that she and other transsexual friends spoke to students in Bailey's psychology department classes and revealed details of their personal lives.

It was after those class sessions and conversations that she reported to university officials that Bailey told the transsexuals: “Guess what? I'm writing a book.”

One of Bailey's research subjects told the university that the professor went even further: she claimed that Bailey had sex with her.

A 2007 article in The New York Times titled “Criticism of a Gender Theory, and a Scientist Under Siege” also reported that the research subjects “wrote to the Illinois state regulators, requesting that they investigate Dr. Bailey for practicing psychology without a license.”

“Dr. Bailey, who was not licensed to practice clinical psychology in Illinois, had provided some of those who helped him with the book with brief case evaluation letters, suggesting that they were good candidates for sex-reassignment surgery. A spokesman for the state said that regulators took no action on the complaints.”

Bailey was as defensive back then in the research misconduct case as he is today in the current classroom controversy.

“I interviewed people for a book,” he told The New York Times for the 2007 story. “This is a free society, and that should be allowed.”

I sent Professor Bailey several specific questions for this column. Rather than answer them, Bailey cut and pasted Internet links to The New York Times article and to a 56-page recap of the transsexual project.

As the charges and countercharges flew on sex research websites and blogs back in 2003, Northwestern University conducted an investigation of the official complaints.

When the probe was complete, Northwestern declined to release the findings or the conclusion because it involved a personnel matter, but officials said appropriate action had been taken.

A few months later, the chairman of the psychology department resigned and became just a regular classroom professor.

His name was J. Michael Bailey.

• Chuck Goudie, whose column appears each Monday, is the chief investigative reporter at ABC 7 News in Chicago. The views in this column are his own and not those of WLS-TV. He can be reached by e-mail at and followed at