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Archive for Friday, November 20, 2009

Sexual healing: Dennis Dailey coaches couples with tough love at his intimacy workshop

Dennis Dailey.

Dennis Dailey.

November 20, 2009

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Dennis Dailey is a blunt man. The professor emeritus of social welfare at Kansas University might look the part of mild-mannered academic, but don't be fooled. His frank discussions about human sexuality while he was teaching at KU made him a political punching bag for state legislatorsand even Bill O'Reilly — creating a national hullabaloo and earning him the nickname in some quarters as "The Pornographic Professor."

He was accused by politicians and pundits of everything from promoting pedophilia to attending porn parties, among numerous other allegations that weren't supported by evidence, but he was eventually exonerated by the university. Although the controversy surrounding Dailey's Human Sexuality in Everyday Life class has died down since its salacious apex in 2003, Dailey hasn't given up his role as uncompromising educator.

"There's much less attention since I retired from the university in 2005, so those people don't get as much political leverage from it," says Dailey, who still teaches the class that so riled O'Reilly, only now off-campus at the Ecumenical Christian Ministries. "I've had very little difficulties in terms of teaching that same class at ECM. I've taught the human sexuality course there for 10 or 12 years each spring. As I've said before, if I teach that class and nobody is upset, I'm probably screwing up somehow."

Since that now infamous class received the lion's share of media coverage, Dailey's life outside of academia as a clinical sex and marital therapist has garnered far less attention. He continues to operate a private practice twice a week and, as he's done every year for nearly a decade, will this weekend instruct his relationship workshop, Intimacy for Committed Couples. It's work he sees as crucial to combating an epidemic of emotional idiocy.

"Using romance novels from Dillons as your guide to a successful relationship is not exactly your best shot, but a lot of people do," bemoans Dailey, who hopes the workshop will be a bit more in-depth than a Harlequin bodice ripper. "The focus is on helping couples to examine some of the emotional intimacy dimensions of relationships. Since 40 to 50 percent of KU graduates end up in the divorce scrap heap, anything you can do to help students learn some things that might influence that is important."

But the workshop isn't limited to students.

"It's primarily aimed at students, but we've always had people from the community attend," Dailey says. "We've had people who've been in marriages for 30 or 40 years; we've had young people who are just getting into relationships, engaged couples, gay couples, straight couples - whatever. It doesn't make any difference to me."

Intense ministering

Since Dailey was the favorite whipping boy of certain political and religious conservatives, it might seem counterintuitive that such a candid exploration of intimacy would be held at a Christian ministry, ecumenical as it may be.

"The question always comes up as to why ECM sponsors these kinds of workshops," says Lauren Tullis, president of the Sexuality Education Committee at ECM.

"I'm an atheist, so it was hard for me to make that kind of connection at first. That's why ECM pushes the interfaith component of their ministry. The religious component isn't pushed whatsoever," she says. "The important thing about having sexuality education from the ECM is that there's a historical tradition of Christianity kind of shunning sex as a sin before you're married.

"So when you do get married, what do you do?" Tullis asks. "You've had so many sex-negative messages, how do you make that switch on the day you're married? It's OK to have sex even though you're told it's wrong, wrong, wrong up until that point? Even though ECM is Christian by nature, they never push any ideology or history because they want it to be as open to and reach as many people as possible. The ministry component is sharing good information and knowledge of value."

And Dailey will be spreading the good word through some rather intense ministering. "We spend a fair amount of time helping couples to understand what emotional intimacy really means: being open to one another," says Dailey of the workshop exercises. "They do some dialogue work, do some interactive work with me and do some small-group stuff that focuses on gender differences. After Friday's meeting, couples are sent home with some dialogue work. Some do it in half an hour. Some are up until three in the morning. Some people find ways of understanding the work they need to do in these relationships, but there are some relationships that end as a result of this workshop."

"This workshop is famed (for) making or breaking relationships," says Reanna Putnam, co-chair of ECM's sexuality education committee. "If you can survive this workshop, you are on your way to a healthy, happy relationship. It also has been known to put a lot of stress onto relationships that can result in termination. Dennis is very opinionated, but that's part of the appeal."

Relationship ideals

So disabuse yourself of the notion this might be a touchy-feely love-in with Dailey as the sensitive guru. If he thinks it's not going to work out, he'll let you know.

