Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Hugo Schwyzer and the sin of coercion

OK, I will begin my reply post to Hugo Schwyzer’s response to me by picking a bone with him as to how he presents me. He indicates that at Cal State Long Beach I had built a name for myself “as a consistent (some would say relentless) advocate for legitimizing sexual relationships between teachers and students”.  If the good professor had done his homework on me, he would have known that I built a name for myself in the area of legitimizing sexual relationships starting in the late 1960s when I relentlessly opposed discrimination against gays, wrote “Coming Out in the Gay World” which came to be regarded as a classic article in the sociology of homosexuality, created the first officially recognized undergraduate course on homosexuality in 1969, and worked to help create the first officially recognized GSU in California at CSULB and last but not least I wrote an article against Anita Bryant and her campaign against homosexuality which was reprinted throughout the United States and helped to defeat the Briggs initiative in 1977, and led to numerous threats against my life, see that article by clicking here.  Post my involvement in the gay rights campaign, I became involved in issues regarding interracial dating and marriage and helped to found the Interrace Association at CSULB.

So prior to my getting involved in the student professor issue I had an extensive background regarding transcending sexual boundaries, standing up for sexual freedom and consent.  In this area I was relentless and remain relentless.  Such relentlessness was not stifled by the small mindedness of too many of my opponents and their attempts to objectify and demonize me. For example, Schwyzer states that I celebrate student professor sexual relationships.  I do not celebrate any form of consensual sexuality.  What I celebrate is the right of consenting adults to engage in sexual fraternization no matter how offensive such fraternization is held to be by others.  What offends me are those who engage in coercion of consenting others who happen to violate their sexual “ethic”.

And as for Schwyzer not being able to see the similarities in the dynamics of those opposing interracial relationships and those opposing student professor relationships, I suggest that he is suffering from a form of cultural blindness.  I suggest that he read Lillian Smith’s book KILLERS OF THE DREAM and then he may understand the southern “ethic” that embraced the notion that a white woman/black man relationship can never be consensual, such always precluded consent, that such always represented rape, and that white men were protective of “their” white women who could not consent for themselves and were in essence children or childlike. Of course, any dissident black man faced a sentence of death via hanging and/or burning for the sin of loving the wrong person.  Of course, today’s sexual dissidents who engage in academia’s love that dare not speak its name do not face being physically killed but rather being socially and psychologically exiled from academia since they have violated the sacred principle of “differential power precludes consent”.  Safer for them to remain in the closet which has historically been the home of the sexually persecuted or those in support of the sexually persecuted.

In response to me, Schwyzer states-

I’m not incapable of drawing distinctions between behavior which is criminal and behavior which is merely unethical. But I also think that folks like Dank fail to recognize three things:

1. College students in their late teens and early twenties are still developing intellectually and emotionally, as this New York Times Magazine article made clear recently. Many young people are in a space between, as the old saying goes, “the Already and the Not Yet.” They are already legal adults and are in many ways fully responsible, but in other key ways continue to need more time to develop the complete capacity for impulse control and moral reasoning. As the Times article put it, the only ones who “got it right” about how long it takes young people to grow up are the car-rental companies, who often refuse to rent their vehicles to drivers under the age of twenty-five. While nineteen year-olds may be ready for sexual relationships with their peers, they are vulnerable to exploitation (whatever protestations may be made to the contrary) by those who are substantially older.

Schwyzer continues to focus on students as young people, apparently teens or just post teenager.  Such reflects Schwyzer’s hangups or possibly his complete immersion in the world of PCC.  To assume that university students are young and immature is absurd.

To assume that being young reflects immaturity is absurd.  To assume that being old reflects maturity is absurd.  To assume nothing and treat and respect the individuality of the other is not absurd. Such reflects in Buberian terms the willingness to employ an I-thou framework.  Schwyzer employs an I-it framework which makes coercing others so much easier.

Then comes his point 2-

2. The power imbalance between a professor and a student, regardless of the latter’s age, makes it impossible for the student to give consent as long as the professor is in a position to evaluate (or recommend) him or her. You can’t trust a “yes” unless the person who says the “yes” also feels free to say “no” in the confidence that there will be no deleterious consequences. And as long as a student is in any position to be evaluated professionally by their professor/lover, they can’t have that knowledge that a “no” will be safe. That’s not infantilizing; that’s common sense.

Here he states it really is not about age, but about power imbalance in general. He holds it axiomatic that students cannot give consent (such assumes of course that the student is not the initiator and the professor is the one consenting).  Such represents the end point of his argument- students cannot consent so we will not allow the student to be in such a position. What he fails to note is that now he and his chosen colleagues are now in the power position and they have taken away the ability to consent of both students and professors. Both students and professors must consent to the will of the all powerful bureaucrat.  Schwyzer and his confereres end up calling for what all authoritarians call for- OBEDIENCE, obedience to them.  And as for his comments about possible deleterious consequences, freedom always represents the possibility of deleterious consequences; lack of freedom always represents the reality of deleterious consequences.

