[man]There are no sex toys or phallic sculptures. No wood-carved African fertility goddesses. No photographic depictions of copulation adorning the walls. The office of 65-year-old Andrew Barclay, a certified sexologist, features neutral colors, lace curtains and a flower-print couch.
Contrasting the bland, nursing-home motif is Barclay. His white hair and khaki pants don’t seem out of place, but in this setting his words ring incongruous. “Why don’t we have more sexual acting out on campus?” Barclay asked within the first 10 minutes of the interview, leaning forward in his leather chair. “Yeah there is some. There is some minor exhibitionism. During football riots certainly there are women who inflame the crowd by lifting up their tops and exposing their breasts, but breasts aren’t really sex organs.”
Barclay, also known as \”Dr. Sex,\” and the only certified sexologist in the Lansing area, has made a career out of studying and talking about human sexuality.
“Sexologist is a general term that refers to anyone who studies human sexuality in a scientific way,” said Barclay . The root of the discipline can be traced back to Sigmund Freud, whose ideas still permeate the study of sexual behavior. But it wasn’t until the middle of the 20th century that the work of Alfred Kinsey legitimized the study of human sexuality.
Kinsey, an entomologist and zoologist at Indiana University, released two reports – “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” in 1948 and “Sexual Behavior in the Human Female” in 1951 – that launched him and his studies into the public spotlight. In these reports Kinsey meticulously documented multiple forms of human sexuality, including the relatively taboo practice of homosexuality. “To Kinsey, one or two homosexual acts didn’t make you a homosexual,\” Barclay said. \”And that’s real obvious, that engaging in homosexual activity is kind of normal.\” Kinsey argued that sexual orientation existed on a continuum, that few people where completely heterosexual or completely homosexual, but rather somewhere in-between.
In 1947, Indiana University opened the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction. The classes were extremely popular, and a sort of sexual fervor seemed to sweep the campus. Twenty-two years later, a similar excitement swept across the campus of MSU.
In the winter of 1969, MSU sponsored a seven-week series of lectures and discussions titled “Sexuality – A Search for Perspective.” Barclay, at the time a young psychology professor at the university, aided in the planning of the colloquy. He also delivered two lectures titled “Biopsychological Perspectives on Sexuality” and “Sex and Personal Development in the College Years.”
As the colloquy approached, numerous student organizations raised money, multiple academic departments offered part of their budget and some private donations were received. Professors offered to lead discussions and students volunteered for myriad odd jobs. “It really was an exciting time,” said Barclay. He and fellow professor Donald Grummon edited a book that shares the colloquy’s title. In the forward, Grummon describes the undertaking as “a project that in hindsight seems, in these days of widespread alienation, a minor miracle of cooperation, good will, hard work and fruitful dialogue among widely diverse groups.” In other words, sex brought the campus together.
Sex in the classroom
In 1974 Barclay began teaching a course on human sexuality. The class quickly became the university’s most popular offering. The next year, responding to demand, Barclay decided to offer the class as a televised course in large lecture halls. “We set a record for the largest number of students ever to enroll in a class anywhere,” he said. “I think we had close to 9,000 students enrolled. We made headlines all over the world. In particular, the one that I remember was in the Paris edition of the Herald Tribune. In French it said, ‘Sex replaces farming at Michigan State.’ I loved that headline. It was just so French.” [quote]
Classes were run by graduate students who were responsible for turning the TV on, monitoring students and leading small group discussions. The first quarter of the course consisted of desensitization. Students were taught anatomical terms and shown televised nude student models, a scene of childbirth, depictions of various sex positions and examples of foreplay. The second quarter of the course dealt with social roles and relationships. The third quarter dealt with sexual feelings, during which students were informed that the course had become a mirror in which to see themselves. And the final quarter discussed human sexuality as a natural phenomenon.
Not surprisingly, the course was controversial. University administrators cited two main concerns. “First, there was a real concern that high school kids would sneak in from across the street. They honestly feared this,” recounted Barclay, grinning. “Second, they were actually concerned that the males would get so worked up in class that afterwards they’d run around campus raping people, which is completely ridiculous.”
As a professor, Barclay became very interested in the science of education. “It’s a fascinating subject,” he said. “I mean not just how do you teach them, but how do you teach them in the most efficient way? How do you maximize the retention of the learning? And I’m sure you’ll be the first to tell me this, most professors haven’t studied this. They have no clue how to teach their discipline. So as I got started teaching, my focus was in thinking ‘How do you do it? How do you do it?’”
Barclay’s decision to televise the course was not simply based on necessity. Rather, as a researcher and educator Barclay was interested in how the medium could be used as a teaching tool. Many of his decisions were informed by the research of the Children’s Television Workshop, the group responsible for producing the educational children’s program Sesame Street. According to Barclay, an article published by the State News in the spring of 1974 referred to his class as “an x-rated Sesame Street.”
After 12 years as one of the university’s most popular offerings, the course was discontinued. By 1986, only 450 students were enrolled in the class, a decline Barclay attributes to the growing preponderance of middle school and high school sex education courses.
The MSU library still holds a copy of the Human Sexuality Workbook, a companion to the televised course. As a physical artifact, the book is a rich find: the call number is handwritten in pencil in the upper corner of the first page, student notes such as “period for muscles to relax before next orgasm” are written in cursive, and one page is bookmarked using a perforated dot-matrix printer paper tear off. Textually, the book reads something like a 1970s self-help manual. When talking about sex positions, the book reminds the student that “each individual has to define for himself or herself what an appropriate sexual relationship is or what appropriate sexual positions are. Simply because we provide information on the range of possible positions for sexual intercourse does not mean you have to run out and try them right after class.” Supplementing a lesson on masturbation, the workbook informs that “no linkage whatsoever has ever been found between masturbation and any form of physical or mental illness. Certainly those people who masturbate ‘too much’ may have some physical difficulties with blisters, but the blisters themselves are the sign of masturbatory overindulgence and do not represent any underlying pathology.”
