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EP104: Lust for Learning

By Pete Butler.
Read by cunning minx (of Polyamory Weekly) and Stephen Eley.

Musical guest: “First of May,” written by Jonathan Coulton and performed by many podcasters for the Joe Murphy Memorial Fund.

Yet Mme. Theuret’s word-of-mouth reputation was to die for. Both the official feedback data and the school’s on-line forums placed her among Wilhelm U’s most popular instructors. It was a matter of technique. Wilhelm U was awash in eye candy, but Monique’s pitch-perfect mastery of lascivious restraint was something else entirely.

All thirty-eight of her new students–she’d have wagered a month’s salary that not a soul had skipped this class–now looked at her with naked desire, even though she’d merely introduced herself.

She remained silent to let the anticipation build a bit, to inform them they were now at her mercy. “Welcome,” she finally said, “to Computer Science 338, Artificial Intelligence.”

Rated X. Contains explicit sexual description, sexual innuendo, sexual themes — and some sex.

Referenced Sites:

Joe Murphy Memorial Fund

Jonathan Coulton

Comments (33)

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  1. Evil_Twin says:

    I’m no puritan, (and I do like the concept of sci-fi porn), but I must admit, I found the premise of this story more disturbing than erotic.

    The “mustapha method” strikes me as a particularly insidious form of psychological conditioning. The students are hard-wired sex addicts Рa bunch of groveling, unusually well-educated, crackheads. Like real addicts, they are slaves to their own uncontrollable cravings and to the will of their dealers (the University Staff) The school wouldn’t need to screen for submissive applicants – anybody programmed this way would quickly lose all will power and self control.

    The idea that this brainwashing program would be developed by well-meaning liberals interested in promoting “higher education” is laughable Рbut such ludicrous premises are a standard feature of good porn, so I’m onboard.

    As long as we’re nitpicking… the sexual aspect of the tech makes little sense, as it would be much easier to simply run a few electrodes into the pleasure centers of the student’s brain and dial up endless orgasms instantly with the push of a button (assuming she keeps her grades up, of course).

    But that wouldn’t be very sexy. Or would it? I’m probably too prude to get into this school without an athletic scholarship.

  2. BrandtPileggi says:

    I enjoyed the concept. I enjoy anything that initiates sexy time. After work today, I’ll go home and forward it to the woman living in my house. The story itself however, for me, was so-so. Fairly predictable. The Mustafa method was a bit of freshness in the… not stale air, more like sultry, sex humidity. Woot!

    The song however, was more Awesome. The song reminded me of a tradition I’ve never celebrated but have always meant to. So along with celebrating the Gunpowder Treason and Plot on the 5th of NOvember, I’ll make sure to include, ‘Fuggin outside’ on May 1st.

    The song ended my ability to maintain rational thought when Sean Connery came in near the end speaking with Willam Shatner’s Cadence. Pure brilliance. Scone!

  3. Steve says:

    Hmm. iTunes never grabbed this one for me. I wonder why. The others come in like a charm?

  4. Steve says:

    Hah, after a few days it came in, I apologize for the wasted comment…shoulda looked first :)

  5. R, says:

    @Evil_Twin

    You seem to miss something about our reward system…

    Delayed rewards (more than a few minutes) are not very effective for modifying human behaviour.

    That means taking tests and rewarding the good ones will not work much better than our current system.

    With your method you could wire the reward to the presentation of information.
    The students would want to attend class but not necessarily want to understand the lessons.

    Now consider wiring the orgasm directly to understanding something new and you get students who will not only attend class, they will do whatever it takes to actually learn from class.

  6. Winsmith says:

    Steve,

    re: your intro. It’s very interesting to learn of a new side to you. As I understand it from your speaking about polyamourists (is that the right word?), you are polyamourous yourself?

    How does that play with your wife? And your son?

