Setting it straight: Lecturer accused of showing pornographic film opens up

Esteban Cortez / The Collegian

Peggy Gish, a Fresno State public health and human sexuality lecturer, said the past few days have been very bizarre.

Gish, who has been teaching at the university for 25 years, made national and international headlines after a conservative blogger accused her of showing a pornographic, full-length film in her human sexuality class last week.

“It’s been overwhelming,” Gish said in response to the attention she’s received. “It’s been kind of tough just having to worry about certain things and be misrepresented — accused of something that wasn’t accurate.”

A student in Gish’s human sexuality course, a Fresno State senior who wished to remain anonymous, said he jokingly published a post to his Twitter account last Tuesday that said, “we watched a porn in class. lol awkward.”

UC Merced graduate and conservative blogger Oliver Darcy posted a blog entry about the tweet to the website titled “Professor Shows Adult Film to Class.” In the blog entry, Darcy posted a description of the film, which according to an online summary discusses how to “increase sexual knowledge,” “increase pleasure,” and “heighten intimacy.” Darcy has no desire to watch the film, but said he has read summaries about it online that indicate the film is pornographic.

“I think if you were looking in a video store for that film, it would be in the adult film section,” Darcy said. “I don’t think you could dispute that it’s an adult film and that it isn’t pornographic in nature.”

Darcy also wrote in his blog that the anonymous student claimed the class was in shock when the film was played.

The student, however, said he wasn’t offended by the video and has apologized to Gish for publishing the post to his Twitter account.

“At first, we all seemed sort of awkward and laughed,” the student said about the class while the film was shown. “It wasn’t anything negative.”

Gish said that the “Advanced Sexual Techniques and Positions” video — which shows couples illustrating various sexual positions — was meant to educate students about relationships and communication. She said that her syllabus states that sexually explicit material will be shown in the course and that students have the opportunity to step out of the class if they are uncomfortable. She added that the textbook she uses in the course recommends the video.

“I welcome diversity of opinion and my students know that,” Gish said. “I’m not a rebel in any way, so I’m not pushing the envelope in terms of what I show.”

Other human sexuality courses throughout the state feature more explicit films, Gish said.

“I took the same class as a student here [in the 70s] and what I saw then was much more explicit, not pornographic,” she said.

She has been showing the film in the class for several years and said that students don’t often object to the film, although she did see a student walk out this year during the lecture that preceded the showing. She wasn’t sure if the student left because he was uncomfortable.

Melisa Sanders, a public health junior and a student in Gish’s human sexuality class, saw the film and thinks it was misrepresented in the media.

“It was purely educational and I feel like our teacher wouldn’t have made us watch it if it wasn’t pertaining to the curriculum,” Sanders said.

Dean of Fresno State’s College of Health and Human Services Andrew Hoff defended the course in a statement released to the online newspaper The Huffington Post. In the statement, Hoff said students are allowed to opt out of the course if they find content objectionable and that they can gain additional course content without having to watch the objectionable material.

Angry callers, some from as far as the East Coast, have left messages in Gish’s office phone, condemning her for allegedly showing porn to her students.  A caller who identified himself as “William” left a message on Gish’s office phone in which he sarcastically commended her for her “extreme liberal beliefs.”

“It’s people like you that really help us conservatives by showing pornos to your students,” he said in the message. “This really gets the message across that people like you don’t need to be teaching in a public university or university whatsoever.”

Gish is unsure if she will show the video in the future due to the coverage it has received in the media.

“I love my job and would not take any chances of doing something that would put it in jeopardy,” she said. “But even more importantly, I wouldn’t do something that would be offensive to my students.”

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9 Responses to Setting it straight: Lecturer accused of showing pornographic film opens up

  1. Dan says:

    Dr. Gish don’t worry about the losers of the world who call themselves conservative and butt into other people’s affairs. Teach!!

  2. See says:

    Mr. Darcey “think” and then make claims with no evidence. He said he will not watch the video but the the video is pornographic based on words he found on the internet. Genius! Instead of using the internet (wonderful tool and at the same time can be misleading) to research the film studio that produced it to confirm whether the film was produced with educational intent or not, Mr. Darcey just overreacted (might have spilled some coffee and knocked over a book or two).

    Then the student refuted him. What?! This story is a big mess of “oops!”… talk about taking a little tweet out of context!

    I encourage Mrs. Gish to continue showing this video. College students need sex education too… lots of it.

  3. Jackie says:

    Peggy Gish is a terrific teacher. I took that class and saw that film a few years ago and it is definitely not a porno- it is an educational film about sex and relationships.

  4. Jamie says:

    How utterly ridiculous. Lemme get this straight. A person — who didn’t even view the film — is offended because this professor presented material about human sexuality… in a class about human sexuality?
    This is an elective available to college-aged individuals. No one is forced to take the class or to view the film. The class syllabus indicates that sexually-explicit material will be presented (which, again, should not come as a surprise in a class revolving around sexuality!). May I suggest that, if the offended individual — or others like him — do not wish to explore human sexuality, they simply opt not to take a human sexuality class? All indications are that Prof. Gish’s students adore her and that she is a passionate, dedicated and beloved educator. I can’t see that she did anything other than present material relevant to her class. How sad that some would censor academia.

  5. Denise Hinshaw says:

    I was in Peg’s class the day this video was shown and while it was explicit it was not, by any stretch of the imagination, pornography. It was no more explicit than what you might find in the Kama Sutra, a book that has been around for thousands of years. The purpose of this class is to educate and allow students to become comfortable with their natural sexuality. I have a background working in the medical field and still have learned quite a bit from this class. As far as I’m concerned, Mr. Darcy has lost all credibility, conservative or otherwise. How pompous to say he won’t watch a video he is criticizing! This is entirely empty criticism. How can one report on something one knows NOTHING about? Reading a few lines on the internet should speak for itself in its merit. Shame on you Mr. Darcy. You have caused problems in a wonderful woman’s life due to your arrogance. I suggest you check yourself…. and your sources… before you print another word about anything.

  6. Michael says:

    Maybe we can consider the film not “pornographic” but we can still consider the class utterly useless and a wast of $$$ if that is what they are showing. Sexual positions to help understand “communication” and “relationships”? That made me laugh. In what world does a video that shows you how to bang like a porn star have any educational value in the context of communication and relationships, i.e. positive interaction. Add this to another worthless class taught at Fresno State.

  7. joshua anderson says:

    i am glad this happened. i ordered the dvd’s!!!!!!!!

  8. Morty says:

    Nice, very nice Mrs. Gish.

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