Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Campus sexual bigotry and degradation

From Taiwan to Ottawa, from Los Angeles to London, professors and students who are in sexual congress with each other have become fair game for those wishing to engage in unrestrained sexual bigotry.  By  sexual bigotry, I am not referring to those who assert that such relationships may or do represent some form of conflict of interest, but rather to those who who degrade and demean  and dehumanize both the involved professor and the involved student.  

The dankprofessor finds it difficult to accept that academics find it to be OK to refer to their colleagues who have dated students as scum and disgusting and to imply that they are rapists or statutory rapists.  But what I even consider to be more disturbing is that hardly any academics on the sidelines come forth and challenge the acceptability of using such degrading rhetoric.  When such challenging does occur, it is likely to be of the anonymous kind.

One anonymous professor commenter recently stated on the dankprofessor blog- “It’s pretty darned hard for me to look into the eyeballs of my older male colleagues and tell them that they AND their wives are scum.”  The commenter is referring to older professors who had married one of their students.  I would hope and expect that addressing or thinking about a colleague, senior or otherwise, as scum would not exactly be easy, particularly on a continuing basis.  It wouldn’t be easy since continuing personal contact would most likely function to humanize and normalize the targeted professor.  Having the targeted professor as a predatory alien existing outside of our everyday lives facilitates for some a commitment to the imagery of the professor as a sexual outsider.  The accompanying imagery of the female student is usually that of a non-person (she is often anonymous and socially invisible) or that of an exploited child who cannot fend for herself.  She is usually seen as not having the ability to consent even if she states that she has consented.

For a professor to come forward and risk the stigma being seen as a sexual outsider and also being terminated as a professor has pretty effectively put these professors in the campus closet.  And those who may come out and support the rights of professors and students to consent to a sexual relationship with each other will frequently lead to others as seeing the supportive professor as being one of those professors.  And such was the situation in the past for gay men and lesbians.  Gay men and lesbians existence depended on their ability to be out of sight and out of mind, to live closeted lives.  Of course, the irony is that as gays came out of the campus closet, said closet then came to be populated by professors who were or had been in sexual congress with a student or students.

The answer for gays was coming out of the closet.  If there is to be a ceasefire on professors in sexual congress with students, it will occur because these professors and others who support these professors will come out.  It will occur when these professors and their supporters will be able to effectively deal with their fears.  And it is both fear and loathing that has dominated the social sexual climate at all too many campuses.

A small step forward could occur if student professor relationships would become a part of campus sex education weeks.  Organizers of these events advocate openness in terms of sexuality but when it comes to campus sex of the genre referred to here, there is no openness, there is nothing.  Of course, nothing can be better than something when the something only includes rants against so-called offending professors.

Another small step forward would include recognition of how the anti student professor sex movement, has impacted on campus friendships
between students and professors, how such has led to increasingly impersonal campuses.   It should lead to the recognition that many professors and administrators have come to realize that anyone, irrespective of their behavior, can become labeled as a so-called sexual deviant.  Professor open door policies are no solution to the paranoia on campus, particularly when third party informants are encouraged to come forward.

Under the mantel of a so-called professionalism, sexual bigotry, sexual
policing, sexual paranoia has become a dominant reality in campus life.
And as in all authoritarian states, the persecution most often occurs in secret; secrecy is rationalized under the guise of this being a “personnel” matter.  Again, the closet carries the day.

And the dankprofessor asks these questions of the readers of this post.
Are you a professor or administrator or a student who might agree with the dankprofessor in whole or in part, but you feel you can’t speak out because of fear?  Might you attempt to overcome your fears by emailing the dankprofessor at dankprofessor@msn.com or posting a comment, albeit anonymously on this post?

April 29, 2009 - Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, fear, higher education, privacy, secrecy, sex, sex offenders, sexual harassment, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating, the closet |

25 Comments »

  1. I’m neither a prof nor student [anymore & I in fact never had an 'on-campus' fling even with another student], but, for a colleague to call another ‘scum’ for dating/marrying a student is simply put disgusting. How much more small-minded, repressed or hateful can one get when it comes to dating/sex ‘on campus’. What exactly is their ‘reasoning’ behind such mindless attack that said prof is ‘scum’, but doesn’t even bother to ask if the student might in fact be perfectly happy with him/her. It’s not their business to dictate people who they may or not data/sleep with, on or off campus. It creates needless friction & demonisation, damaging persecution & distress for all concerned.