    The story itself was good for the unique concept it presented, although not too exciting suspense-wise… or story-wise for that matter. Also, I found it rather creepy that one of the main characters’ sole focus was the financial exploitation of all the ramifications of the new technique. Human dignity anyone?

    bye for now
    Winsmith

  7. Evil_Twin says:

    R,

    Does “understanding” in your system equate to acceptance of a subjective argument? In other words, if the professor is presenting a philosphical position, and his student disagrees with that position, would she still get her orgasmic treat? Or does she only get her reward once her own beliefs mirror those of her intstructors.

    There’s a difference between education and indoctrination.

  8. Harold says:

    Regarding the warning/rating:
    X-rated? Really? I think in Europe we have a different view of what should be X-rated. Though maybe I’ve just been de-sensitized – we have margarine commercials with more sexual content.

    I have to agree with others that the story just didn’t quite work. A few years back I wrote a (non-fiction) article on the fact that learning promotes endorphin release. So I think the idea is well-founded. But isn’t this what American universities are already like? I’ve seen all those Porky’s movies :0)

    But seriously, it just struck me as immature and naive (dare I say ‘undergraduate’) on the one hand, with little idea about how higher education is supposed to work (I have to agree with Evil_Twin here).

    On the other hand, I felt it was a perfect example of ‘Baby Boomer’ fiction, full of standard Baby Boomer motifs like:

    the (educational?) power of ‘free love';
    contraception (here forced sterilization for men and women) as a major driver of social change and liberation (“Hey daddy-o, have you heard: random sex will make me a grade A student”);
    rebellion against former, stricter moral codes. (Actually, I’m surprised the Fundamentalists didn’t attack the island with horn-rimmed spectacles and tapes of ‘Leave it to Beaver’ instead of Sarin gas).

    Quite a few sociologists have already noted that (in broad terms) many Gen Xers have moved away from this kind of free sex mentality (having grown up amid the AIDS hysteria of the 1980s). Yes, Winsmith: Human dignity indeed.

    I don’t know how old Pete Butler is and whether he fits the Baby Boomer demographic, but in all honesty this story sounded like something my father would dream up after a few too many beers.

  9. Mike says:

    Good try, but this was definitely one of the worst stories I’ve heard on Escape Pod so far. It was just boring. It “read” like someone reciting the utterly pedestrian undergraduate calendar for Polyamory U. I, too, hasten to point out that I didn’t react badly to this story out of a sense of prudishness: for the record, I’m gay and spent several years volunteering as a phone counselor for a GLBT safe-sex hotline. My problem was more that this story just wasn’t a story: it may have been a manifesto or a veiled diatribe, but it wasn’t much of a story. Was ther a plot I missed? Was there characterization? Escape Pod has run some “racy” stories before, and I have generally liked them, but this one was uninspired. Also, the approach to sex was pretty sophomoric. I agree with the previous commenter, who suggested the story sounded like something his tipsy father might have come up with.

    Also, to be completely candid, I’m more interested in hearing Steve’s ideas about science fiction (polyamory in science fiction would be an interesting topic, if he wants to talk about polyamory) than about his personal life, or at least those aspects of his personal life which are unrelated to science fiction. I think that, with the intro and outro to this episode, Steve wanted to “come out” to his audience (he seems to have been trying to do that for months, with occasional references to being a regular listener to the polyamory podcast). That’s fine, but hopefully it’s done with and we can talk about science fiction again.

  10. I liked this story. It took a while to get into, but when I had done that it was enjoyable. I really liked the concept of learning as a sexual stimuli. I can imagine me sitting with my Java course at University, when I finally learn what difference an interface and a class is I have an orgasm. lol How fun learning would be, wouldn’t it? You can’t wait for the next class. smiles

  11. Bonnie says:

    What Mike said.

    I think Steve purchased this flimsy story to be the hook on which he could hang his news about becoming a swinger.

    The “X-rated” warning was more for the intro than the actual story, which should’ve been rated RS (for “Really Silly”).

