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June 25, 2011

Schenk's Seven Dirty Words

“A penis is a vagina on steroids,” Those were the terrible words that American Flatbread founder George Schenk uttered in his commencement speech at Colchester High School, according to a reporter who probably doesn’t want to be named.

Schenk was warning students of the health risks of smoking, among which he named erectile dysfunction in men and similar problems in women. It was here that he compared female equipment to male.

He said he only meant to get the kids’ attention. Mission accomplished.

But the words were considered so assaultive — several sources named grandmothers as particularly vulnerable — that the district issued an apology to the community and embargoed broadcast of the speech on community TV.

And, as Ken Picard reported this week, no media, er, organ would print the sentence (until now).

Perhaps editors could not substantiate its biological accuracy.

Ed. Note: Judith Levine writes the bi-weekly column, Poli Psy.

Ugh. His antiquated, sexist comparison of the penis and vagina is totally offensive and, dare I say, inaccurate. Clearly it depends upon the penis and vagina in question.

Sexist male-centered crap. I think his choice of venue was poor & clearly his choice of words worse. Censorship from the school & media outlets is inexcusable. But personally what I find most concerning is the fact that not a single graduate or family member in attendance used their smartphone or videocam to capture & upload the remarks. And we call this a techno savvy generation?

Too bad his anatomy is a clitoris on steroids would be a much better anaolgy. After all, those both develop from the same embryonic tissue. :)

I'm sure some grandmothers nearly had aneurysms at this, much as the entire civilized world almost collapsed when they -- but DID THEY? -- saw Janet Jackson's nipple for a fraction of a second during the Super Bowl. Good grief. Are people for real? Do they not have anything bigger to worry about?

Wow--people in Vermont are the strangest I have ever seen. Get all up in arms over every cause, fight for every justice under the sun---but on a personal level, are complete morons and self-absorbed. Laugh, and get over it people. And move on to your next social injustice, all the while you are plowing over people in the parking lot, not holding doors for people, and proceeding to turn first at every stop light in this state without yielding to right of way traffic!

While his information is totally anatomically incorrect, it's ridiculously sexist. I'd be pissed, and I probably would have walked out.

Well, it's a pretty stupid statement. How the hell does that equate to anytype of point that should be addressed at a High School graduation?

Besides all that, the over reaction by everyone is absurd. He said Penis and Vagina.... big freaking deal. Everyone has one and if you think that those graduating seniors don't know the ins and outs of them you've got your head in the sand.

Was it an appropriate venue... not really. Did it make the guy look like he should be giving back his diploma, you bet. Does it warrant this type of reaction... Jesus H Christ no.

The speech contained far more explicit nonsense than that one statement. Perhaps Seven Days should rely on a transcript or recording rather than the over-simplification presented here.

Since the school & speaker haven't released it, kind of hard to do that, huh? And since school officials focused on his reference to genitalia in their condemnations, why wouldn't we?

"The speech contained far more explicit nonsense than that one statement. Perhaps Seven Days should rely on a transcript or recording rather than the over-simplification presented here."

I'm sure Seven Days would LOVE to read a transcript or listen to a recording! They do want to report fully on the story. In all honesty, who wouldn't after all the hoopla?

Unfortunately, no one seems to have a transcript nor recording. If they do, they aren't releasing it publicly.


Why don't you just tell us?

I was not there - my son's gf and her family were - there were many more statements about genitalia, drug use, etc. I am sure someone in the audience taped it in some manner. I just thought the wording of the article seemed to imply that it was simply a one-liner and these responses/comments implied that folks blew it out of proportion.

Well what were they?

You seem to know, why not spell it out. What was so bad that the guy said that would warrant such public outcry?

And I really doubt someone recorded it? People record the kids accepting their diploma, not key note speaker at a HS graduation. The school probably has a copy, but they are the main complainers here so I doubt they are releasing it with out a FOIA.

From what I've read it seems like he was mainly trying to use sexual dysfunction as motivation for graduating students to avoid using drugs in at least one of the references (which could be a powerful message for hormonal teenagers about to have a summer with LOTS of free time)...wasn't there, but that seems to be the theme with at least one of the references.
Personally I wouldn't have minded, but can understand it probably was not the best venue with full families present. Still, something to be said for a speaker who forgoes the usual "bright future, etc" speech and at least tried to connect with the students on a direct and real level. Would be interested to see the whole remarks in context

To those who call his statement sexist, you weren't there, you are commenting on a single line pulled from a twenty some minute speech. Before the fore mentioned comparison George said "there are two types of people in this world, vagina people and penis people and we all start out as vagina people" all in reference to human fetuses, penis on steroids seemed to be alluding to the testosterone that turns us, the once vagina people into penis people. The point, there are only men and women in this world, and guess what were really not different. I have met George and talked with him, he is not a sexist and is actually a very thoughtful and insightful progressive male.

I've been to a lot of graduations including my own and I can't remember who a single commencement speaker was or what they were saying, probably something along the lines of follow your dreams..yada yada.. work hard yada yada....oh the places you'll go...yada yada who cares. George said a few off the mark things but if one LISTENED to the speech, the whole speech, perhaps we wouldn't be making such a fuss about words that we have for some reason deemed inappropriate. I have a penis and my lover has a vagina, my dad has a penis and my mother has a vagina. My brother has a penis and my sister has a vagina and guess what?!?!?! My daughter and my son will both have a vagina and penis respectively (unless they choose differently) let us not be ashamed of our bodies or those that attempt to talk about our bodies especially our most precious parts.

But again, how can we comment on the whole speech when it's been censored? Your reveal is only partial too &, just like the others, is filtered through your memory & perspective.

What's truly upsetting about this affair is how long Victorian morality has held sway over the "modern" world. We still do all kinds of things in the shadows that we're unwilling to speak about in the light of day. It's not the speaking, but the hiding of our behavior that undermines society.

Three cheers for George (who is anything but sexist, and possibly the most progressive male in Vermont) for honestly addressing issues of vital importance to our youth heading out on their journey to responsible adulthood.

As a former Colchester High School drop-out I would like to congratulate Mr. Shenk on his choice of words. Don't worry, after leaving that institution (where incidentally the principal's secretary asked me how I would "ever amount to anything" when I went to the office to formerly withdraw), I received a bachelors degree from the University of Vermont and a masters degree from an international institution (where yes, I had to study partially in a foreign language). As you might note, I do not have a particularly fond memory of my years at Colchester High School, or in the district in general.

I was often offended by the general lack of interest in the world outside of Colchester - one of the last remaining towns in Chittenden County to lack a public transportation system. I was also offended by the lack of respect people seemed to show each other for democratic principles such as freedom of speech and freedom of opinion. As an adult, I realized that many incidents I witnessed in the Colchester School District would have had far greater reaching implications if I had ever told an adult outside the district. Such as the time my fifth-grade teacher physically shook one of my classmates, or the time the assistant principal accused me of drinking and/or using drugs because I, as is the case with teenagers, was laughing and joking through a performance of our high-school play.

There are many grave injustices in the world Mr. Schenk, but your elaboration of the penis and the vagina is not one of them. Everybody's got one or the other...or in some rare cases, both. I never felt safe at Colchester High School because I never felt like there was a place for me to be myself, to speak my feelings, concerns and thoughts. Thank you so much for making that space available to the current and future students.

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