    Comment by Novalis Lore | November 1, 2010 | Reply

  2. Campus administrators have their backs against the wall in matters of alleged sexual harassment, and unfortunately, too many faculty-student relationships end as work for university lawyers. Also, I’ve been consulted by young women who have heard “The only way you’ll get an ‘A’ in this course is by spending the night with me” when they asked a male professor why their grades were lower than those of other students who’d gotten the same number of quiz answers right. So although I share your penchant for openness on campus, I’d like to know that we can draw a line between relationships that pose risks to the institution and those that do not. I think a sexual relationship is imprudent in cases in which a professor evaluates a student academically or is in a position to influence the student’s academic progress, for example, by serving on a grad student’s committee. When one person has power over another in such ways, mutuality and reciprocity are not really possible between the two.

    But I must agree with you about the atmosphere of paranoia in academia. I recall once closing my office door when a male student I was talking with about his grades began crying and telling me about his horrendous family situation. A group of colleagues took me to task afterward for speaking with the student (nearly 40 years younger than I was) behind a closed door in defiance of the “rules” designed to protect the college from charges of sexual harassment. Policies like the oppressive open-door rule have become another excuse for authoritarianism in post-secondary education.

    Comment by Máire | November 2, 2010 | Reply

  3. Maire writes- I’d like to know that we can draw a line between relationships that pose risks to the institution and those that do not.

    A consensual student professor sexual relationship per se poses no risk to the university. An exchange of grades for sex between a prof and student is a violation of grading standards. To argue that any student prof sexual relationship should be banned since some use sex for grades is absurd as saying that sex per se should be banned since sometimes sex represents rape.

    If one is serious about engaging in a risk analysis, said analysis should not only apply to the institution but also apply to individuals as to the risk of violating their civil liberties, violating their privacy as indicated by your open door example. And there has been no successful lawsuit against a university for allowing a consensual relationship- NONE.

    Sometimes the risk “analysis” comes down to an administrator
    evaluating the risk of doing nothing about a student prof couple and the risk of one losing ones job for doing nothing. I would hold that doing nothing about student prof coupling is the best option if one wants to minimize risk for all parties. Doing something opens up a Pandora’s Box, anything and everything becomes a possibility.

    I do appreciate your comment.

    Comment by dankprofessor | November 2, 2010 | Reply

  4. Great response, dankprofessor, to a semi understanding Maire!
    Nobody can dispute that a “sex for grades” scheme would violate sexual harassment policy, and should be dealt with! The existence of a sexual harassment policy gives non participating students a means to redress their grievance. Thus, there is no need for any blanket “dating ban”. As I always say, such “rules” violate both the professors’ & students’ Civil Rights, and also Constitutional Rights, if the school is a public institution!

    Comment by Donald Visconti | November 2, 2010 | Reply

  5. OK, let’s say that you can convince me that consensual relationships pose no risk of liability. What about my point about the absence of mutuality and reciprocity in a relationship in which one partner has the power to control the academic progress of the other? If you’ve read Freud’s work on Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, have you considered the role of a psychoanalytic dynamic in such relationships? Willingly or not, the professor is an authority figure to the student. We begin to succeed in educating when students identify with us as scholars or critical thinkers or people who pursue the life of the mind, or whatever. And as in parenting, the student’s identification or need for the authority figure’s approval comes to an end as he or she becomes self-sufficient in the content or skills of the academic course–again, if the educational process succeeds. I can imagine a consensual sexual relationship following such a process, but not existing simultaneously with such a process. “Consent” is not consent when a student is under the influence of a professor even if the student is an adult because the student needs the professor in ways that the professor does not need the student.