  12. john says:

    This story points out how “puritan” we still are even though we’ve been schooled by the flower children of the 60’s that we don’t have to be.

  13. Hazimel says:

    Thank you, Steve. That took a lot of courage. As a bi-guy in a straight marriage, I often feel totally alienated from the people I work with even though I completely pass for straight. I am monogamous, but I still have an asthetic that is unwelcome. Listening to your show this morning made me feel a little more at home in the world.

    I was interested in the world created by the story, but there wasn’t much story there. More like a ‘slice of life’.

    Others have asked some of the obvious questions and I am always intrigued by how others face and deal with who they are in this world when they skew from the norm.

    Peace.

  14. Elvis666 says:

    Original idea and the writing was not bad. Unfortunately, there wasn’t even a hint of a story included.

  15. dscarron says:

    Kudos to you, Steve, for bravery. Both regarding publishing of the story and your life.

    I do give you much credit for the X-rated stories you publish. This one didn’t do it for me, as it seems a one-trick pony.

  16. Chris2000 says:

    Kudos, Steve. Thank you for sharing that part of your life with us. I know it took a lot of courage and I admire you a lot for it. I’ve been a hard-core fan of Escape Pod for the past couple of months and I’ll continue to be one for a very long time.

    Also, I wanted to let you know that I really appreciate an adult oriented story every now and then. Although I like the regular ones very much, this one was very refreshing. So please, keep them coming; a little scifi sex every now and then does wonders for the scifi soul.

    Thank You,

    .- Chris2000

  17. Lzygenius says:

    I find it interesting that I was registering for my Summer and Fall classes while listening to this.

  18. Susanna says:

    Unlike a lot of people, it seems, I quite enjoyed this story. For mostly the same reasons that I enjoyed “Squonk”: it made me laugh out loud. Not because it was terribly funny in itself, but because, as a uni professor, I quite often get the question from friends, family and total strangers, if it isn’t the case that a lot of my students are infatuated with me. I always reassure them that that’s not the case at all, and that my students all know perfectly well what their roles are, and what mine is, and where the line is to be drawn. I desperately hope that I’m right.

    This story made me think of all those questions, which – in our world – I find rather silly, but which in that world would be totally called for.

    Thanks for making me laugh!

  19. John Ruschmeyer says:

    Listening to this story, all I could think of was “The Harrad Experiment” as written by Michael Crichton.

  20. Chuck LeDuc says:

    Mr. Eley, congratulations on flying your freak flag high. I salute you.

    My criticisms of the story have already been made by others, vis-a-vis lack of plot. It had an ancient Greek flavour for me: the focus on education and the more freewheeling attitude toward sexuality than we “moderns” presently allow. Whereas with Greek drama the action happens offstage, with this story the plot happens offstage. Nice ideas, though.

  21. 3countylaugh says:

    I totally aggree about amusement value in relationships.
    Regardign the story though as a bit of a “sapiosexual” myself I was saddened by the story a bit. I loved the concepts, but I wasn’t sure what the scenes in the classroom really had to do with moving the story forward.
    As far as steamy “x” factor I have to say I found #38 “L‚ÄôAlchimista” far more to my taste in the erotic but I see the need for the x given the graphic descriptors.
    Thank god porn ahem erotica is in the eye of the beholder.

  22. Dotan Dimet says:

    I stopped listening to this one because I finished my walk, but the 20 minutes I heard were stupifyingly boring. So far, all this piece consisted of were mind-numbing expository bits, broken only by the Jim character (not his name, but he’s the one in the “As you know, Jim” role) pausing to ogle the student body.
    A virtue of written porn – the reader’s ability to skip the flimsy story elements and get to the good bits – is completely lost in audio format.
    Also, because it’s set-up as a “sexy” story, my impression is that on one hand the story doesn’t really want to deal with the actual thought-provoking repercussions of it’s central idea (which the first poster touched on), because these might shift the tone of the story into something darker, but on the other hand it doesn’t avoid those repercussions completely, which results in more clumsy exposition that weakens the story’s focus.

