Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

The university attack on love

In recent years there has been a major change in university policies banning student prof sexual relationships.  The change has been the incorporation of “sexual or amorous” relationships.  Almost all new or revised statements incorporate amorous relationships, eg, the new Yale statement incorporates amorous.  And this change has been without critical comment.

The dankprofessor has been delinquent in addressing the incorporation of amorous.  No longer will such be the case.

OK, let’s start out by being quite clear that these policies do not state sexual AND amorous; it is sexual OR amorous.  So said policies definitely cover relationships that may not have a sexual component.  This hugely increases the size of the population covered by the anti-fraternization policies.

We all know that being in love, that falling in love can occur without sex.  And we know that some loving couples do not engage in sex because for one reason or the other they feel the time is not right.  And some loving  couples believe that their relationship should not be consummated until marriage.  The makers of these policies know this, including the erudite members of the Yale Women Faculty Forum who play a critical role in creating Yale policy.

So are we really confronted here not just with a war against student prof sex but also a war against student prof love?  On the surface, the answer is yes, but there is more, much more.

The reality is that if there was just a ban on sex between student and professors, many couples would be untouchable.  They would be untouchable because they could simply deny having sex and there would be no one available who could dispute this.  Faculty and students come under suspicion based on words and deeds, and appearances.  Loving words, walking too close to a student, being seen too often with a student, having dinner with a student, notes of love to a student, loving emails to a student,  a look of love directed toward a student or a look of love directed to the professor, this is what gets people in trouble.  The assumption that underlying all of the foregoing is sex is just that- an assumption.

And, of course, what the amorous clause does is to not make it necessary to prove that sex has occurred.  For the accusers, staying at the amorous level is just fine.  Being found to be amorous with a student makes one a sex code violator.

But there is still more. What the amorous clause does is to make all close relationships with a student suspect.  And therefore to diminish the possibility of becoming suspect many faculty refuse to be close with any particular student.  Or for some profs playing it safe means that all interactions with students occur in a group context, never on a one to one basis.  Sure having lunch with a student is OK as long as there are others who are partaking in said lunch.

 It comes down to professors keeping their distance, and student professor couples becoming more and more closeted.  Such is the nature of contemporary university life.

January 3, 2010 - Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, love, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, student-prof dating, Uncategorized, Yale University

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