    Comment by Máire | November 2, 2010 | Reply

    • Maire,

      You are wrong!!
      The psychologist/patient relationship is unique, in that the patient is EXTREMELY vulnerable, and the shrink is in a position to manipulate. For example, the psychologist can give the patient advice that would make him/her look good, but which would not be in the best interests of the patient.
      I’m tired of characterizations of professors being “parents”,and 18 year old + students being akin to young children! Similarly, no such relationship exists at work, between an employee and his/her manager. Would I revert to a child, unable to consent to going out with my department manager, if she was unmarried?? I might even approach her! I wish you and others would stop using the infant/parent analogy, where different status levels exist, as these are erroneous feminist myths!

      Comment by Donald Visconti | November 3, 2010 | Reply

      • Perfectly put, Donald.

        Comment by Novalis Lore | November 3, 2010

    • Don, in all fairness to Maire, Maire makes no mention of the patient/psychologist relationship.

      In any case as to Maire’s bottom line which was- “”consent” is not consent when a student is under the influence of a professor even if the student is an adult because the student needs the professor in ways that the professor does not need the student.” Such reflects the notion that both the student and professor identities are totalizing identities. One student does not equal another student and one professor does not equal another professor when it comes to psychological needs, particularly in the area of love and sex. Human relations and human relationships are something more than category to category or categorical relationships.
      If anything, love tends to undermine or transcend categorical boundaries. For those who are supposedly in a loving relationship and see the other simply as a student or as professor, it is hard for me to see such representing a loving relationship. The farther removed from a relationship, the easier to see persons as just representing categories and the easier it is to take away consent from a person occupying a category. The closer one is to a relationship, the more difficult to maintain the other(s) in simply categorical terms and the more difficult it is to take away consent from a real unique human being. Easy to say in the abstract that one can’t consent; difficult to tell Susan that she is incapable of consent.

      More generally, I think it is simplistic to assume that people in intimate relationships have the same needs. I know that I would never entertain such an assumption. I would not assume that the need of my lover for me is the same as the need of myself for my lover. If one does engage in such assumptions, one is creating the lover in ones own image,the lover simply becomes the extension of oneself. Such reflects
      hardcore narcissism. Maybe Maire has a narcissistic view of love. Such is for her to say. My advice to narcissists is to get some really clear mirrors and always carry a pocket mirror,such can at least provide some sense of security, albeit a superficial security.

      Comment by dankprofessor | November 3, 2010 | Reply

      • ‘For those who are supposedly in a loving relationship and see the other simply as a student or as professor, it is hard for me to see such representing a loving relationship.’ – Love it. Same goes for general [wide/r] age difference partnerships.

        Comment by Novalis Lore | November 3, 2010

  6. Novalis Lore,

    Thanks for the compliment!

    Dankprofessor,

    Your analysis was superb, concerning Maire’s interpretation of “consent”. I brought up the psychologist/patient relationship for 2 reasons:

    1) Maire did refer to Freud’s work on Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego. I haven’t read it, but assumed it relates to psychologist/patient relationships.
    2) The shrink/patient relationship is one of 2 professional relationships where I can understand the deferring of any romantic involvement. The way I understand it, a PSYCHOLOGIST can date a former patient, 2 years after the day of last treatment, without professional culpability. This is so, since the patient is no longer considered to be in the vulnerable state she/he was, during the therapy sessions. I also understand that PSYCHIATRISTS have a stricter standard.
    The other professional relationship, where it would be wise to defer dating is, of course, the high school teacher/student relationship. When the student is 18 and has graduated, no “disciplinary action” should be enacted, against the teacher, if the two start seeing each other. I believe this principle is widely accepted.

    Comment by Donald Visconti | November 3, 2010 | Reply

  7. Yes, of course love transcends categories such as “student” or “professor.” And I would not suggest that the needs of lovers for each other should belong to the same category of need, but I am sensitive to inequality of (dare I use the word?) power or ability to control in a relationship. The student’s need for the approval (i.e., “love”) of the professor AS professor can be both deep and transient. What happens when this need passes? Maybe a relationship of equals follows, maybe not. But while that need is present, it is impossible to tell. This concern does belong to a feminist perspective which I do not think is entirely mythos. If I recall correctly, Elizabeth Grauerholz (sp.?) did some empirical work on such inequalities in intimate relationships. They are real, and they are problematic.