And now to his third point-

3. The damage that professor-student sexual relationships do to the broader academic community is enormous. I’ve written that some of the students with whom I had sexual relationships remembered what we shared fondly; otherssuffered lasting negative consequences for which I take full responsibility and a profound sense of guilt. But leaving aside the essential question of the impact of these relationships on young women’s lives, I can say with certainty that these affairs are impossible to keep secret. Campus gossip made them widely known. Not only was I labeled a lecher, but the legitimacy of the entire college was in some sense compromised. I’ll never know how many young people grew a bit more cynical, a bit less trustful of the system, a bit more suspicious of older men as a result of my sadly well-deserved reputation in the mid-to-late 1990s on this campus.

Is Schwyzer referring to PCC here being damaged in some way by his relationships with young women?  I speculate that he is projecting his own sense of damage and guilt on to the wider academic community.  He is seeing his campus world thru his guilt tinged lenses.  He ends up dealing with his guilt by coercing others to be “better” than he was; he ends up being an authoritarian do-gooder.  And as for campus gossip, my advice to him is to just get beyond the rumor mongers; do what you consider to be right and don’t focus on the opinions of others.  And, of course, it will often be the case that no matter what one does, one can end up becoming rumor subject matter.

As for recommended pieces regarding this issue, he neglects the most powerful published essay written by then graduate student Cristina Nehring. You can find it on my blog, of course.  I can’t reprint the whole article, but I have reprinted enough to capture the essence of her argument, and do read the recent student comments on this posting.  Of course, you can read a couple of my pieces by clicking here and here as well as reading SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND CONSENT which I co-edited. Daphne Patai’s book although somewhat tangential gives a pretty good portrait of how campuses are becoming less free. And, of course, anything written by Dick Skeen, material based on his doctoral dissertation, should be required reading.

And I bemoan the loss of community on too many campuses.  The implementation of these fraternization rules make informal interaction between students and professors problematic.  Fear too often now structures student professor interaction; fear that there may be a sexual imputation.  Schwyzer never mentions this; never mentions that many campus regulations prohibit both sexual OR amorous relationships.  On a personal note, I became a professor already a part of academic life since I had married a professor’s daughter and took for granted the camaraderie, the informality that was a part of the community of learners, no matter what the age.  It’s basically gone now; replaced by an impersonal bureaucracy, paid bureaucrats making sure things are under control which de facto means keeping things in the closet.

I also want to make clear that I do not condemn or disrespect Schwyzer for his attempt to come to terms with his past sexuality.  His guilt feelings I do not doubt are real; his need for redemption is real. What I question that in his need for redemption or expiation he ends up advocating the coercing of others for engaging in consensual sex he disapproves of.  In the dankprofessor’s framework he commits the sin of coercion which represents his own unacknowledged arrogance.

September 30, 2010 Posted by | consensual relationships, Daphne Patai, ethics, fear, fraternization, gay rights, higher education, Pasadena City College, sex, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating | 25 Comments

Dining out as risky behavior

Thank you very much for taking the on-line sexual harassment training program that was recently offered by the University.  Preventing sexual harassment on campus is the responsibility of all of us.  I greatly appreciate your participation.

One concern has been raised regarding the training program.  The specific scenario of concern involved a faculty member taking a student to dinner on a weekend.  The program indicated that this conduct was not, in and of itself, sexual harassment.

The University wants to make clear that while this might not be sexual harassment in the absence of other facts, it is not good practice to engage in this type of activity with students as it can clearly lead to charges of sexual harassment.  Of course, University policy forbids any faculty member from having a dating relationship with any student with whom he or she has a teaching, research or advisor relationship.

 I am not sure what university issued the above statement. Link is provided so those who are familiar with the script may be able to determine which university.

 Of course, the absurdity is apparent.  The dankprofessor notes that it is not clear that having dinner with a student can lead to harassment.  The risk of food poisoning, of indigestion, of soup slurping would seem to be higher risk behaviors.  In any case, if one is interested in having a better understanding of this scenario maybe the scenario should be fleshed out a bit, such as the dinner being in celebration of the student graduating, or of the student being accepted into a graduate program or a gesture in helping the student deal with a death in her family.  Or maybe a result of a mutual attraction which could lead to a dating relationship and to marriage and to parentage and to divorce.

But as noted by the higher authority- “Of course, University policy forbids any faculty member from having a dating relationship with any student with whom he or she has a teaching, research or advisor relationship.”

