Face Time: Joseph Fanelli


By Alexis Rodriguez

As a professor of human sexuality for almost 30 years, Joseph Fanelli has gained significant popularity during his years at SU. Jerk was more than happy to get to know him on a more personal level, finding out his biggest guilty pleasure and discovering that he almost became a Roman Catholic priest. He also reveals his feelings on Playboy vs. Maxim, and that the perfect Valentine’s Day obviously requires a lot of “bed” time.

What made you decide to become a human sexuality professor?

(laughs)It was totally by accident…I came to Syracuse in the mid 70s and the focus was actually marriage and family therapy, which is my academic discipline. When I came to Syracuse I was lucky enough to be a TA for Dr. Sol Gordon. It was by accident that I took this position, and I spent the next 10 years working on my masters for my doctorate degree and really focusing on human sexuality with Sol. When he retired in the early 80s, I was lucky enough to be asked if I wanted to teach the course. I’ve taught for almost 30 years and close to 35,000 students.

What is your favorite topic to teach in human sexuality?

The whole section on love and intimacy and relationships. I really enjoyed that section. Some years ago the dean of our college asked if I would teach a course on that, and that’s how Lust, Love and Relationships (CFS 425) came about. I’ve been teaching that every semester.

What is your most embarrassing college memory?

(laughs) Early in my teaching career at SU, I got a call in the middle of the semester from the Syracuse police department that they had arrested one of my students who was soliciting a prostitute and when he was arrested told the police he only wanted to interview her for my course which of course wasn’t true (laughs). Another funny thing that happened was in class after discussing the topic of birth control…there was a student sitting alone in one of the far corners. Everybody left and he was still there. I thought he had fallen asleep but he said he had fainted during the section on having a vasectomy…I don’t know if that’s true or not (laughs).

What is your biggest guilty pleasure?

I love beer. That’s my guilty pleasure. I love my beer.

Which celebrity would you most want to punch in the face?

Hmmm…I’ll think about that. I don’t like Adam Sandler. He just annoys the hell out of me. You know, his manners…he just seems punchable. As comedians go, he would be my least favorite.

What is something people don’t know about you?

Most people don’t know that after high school I spent 7 years studying to be a Roman Catholic priest. I had 1 year left before I decided it wasn’t for me. (laughs) I’m a slow learner. I like the ministry kind of thing but wanting a family was very compelling.

The Notebook or Titanic?

Oh the Notebook for sure. I like the Notebook.

Playboy or Maxim?

Playboy, no question.

What would happen on the perfect Valentine’s Day?

The perfect Valentine’s Day would be staying in “bed” all morning and doing something exciting all afternoon and then having an incredible dinner then going right back to “bed.

What is your most memorable Valentine’s Day?

My wife and I spent one Valentine’s Day at the Belhurst Castle…that was cool. There was a Jacuzzi in the middle of the bedroom, a fireplace, and we had great dinners. I highly recommend it.

How can people apply the Valentine’s Day “spark” to their sex lives all year long?

I think that what they need to do is to keep in mind that an integral part of relationships is demonstrating that their partner is special. The question that I ask myself is, “What did I do today to show that my partner is special to me?”