"I have a general inclination to put energy into working on relationships and saving them if possible, but I also don't think terribly unhappy and incompatible people should stay in a marriage simply for the sake of staying in a marriage. It's too toxic, and life's too short," Dailey says.

"When I work with couples who are considering entering a long-term relationship, we examine a variety of issues. For example, one of the things I challenge them to do in those sessions is tell their partner something they've thought about telling them but have not told them. Everybody has one of those to do. Usually they do that with some trepidation, and it can raise issues in a relationship. Then they learn how to negotiate those differences. Everybody goes into relationships with a bunch of untold stuff. People with very low self-esteems, for example, hold back lots of stuff because they're afraid if they share that information people will abandon them. It's very common - if you think you're a pile of crap, you're not going to share with any depth who and what you're about."

This inability to communicate or allow growth in a relationship is, in Dailey's experience, shockingly common.

"They have to allow other people to know who they are. There are a lot of things they can do to facilitate that," he says. "What's fascinating to me in my clinical practice is how often I can be working with people who have been in relationships for 10 to 12 years and, in so many ways, are strangers to each other."

In the end, the goal of the workshop is to find whatever is in the best interest of the individuals in the relationship - even if that means dissolving a relationship. Happiness comes in many forms, after all, be it single or committed or miscellaneous.

"There are a lot of very viable ways to be in the world, and one of the things that bothers me is people who preach that there's only one way to be in the world," Dailey says. "It's ridiculous."

Comments

OldEnuf2BYurDad 5 years, 1 month ago

""I'm an atheist, so it was hard for me to make that kind of connection at first. That's why ECM pushes the interfaith component of their ministry. The religious component isn't pushed whatsoever," she says. "The important thing about having sexuality education from the ECM is that there's a historical tradition of Christianity kind of shunning sex as a sin before you're married."

How did an organization started by 4 Christian denominations (including Church of the Brethren) get to the place where the "religious component" is removed from teachings as important as sexuality?! It's called Ecumenical Christian Ministries! I wish they'd either put Christ back in, or change their name.

unelectable 5 years, 1 month ago

His was the best class I took at KU. (and not be default you cynics)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 1 month ago

I think you need to educate yourself on the type of training that is available in social welfare programs, frank.

jonas_opines 5 years, 1 month ago

A second on one of the best and most informative classes. How many of you complaining have actually taken his class, or had any interaction at all except for the lies that Wagel and O'Reilly vomited out?

And maybe the ECM is wise enough to realise that religion and spirituality is optionally helpful, but not necessary, for anything except itself.

Restaurant_Man 5 years, 1 month ago

I graduated from KU almost 19 years ago and I had to try for about 4 -5 semesters to get into his Human Sexuality course because it always filled up so quickly! And this was in a room that held over 100 students! Professor Dailey is an extremely talented instructor and this was one of the best classes that I ever took at KU. If you haven't met the man or taken a class from him, please don't think that a professor should only wear suits and be boring. Professor Dailey kept his students interested, involved and created a two-way dialog with his students that never seemed to get out of hand considering that this was a large class. Wagel, you made me embarrassed to be from Wichita and O'Reilly, you just embarrass yourself by opening your mouth.

denak 5 years, 1 month ago

I took Dailey's Human Sexuality class at the ECM six years ago. Around the time I took the class, I had a 14 year old foster son named "John." Now, John was a bad-ass, know it all, who use to lecture me on parenting skills, which he felt I lacked because I didn't knock him on his butt like his bio. mom did. One day we were watching t.v. and there was a joke about penis size. John all of a sudden got very quiet. Then he turns to me, with a very, very worried look on his face, and says to me in a whisper, "Dena, does it really matter?" I will never forget the look on his face and I was happy that I had taken Dailey's class because thhe answer I gave him was straight out of Dailey's Human Sexuality class.

And even though some people will think I am a pervert for suggesting this, I really do wish that he would teach a class for children. Most of my foster kids come to me with a profound fear of sex and intimacy and I really do wish that there was a kid-friendly version of this class that some of my kiddos could go to. I think the majority of them could really benefit from his frankness and openness.

Going into his class, I thought I was pretty knowledgeable about sex and the human body but even I was surprised by how much of my view was shaped by popular media and not actual facts. Things that we take for granted are true but are not actually true.

So, I think Dennis Dailey is a good teacher. He knows his subject well and teaches it in a positive manner.