    Comment by Máire | November 5, 2010 | Reply

  8. Maire states- “The student’s need for the approval (i.e., “love”) of the professor AS professor can be both deep and transient. What happens when this need passes? Maybe a relationship of equals follows, maybe not. But while that need is present, it is impossible to tell.”

    Yes, as you state if that need is present it is impossible to tell if an equal relationship follows. It is often impossible to tell from the start of the relationship if the need was present and how strong was said need. Problem is that often it is impossible for an outsider to tell what is the inner dynamics of any particular relationship. And said
    inner power dynamics are likely to change as the context of the relationship changes.

    Whatever the case may be, whether you and I may or may not like the power dynamic, it is not us-outsiders- to control/ban said relationships. If we do end up being the controllers, our power need becomes quite clear- the need to control the lives of others. No problem in giving counsel or advice, particularly when it is sought, but forcing oneself on others is entirely another matter. You believe this represents a feminist perspective. I believe it represents an authoritarian perspective. If it is feminist then it is fair to say that it represents an authoritarian feminist perspective. Such should not be considered to be surprising since ideologues often cannot resist the opportunity to impose their ideology on others. So an ideology often leads to moral zealots imposing their righteousness on others. It’s the same old story.

    Comment by dankprofessor | November 5, 2010 | Reply

  9. Dank Professor, I and the AAUP, last time I checked, agree with you that the institution should not be trying to control personal relationships. Probably, if we all thought about it, we’d agree that the relationships we formed during college/university years were the most shaping, inspirational, intense, and redolent of freedom of any we’ve had in our lifetimes.

    Notice that in my comments about power in personal relationships, I was not arguing that unequal power relations comprise a reason for post-secondary institutions to ban professor-student relationships. Just as earlier I used the word “imprudent,” I would argue that unequal power relations have something to do with personal ethics and to a much more limited extent (being reluctant to create difficulties for one’s colleagues, for example), professional ethics as well. I absolutely abhor authoritarian approaches–feminist or any other–to professional ethics. When I wrote of the professor being an authority figure to the student, I never meant to suggest that the institution should exercise authority over relationships as a way of dictating professional ethics. The relationships you write about are personal matters. I would like to see the post-secondary teaching profession maintain an open dialogue on such questions. My contribution to the dialogue would be something like this: I do not think of a friendship with unequal power structure as being a durable friendship. I also find it too constrained by that structure to accommodate much psychological intimacy. It might have intensity, passion, empathy and other great features, yet I could not place it at the center of my life. But power structures can change, and when a relationship becomes more equal, all sorts of possibilities emerge.

    Comment by Máire | November 5, 2010 | Reply

    • I appreciate your sharing your thoughts with us. You definitely made a contribution to the blog.

      Many thanks,

      Barry aka the dankprofessor.

      Comment by dankprofessor | November 5, 2010 | Reply

  10. Maire,

    I am heartened by your displeasure over authoritarian administrators attempting to meddle into the personal, off campus activities of students & professors. I agree that all concerned should use good judgment, and not take advantage of the other.
    I am also pleased to hear that the union, AAUP, agrees that this authoritarianism is wrong. I look forward to reading of a court case where AAUP successfully sued on behalf of a professor, who was fired, or otherwise disciplined over something like consensual dating.
    As I am not a teacher, I think this is how I would approach a female student, who I wished to go out with:
    1) She would have to be at least 21, and preferably older, as I am a never married baby boomer.
    2) We would have to have some good vibes between us. In other words, I wouldn’t say to her, “Would you like to go to dinner tonight”, if we had only related to each other on a totally perfunctory level.
    3) She would have to be a good student, who would not be in danger of flunking out of the college. The smarter she was, the more confident I would be that she was not a “grade digger”.
    4) If we went out, and she would up with a 79, or 89 average, I would raise every student’s grade to a “B”, or an “A”, if their numerical averages were similar. That way, nobody could accuse me of “favoritism”.
    5) I would hope she would agree to continue to see me, after the class ended.
    No sexual harassment, no favoritism, use good judgment, and no administrative meddling into outside social activities. This, I believe, is the formula for success, where consensual dating is concerned.

