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Professors discuss ‘Sexuality 101’

Katie Carlisle | Friday, November 9, 2012

In response to a controversial upcoming lecture addressing sexual orientation and the Church, five Saint Mary’s professors presented their thoughts on this issue as part of “Sexuality 101” in Spes Unica Hall Thursday evening.

Psychology professors Catherine Pittman, Rebecca Stoddart, Bettina Spencer, Religious Studies professor Stacy Davis and Global Studies professor Laura Elder defined sex, gender roles and sexual orientation and discussed the topic within an interdisciplinary context that included biological, environmental and cultural explanations for human sexuality.

Pittman said the event, sponsored by the Psychology Department, provided a necessary source of information from the opposite side of a highly contested public debate that will come into focus during the Nov. 13 Theology on Fire lecture, titled “The Church and Same-Sex Attraction” and featuring Dr. Philip Sutton, a psychologist and marriage and family therapist.

“When we learned about the lecture hosted by Campus Ministry, the Psychology Department was concerned about why he was chosen to represent the Catholic viewpoint,” Pittman said.

Sutton’s approach to same-sex attraction therapy does not coincide with widely held views on the issue, Pittman said.

“In the Psychology Department, we’re aware of what the standards of treatment are, and his [Sutton’s] practices are contrary to every organization that offers therapy,” she said.  

The multifaceted nature of sexual orientation makes it difficult to study and draw conclusions, Elder said.

Spencer said such controversial events as Sutton’s upcoming lecture often isolate lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) students, so she encouraged the Saint Mary’s community to consider the importance of campus climate to LGBTQ students and how it impacts their college experiences.  

Student Diversity Board President Maggie Galvin said the event prepared student attendees for Sutton’s visit to campus next week.

“I thought this event was great and so informative.  Even if half of the girls who came tonight go to [Sutton’s] event they’ll bring educated and knowledgeable questions,” she said.

Contact Katie Carlisle at kcarli02@saintmarys.edu