On this rainy day, I revisited a chapter that I initially read nearly two years ago in one of my first graduate courses. The contents of the chapter (and I must admit – the book) had become hazy and the details long lost, but, delightfully, in (re)opening the book I (re)discovered the wonderful notion of celebrating the “uns.” This book, Challenging the Professionalization of Adult Education, describes the life & work of John Ohliger, a ‘radical’ adult educator who made substantial contributions to our field; and in this particular chapter, Lee Karlovic describes Ohliger’s fascination & focus on the “uns” – which Ohligher himself described as “unabashed, unafraid, uncensorable, unconventional, uninhibited, unorthodox, unpretentious, unstinting, unsung, untiring, and finally, definitely unique!” (Ohliger, 2000, p. 2).
I, too, want to be a part of this celebration of the “uns.” I am so fascinated by the unlikely and unconventional places of learning – such as my favourite place – the in-home sex toy party. I like to think of unlikely places as spaces of cultural resistance, in which popular culture can be used “to resist and/or change the dominant political, economic and/or social structure” (Duncombe, 2002, p. 5). Sure, sex toy parties are a venue to sell sex toys, but in my experience, they are also a venue to resist powerful and entrenched, sex-negative rhetoric – such as viewing female sexuality as difficult & problematic, difference as pathological, and sex toys as deviant. It is my belief that this particular consumer space actually creates the opportunity to (re)visit and (re)write our beliefs about sexuality in a new & different way. From where I stand, sex toy parties can be pleasure-based, sex-positive, self-directed learning at its best! With a facilitator as your guide and your friends as your sounding-board, you can explore ideas and seek information that is meaningful to you on topics that are rarely openly & honestly discussed.
So, to quote John Ohliger, “here’s to ‘the uns'” (Ohliger, 2000, p. 2) – may this thesis journey be full of the unlikely, the unconventional, the unexpected and the previously unseen!
Duncombe, S. (2002). Cultural resistance reader. New York, NY: Verso.
Karlovic, L. (2009). A mindful commitment to connecting women toward intellectual community. In A.P. Grace & T. Rocco (Eds.) Challenging the professionalization of adult education: John Ohliger and contradictions in modern practice (pp. 257-278). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Ohliger, J. (2000). The early days at the back porch radio: Spread the WORT? Madison, WI: Basic Choices.