    Comment by Donald Visconti | November 5, 2010 | Reply

    • Sounds great – but why ’21’? 18 is the max age of consent in the US in most states or even 16, so why make an exception just because it’s a ‘campus relation’?

      Comment by Novalis Lore | November 6, 2010 | Reply

  11. Donald, it has actually been many years since I read Freud, and I do not have any of his works with me at the moment. (I’m living in NJ and my books are stored in a basement in Colorado, alas!) So I must trust my memory. Freud wrote in that book about our human propensity to erect authority figures, a.k.a. “leaders,” for ourselves– all of us, continuously, all through our lives and in every dimension of life. It is not a work on transference between patient and therapist. This propensity makes us all extremely vulnerable.

    One of the problems with this propensity to identify with leaders, which we can see being played out now in the Tea Party phenomenon, involves what Phillip Rieff, in “The Mind of the Moralist” (about Freud’s “Group Psychology…” and other works) described as that “power to command that inheres in the mechanism of identification.” On the one hand, the Tea Partiers cannot identify with an African American as “leader.” They become militant, rebellious, and fearful in opposition to Obama being in the Oval Office. The phenomenon is irrationally driven; they cannot be reasoned out of their fears of tyranny or their desperate need to identify. On the other hand, those who do identify with a political authority figure bring an even greater risk upon themselves, a risk to their own moral and psychological autonomy. (Freud described this phenomenon a decade before the rise of the Third Reich.) The only healthy form of “leadership,” Freud concluded, is the leadership of an idea. (I’m waiting for Obama to come up with a great leading idea, something like FDR’s “Four Freedoms,” to confound the Tea Partiers and free up the energies of his own followers.)

    In higher education, we’re in the idea-generating trade. When we can “lead” a student to a powerful idea, or when we “lead” a student beyond his or her identification with us to autonomy in working with ideas, we educate. So whether the professor-student relationship is characterized as parent-child or not, its underlying dynamic is essentially the same. Its saving grace is that it lasts only a semester or two; students move beyond it. I see my job as making myself unnecessary to my students, helping them get to the point that they have learned enough not to need a leader anymore. But it would be folly to ignore that limitless “power to command” that exists between a student and me while I’m trying to teach what he or she needs in order to fall in love with the idea and out of love with the leader.

    Comment by Máire | November 6, 2010 | Reply

  12. Maire,
    Thank you for your analysis. I think that applying the “incest taboo”-equating the leader with a parent & the student/staff member with a child is hogwash! There are no blood ties, so “incest” is ruled out right away. The student or staff member, being an adult, rules out a form of “statuary rape”. Therefore, the student/staff member can indeed fall both in love with the idea AND the leader; there’s nothing unhealthy about this. The only things which would be unhealthy are:
    1) sexual harassment,
    2) The student/staff member using the teacher/manager for good grades & promotions, which weren’t deserved, and
    3) The administrations of the school or company attempting to “prohibit” two consenting adults from seeing each other, after school, or work.
    I realize that you downplayed the notions of “transference”, and “parent/child” relationships, but I wished to give a thorough explanation as to why those things are absurd, when applied to school or workplace romances, when people of different status are involved.
    BTW (and this is a bit off topic), I don’t believe that males would suffer the negative effects of “transference”, as would females. For example, if I saw an unmarried woman psychologist for therapy, I don’t think I would be any worse off if there was intimacy between us. She, of course,would have to remind me that our socializing was not therapeutic-was in no way part of my therapy. That being told me, I can’t see me suffering any ill effects of “transference”, if I became romantic with a female therapist! However, what’s good for the gander is good for the goose! If a man psychologist would suffer professional penalties over sleeping with a woman patient, the same should apply to the woman shrink. For my part, I wouldn’t let on that anything happened between the 2 of us!

    Novalis Lore,
    I must set 21 as an absolute “lower limit”! We’re not talking legality here; we’re talking compatibility!
    BTW, my ideal age range is 30-45. I would still consider a female contemporary, especially if I liked her “back in the day”!