  23. MikeK says:

    I was surprised to hear in the latest podcast that this story was poorly received. After reading some of the responses, I understand where people are coming from. Sure, it was lacking some elements that would solidify it, like, well, a plot, but all of us love stories with worse defects. I thought it was a lot of fun. It reminded me in good ways of the college experience part of me wishes I’d had. Perhaps the mixed response was due to the pornographic aspect of the story. Not that anyone disliked it for prudish reasons (after all, it wasn’t all that racy), but most of us are sexually interested by overlapping but not always identical things. If you posit that enjoyment of this story depends on titillation and consequent amusement at the titillation, well, some of us were turned on, and some weren’t. I, for one, was.

  24. Jason says:

    Finally got to listen to this (I’m behind on the podcast), but I agree this was the worst story I’ve heard on EP.
    It only served to strengthen my opinion that “erotica” is the lowest form of literature.
    Not sure why this was on a sci-fi podcast. A little pseudo-science does not a sci-fi story make.
    A good sci-fi story tells us something about the human condition. This had none of that.
    It was merely indulgence in base behavior. Sad really.

  25. Not a great story, but I was never tempted to turn it off (nor was I turned on), and the song finale put a big happy smile on my face. Did someone mention Heinlein’s unfortunate post-stroke novels?

    I practiced polyamory myself for a while between my marriages, until one day I had to choose between that lifestyle and the girl who became my second wife. Actually, for me polyamory was more a question of being an openly and honestly promiscuous dawg than a sexual orientation.

  26. [...] on the menu will be Lust for Learning by Pete Butler. Apparently a sexy AI [...]

  27. Sunrider says:

    I liked this story too, as did my husband. Not every story has to be fleshed out with developed plot and characters to be considered entertaining. I agree with Hazimel’s statements that it was a nice “slice of life” glimpse in one possible scenario.

    On the intro and personal details? Frankly I vote to keep them coming. One of the reasons we’re devoted listeners to Escape Pod is BECAUSE Steve gives us a glimpse into his personal life. We like hearing about his son and wife and latest adventures at cons. Kudos to you from a bi-girl in a very happy straight marriage – and I totally agree that you’ve got to have laughter to have a healthy relationship.

  28. DC says:

    I have to agree with the posters who said this story was boring. I wouldn’t even call it erotica. It was a dull story that happened to involve sex.

  29. Seainni says:

    I thought this was fine. My main complaint would be that there wasn’t a lot of story–this one was pure idea exploration, and I’m not sure I completely buy its arguments–but it was an interesting enough exploration, and I did enjoy it.

    I certainly didn’t find it disagreeable or poorly written, as some folks did.

  30. Dave (aka Nev the Deranged) says:

    I am consistently disappointed by “sexy” audio, and this was no exception. Some have commented that this seems to have been an opportunity for Steve to come out, and in retrospect, it does seem that way. Certainly learning Steve is bi/poly was more interesting than the story itself. Within the story, it seemed like the whole thing was just a protracted, elaborate set up for the “twist” at the end, which I admit, has disturbing implications- why can’t we get a story set in THAT world, one where sex-marketing has been taken to a chilling Nth degree.

    So, a lackluster story. Any anthology is going to have a few that don’t appeal to any particular reader. And considering the general quality of the work on EP, I can’t complain. The Watching People was worth the price of admission… oh, wait, there’s no price!

    Keep ‘em comin’, Mr. Eley. And congrats on coming out.

  31. scatterbrain says:

    Dft, but strangely intelligent and does not quickly erode into an excuse for softcore erotica.

  32. I think being a lecturer or trainer just like a barmaid or barman you may at times be viewed by others in their fantasy. Maybe it’s the authority that goes with these positions that is the attraction.

  33. Anika says:

    Very interesting read, I think their would be a lot of mixed opinions on this. Love the theme that you are using, what is it?