Dena

terrapin2 5 years, 1 month ago

By far the best and most memorable class I ever took at KU. He reminds me a little of George Carlin. He shocks people and makes you think, but he's brilliant and funny as well. I'm not sure what the psychological definition of "nut job" is, but I'm sure Mr. Dailey doesn't fit it.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 1 month ago

"I am not a prude, but I still think he is a total nut job."

Considering the source, that's the best endorsement in this entire thread.

kmat 5 years, 1 month ago

terrapin2 (Anonymous) says…

By far the best and most memorable class I ever took at KU. He reminds me a little of George Carlin. He shocks people and makes you think, but he's brilliant and funny as well. I'm not sure what the psychological definition of “nut job” is, but I'm sure Mr. Dailey doesn't fit it.


Terrapin is correct. He is not a nut job! One of the best classes I ever had. Shocking, informative, sometimes embarassing. But, I definitely learned a lot.

pandazrule 5 years, 1 month ago

Dr. Dailey's class changed my life--and definitely for the better. ECM is perhaps the greatest organization I've ever had the privilege to be involved with. A more complete understanding of human sexuality is essential not only for self-development and improving relationships with others, but also for embarking on a journey that can help one perceive God in an entirely different way. I love ECM and their ministries!

jehovah_bob 5 years, 1 month ago

I think Dailey's Human Sexuality class was the only class I had 100% attendance in. He was one of the best professors I ever had.

jehovah_bob 5 years, 1 month ago

Oh he also gave the best ending to a class by reading "The Places You'll Go" by Dr. Seuss.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 5 years, 1 month ago

"... tough love..." rough love... enough-is-enough love.

I never took one of Dennis' classes, tho' I certainly didn't miss out on the hype. And, regarding the popularity of such courses, who would have expected the topic of human sexuality to be of interest to college students, anyway?

I did, however, catch his KJHK call-in segment(s), and I must admit I was underwhelmed. On one particular occasion, the exchange amounted to the repeated validation of whom or what one could have sex with and/or the myriad ways in which one could have sex with them. I remember thinking aloud, "What does this have to do with human sexuality, let alone intimacy?"

Within the same timeframe, I had a not unrelated experience, in which another KU sociologist (social welfare) was sharing research findings for at-risk, adolescent females engaging in high-risk sexual activities. Although these teenagers demonstrated an often eye-opening familiarity with a plethora of sexual activities, the study had found them to be "profoundly ignorant" of human sexual form and function. Go figure. (I'm guessing intimacy wasn't even within the scope of the endeavor.)

Finally... "They have to allow other people to know who they are.... people who have been in relationships for 10 to 12 years and, in so many ways, are strangers to each other."

If there's any failing which rises to the level of utter noncommunication with an intimate partner, it's the subsequent apprisal of "who I am." At the point at which someone has "figured out who he or she is," they have effectively truncated themselves.

The true path to intimacy between partners surrounds resolution as to who they will become... honesty, integrity, fidelity, reciprocity... intimacy.

So there.

Soup2Nuts 5 years, 1 month ago

I remember one of his comments very vividly. He said "What do you call it when two people in a relationship have an orgasm at the same time? (Answer) An accident!

sully97 5 years, 1 month ago

tangential_reasoners_anonymous said:

"I never took one of Dennis' classes, tho' I certainly didn't miss out on the hype."

Although you caught the cliff notes on KJHK, you are reviewing a book you have not read. None of the rest of your comment has credibility and deserves no further thoughtful reciprocity.

Kansa 5 years, 1 month ago

Many years ago I took three classes from Dennis Dailey. Two of them were not by choice. What I noticed was that he was rude to students of all ages, to the point of making some people in the class cry. I sat there and watched what happened to students who asked questions, made a comment, etc. He turned on them. Another classmate called him "a mental masturbator." What that meant was that he gave the same talks over and over again. He had them memorized. So, when the students stopped him to ask questions, he got annoyed and had to find his momentum again. I determined then and there to never ask him a question in class. Why go through that? He regularly insulted students in his bid to be "up front." Yet he would also say,"Do no harm." People are free to enjoy his classes/comments/whatever. I'm just glad I never have to listen to him pontificate again. :)

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 5 years, 1 month ago

sully97 (Anonymous) says… "tangential_reasoners_anonymous... Although you caught the cliff notes on KJHK, you are reviewing a book you have not read."

I would have read the book, but it contained only pictures. Graphic imagery.

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