    Comment by Donald Visconti | November 6, 2010 | Reply

    • Donald, The very fact that you can imagine a physically intimate relationship with a woman as your therapist indicates to me that, like all of us, you experience the impulse to identify with an authority figure. Freud used an analogy with the state of being in love to explain how this identification/ transference works. His first point of comparison is that both the lover and the patient/ student lose the capacity to think critically about the loved person/ authority figure. Western cultures have many ways of describing this state of mind, but “delusion” would not be a misnomer. Realizing that the desire for intimacy with such a person represents a continuing need for “Mom” (or “Dad”) is just another “welcome to the human race” moment. Physical intimacy with her, if it does no other harm, would interfere with the attempt to resolve the Oedipal conflict. The problem is not incest; it is the flight from freedom and responsibility, which takes me back to my point about unequal power relationships. . . .

      Comment by Máire | November 7, 2010 | Reply

    • If we’re talking ‘compatibility’ only, then it actually shouldn’t matter of what age each partner is, as long as they’re of legal age, & even then sometimes underage (i.e., those of pubertal age obviously) unions work if each parter is around the same age – i.e., teenage liaisons. So, to set the age that high is rather unrealistic & unworkable in the ‘real world’. That ‘your’ ideal age is even higher, is personal preference others might not share, & in fact more men prefer younger women than older.

      Comment by Novalis Lore | November 8, 2010 | Reply

  13. Maire,

    Let me reiterate my point: THIS IS HOGWASH!! What if the female therapist/manager/teacher is around my age, or younger than me? How can this be “Oedipal”, in nature?? Anyway, I don’t see “authority figures” in the same regimented way which others apparently do. They are human beings, as am I. We are also 2 adults. A “drill sergeant/basic trainee” relationship doesn’t exist here. She is a leader, but not a woman who controls every aspect of my life. Many women look up to/are attracted to men, in such positions, so why can’t I have the same attraction for a similar woman? There would be no “flight from freedom and responsibility”, unless I took advantage of my position by doing such things as taking excessive sick leave, goofing off regularly, etc. “Delusional”, in this instance, is inexplicable! If this was so, ANY woman who a man was very fond of would fall into this category! A teacher, or manager can still do her job, and do it well, unless we all believe that the old “Spartan” way of doing things is the only route to effectiveness. Likewise, a student/staff member can still perform in a responsible manner. Heck, the desire to do so should increase, because:
    1) He wouldn’t want his manager/girlfriend to think he was taking advantage of the situation.
    2) He wouldn’t want his co-workers to think he was slackening off, under the circumstances.
    OK, I’ll continue to support temporary bans on romance, in psychologist/patient relationships, due to the extreme vulnerability of the patient, in said circumstances. However, this mindset should, in no way, cross over into professor/student, or manager-supervisor/staff member relationships! Freedom of choice, in dating, should then be the norm!

    Comment by Donald Visconti | November 7, 2010 | Reply

  14. Don,

    I think that you misread Maire in her last comment. She has made it clear that she does not oppose freedom of choice when it comes to student/prof intimacies. What she does is look at the power dynamic that she believes is at play re these relationships.

    Maire stated-
    “Freud used an analogy with the state of being in love to explain how this identification/ transference works. His first point of comparison is that both the lover and the patient/ student lose the capacity to think critically about the loved person/ authority figure. Western cultures have many ways of describing this state of mind, but “delusion” would not be a misnomer. Realizing that the desire for intimacy with such a person represents a continuing need for “Mom” (or “Dad”) is just another “welcome to the human race” moment.”

    I do not disagree with her analysis; my problem with it is that she seems to only apply it to student/prof and similar relationships rather than to intimate relationships in general. In order to elaborate on my understanding of this issue- power and control in intimate relationships-I quote from Ernest Becker from his book, DENIAL OF DEATH. Becker states that we are resistant to Freud’s thinking because “We don’t want to admit that we are fundamentally dishonest about reality, that we do not really control our own lives. We don’t want to admit that we do not stand alone, that we always rely on something that transcends us, some system of ideas and powers in which we are embedded and which support us. This power is not always obvious. It need not be overtly a god or openly a stronger person, but it can be the power of an all absorbing activity a passion…All of us are driven to be supported in a self-forgetful way, ignorant of what energies we really draw on, of the kind of lie we have fashioned in order to live securely and serenely…(Master analysts)”saw that man could strut and boast all he wanted, but that he really drew his “courage to be” from a god, a string of sexual conquests, a Big Brother,
    a flag, the proletariat, and the fetish of money and the size of a bank balance.”