Growing up in New Rochelle, a suburb of New York City, Barclay first began to explore his world. “I could walk down to the bus stop, wait for the bus, get on it, give the man my nickel and I could ride the bus to my nursery school. I knew where it was, and I would go to school,” he said. “The second year I was at nursery school there was a little girl who was from up the street, and I kind of shepherded her around. Can you imagine a kid doing that today? That is what such a messed up society this is. That children can’t even ride the bus for fear that someone will snatch them or do something awful to them. So I grew up in this very idyllic place.”
At Yale, Barclay studied culture and behavior, an honors major comprised of 10 students and four professors. His classmates each approached cultural and behavioral problems from unique perspectives: anthropology, psychology, sociology, and zoology. It was in this setting that Barclay first began to conceptualize problems from a multidisciplinary standpoint, a way of thinking central to sexology. After graduating from Yale in 1963, Barclay earned a master’s degree in experimental psychology at Columbia and a PhD in personality and clinical psychology from the University of Minnesota.
An MSU legend
In 1967, Barclay was hired into the MSU psychology department. He retired in 2002, but traces of his educational career linger. In conversation, he teaches by providing analogies to enliven the past and useful metaphors to clarify concepts. On the popular site ratemyprofessors.com, one user commented that Barclay’s class was “awesome and transformational” and referred to him as the “greatest TV psychologist that ever lived!” Another user wrote “My girlfriend had Barclay for Abnormal Psych. I tagged along to one of his classes out of boredom one day, and ended up going with her 5 more times. The guy is entertaining!”
Journalism professor Bonnie Bucqueroux remembers Barclay fondly. She considers him, along with former professors Lash LaRue and Zoltan Ferency, her heroes at MSU. “They had minds that cut through the clutter and the B.S. and made us think about the world in new ways,” she said via email. “My only concern is – where is the new crop? Universities are supposed to be about critical thinking, challenging the status quo and speaking truth to power. That trinity of MSU profs also made learning and thinking fun.\”
No ordinary retirement
Since retiring from the university, Barclay divides his time between his sex therapy private practice and the local court system, where he performs evaluations for organizations and attorneys. “What I discovered was sex therapy is terribly boring,” said Barclay, “and the reason it’s boring is because nobody has invented a new way to have sex. I mean, we do it the same way the cavemen did it. When somebody invents a new way to have sex, then we’ll have a whole bunch of new problems.\” [bonnie]
“Everybody has got the same pathology,\” he continued. \”Always the same. Sickness always presents the same set of symptoms, so does mental pathology. When you see something that is fixed, rigid, unmoving, you know it has got to be pathological. When a person is healthy, their feelings are moving, flowing, but when they get jammed up and stopped, that’s when they develop mental illness.”
The state of Michigan does not license sex therapists. In fact, anyone who wants to hang a sign on their door and say they are a sex therapist has the right to do so. And according to Barclay, many did. “Problem was, many years ago, people were calling themselves sex therapists and when you came in for sex therapy they hit on you. Gosh, that doesn’t make someone feel confident in the process that was going on.”
In the 1960s, Barclay actively participated in creating a certification process for sexologists. “We wanted to make sure that there were ethical standards so that the patients received adequate care,” said Barclay. “The sexologist certification would ensure a patient that the therapist had been trained and was approaching the therapy from a scientific standpoint.” Barclay is currently a member of the American Board of Sexology, where he’s served as a diplomate since the mid ‘70s.
Sex therapy
As a therapist, Barclay primarily counsels individuals who are having too much sex, too little sex or unsatisfying sex with the latter group consisting of non-orgasmic women and men who are premature ejaculators. “These tend to be the kinds of people that you see,” said Barclay. “But I would say the biggest problem in the United States today is incompatible drive.” According to Barclay, somewhere between 70 and 80 percent of married couples suffer from incompatible levels of sexual drive. His challenge as a sex therapist is to get people to talk about this discrepancy. “They don’t like talking about it. And of course when you are married you have to present an image that everything is fine. Couples that are having horrible troubles at home always manifest in public as the happiest couple.”
On Barclay\’s “Ask Dr. Sex” blog on SpartanEdge (www.spartanedge.com), he humorously muses about his own experiences and answers sex-related questions from readers. Bucqueroux, the advisor for SpartanEdge, said she asked Barclay to write for the site because of his intelligence, loquaciousness and outrageousness. “I love his column because there are still many students who have questions about sex,\” Bucqueroux said. \”Dr. S(ex) functions as your dirty uncle who will tell you the truth.\”
[drsex] “I never thought I’d be a doctor,” said Barclay. But he is. Sure, he has a sort of whimsicality about him. He’s passionate, iconoclastic and brazen. But he’s also a scientist, and as a result his whimsicality is grounded in theory. Yes, it was strange to talk openly about sex when Barclay helped organize the colloquy in 1969. Yes, it was a bit odd to create a televised course on human sexuality in 1974. Yes, it is unusual to be a certified sexologist in 2006. But these examples have illustrated Barclay’s life long commitment to the scientific study of human sexuality, a commitment which defines sexology. In a Nov. 6 post, Barclay queried, “I’m always in the mood, aren’t you? Some people don’t like me because I am walking around turned on all the time. Isn’t life supposed to be that way?”

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