    So I share the Beckerian perspective that we are all immersed in power dynamics that generally we have little understanding of and that generally we deny that we are denying anything. So I would hold that there is nothing special about student/prof relationships except that what appears to be as an overt power difference is taken for granted as somehow representing the internal power dynamics of the relationship. What fascinates me the most is that so many people appear to be so threatened by this overt power difference that they wish to gain power by controlling, eliminating such relationships. I found this to be fascinating since they deny their owner power(sexual)needs as being involved in their controlling the sexual relationships of others. And I find it interesting that male administrators vehemently deny that they are involved in any kind of sexual power dynamic. I would hold that such is very unlikely since both men and women who become university administrators do so in part or sometimes in whole because of their own power needs. I would also hold that it is to be expected that power dynamics are involved in student/prof relationships but often in a way that is not consonant with with the taken for granted image of the professor being in control. In the case of female students, they may very well bring into the relationship the power of beauty which may very well be the controlling power. It is always problematic that a man or woman who hold a power position also feels that they must be in control in an intimate relationship; giving up control may be the defining
    dynamic. And it may be that the administrators really would like to give up their control to a beautiful powerful other, but they are unable to do so but then they are likely to get gratification by controlling professors who appear to be getting gratification of the sort that they like. Of course, they could choose to give themselves to a professional dominatrix or play out their power fantasies via pornography. As should be apparent, it is all very complex and hardly anything is clear in this area and hardly anything should be surprising in general in the sexual area.

    I understand Maire’s concerns about power issues in the sexual area. Given her knowledge of psychoanalytic thought,
    it surprises me that she feels that the power dynamic can be transcended in the sexual area or in human relationships in general. By focusing on student/prof relationships as some sort of anomaly she ends up avoiding the truth. The truth as I see it is that such relationships are not anomalous, but have a power dynamic that is omnipresent in all sexual relationships. On an individual or personal level, the best we can do is to understand ourselves, develop a greater sense of power within which leads to a lesser need for controlling others and a greater recognition of how others control others and are not seen as being controllers. We should take our blinders off and not fall for societal stereotypes; such a task is not an easy one and is never
    ending.

    Comment by dankprofessor | November 7, 2010 | Reply

    • If we take the ‘power dynamic’ issues per se, then NO relationship is ‘equal’, since one partner is always of a ‘higher’ position, either socially, mentally, physically, sexually, financially you name it – it can only work if both realise that & not use or abuse that, but ‘work’ with it. ‘Age’ per se has nothing to do with any of it either. A younger wo/man can be richer, wiser or more educated etc. than an older one – or vice versa. So, [reasonable] ‘control’ of any kind within a union can be a good thing if both sides agree on it, no matter the gender.

      Comment by Novalis Lore | November 8, 2010 | Reply

  15. Dankprofessor,

    Thanks for your comments!
    I was merely stating my position to Maire, that the “incest” or “transference” taboos should not be applicable, in most romantic relationships. The exception, concerning transference, may be appropriate in the psychologist/patient relationship. As stated, though, I don’t believe I, or most males would suffer the effects of transference, if we got involved with a female psychologist.
    I especially like your last paragraph! You hit the nail on the head when you said that, “…such relationships are not anomalous, but have a power dynamic that is omnipresent in all sexual relationships”. For example (and I believe you previously said this) most men are physically stronger than most women. Does that mean that most heterosexual relationships should be avoided, or, God forbid, “prohibited”, in the interests of protecting the female partner?? Also, your concluding comments regarding the administrators rings true, ” ..a greater recognition of how others control others and are not seen as being controllers”.
    I say, why don’t we all just seek out who we wish to date, and treat each other with respect! Then, “power dynamics” would be moot!

    Comment by Donald Visconti | November 8, 2010 | Reply


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