 But if one really attempted to live by these rules one could end up being normal and engaging in everyday worship of the God of Normal and, of course, engaging in appropriate dining behavior

February 18, 2010 Posted by | consensual relationships, fear, higher education, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics | 1 Comment

Otero University and student professor sex

As has been clearly demonstrated over the last few days, violence is no stranger to university campuses. Although it is more frequently violence by students toward other students and toward faculty, faculty to faculty violence is not unknown as was clearly demonstrated at the University of Alabama at Huntsville. We also find there to be faculty violence toward students as recently occurred at Otago University in New Zealand where student Sophie Elliot was murdered by lecturer Clayton Weathersome.

What makes the Otago U tragic murder different is that some people have come up with a way to prevent such violence.  They say the  way to do this is to have stringent measures taken against faculty who become sexually involved with a student. You see the Elliot/Weathersome affair and then murder was a student/prof affair.

Otago University has under taken a review of rules on staff-student romances, a review which was sparked by the brutal murder.  Persons, both inside and outside of the university, have been encouraged to make submissions on the issue. Elliott’s mother Lesley said she wanted vulnerable students who entered into relationships with university academics to be supervised and counseled, and for the academics involved to immediately resign.

The reaction of  the mother of the murdered student is understandable, but unfortunately all too often emotion carries the day when it comes to draconian measures enacted in the attempt to control violence, particularly sexual violence.

To view student professor intimate relationships as somehow intrinsically fostering violence is outrageous.  99.999 percent of such relationships do not lead to lethal violence.  If one was going to focus on relationships that are more likely to lead to violence and lethal violence, such would be student/student relationships.  And, of course, when it comes to campus violence and violence in general, alcohol consumption should be a major area of concern.

The mother stated-

“I feel something should be in the employment contract of staff to the effect that if a relationship develops, they are obliged to resign. We think this policy also needs to be highlighted to students… If students knew a person would have to resign, they may have second thoughts about going out with staff.”

Now it is this last line that irks the dankprofessor.  No student should have second thoughts about going out with a staff member because of this one tragic case.  And, of course, if this sort of thinking is taken seriously, then any person, student or non-student, would have concerns about going out with a lecturer because of the violence implication.

Now I know that some will say I am overreacting to the ramblings of a distraught mother.  Unfortunately, such is often how universities end up imposing stringent controls on student professor relationships.  People become distraught and want immediate action, and universities respond by not dealing with violence or coercion or sexual harassment but rather by demeaning those who are involved in consensual relationships.

Let us hope that Otago University does not go in the aforementioned direction.  What student professor couples want is what most other couples want and that is to be left alone as they pursue their mutual romantic goals.  To consider these couples as sort of criminal couples is not only absurd but is also criminal.

February 15, 2010 Posted by | consensual relationships, fear, fraternization, higher education, Otero University, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating, violence | 2 Comments

Anti-sexual zealotry at Yale

The witch hunt for sexual deviants is just beginning at Yale.  As reported in the Yale Daily News, the Women Faculty Forum wants to employ the new consensual relationships policy as a launch pad for a more encompassing sexual control policy.

In its report, the Women Faculty Forum also recommended that new, University-wide policies against sexual misconduct replace existing policies, which vary across Yale College, the Graduate School and the professional schools. They also want Yale to shift its focus from sexual harassment to the broader issue of sexual misconduct — an umbrella term that applies to both sexual harassment and assault, and includes other sexually motivated behaviors intended to intimidate or threaten.

The Women Faculty Forum also called for the creation of a centralized sexual misconduct grievance board to administer the new policy and address complaints from undergraduates, graduate and professional students, faculty and staff alike. Currently, complaints are evaluated by four different grievance boards across the University.

“We don’t think there’s a lot of additional study necessary in terms of outside research,” Woman Faculty Forum report co-author and School of Management professor Connie Bagley said. “I hope the group is serious about the issues and willing to roll up their sleeves, dig into the [Women Faculty Forum] report and policy and just get this done.”

Miller said the University’s quick response to the report’s demand for a review committee and new policy on student-faculty relationships signals a “recommitment” to preventing sexual harassment and sexual misconduct.

“The administrators we’ve been working with agree that sexual misconduct has no place at Yale,” Bagley said last month. “They’re serious about trying to take additional steps to eliminate it.”

Both Bagley and Priya Natarajan, a professor of astronomy and physics and a co-chair of the committee that authored the report, said they are pleased with the University’s response to the Women Faculty Forum report so far, but added that this is just the beginning of the process. The new committee must act quickly and decisively and follow the policy changes outlined in the report, Bagley said.

The report came from over a year of research, writing and consultation with faculty and administrators, most of whom supported the group’s proposed policies, Bagley said. Members of the committee responsible for the report worked with the General Counsel’s Office to ensure that the policy changes offered in the report were legally feasible.

The Women Faculty Forum began work on its report on sexual misconduct in fall 2008, after several pledges to the fraternity Zeta Psi posed for pictures outside the Women’s Center with signs that read “We Love Yale Sluts” and 100 medical students wrote a letter to School of Medicine administrators in December 2007 expressing concern over the prevalence of sexual harassment at the school, according to the report. The Women Faculty Forum’s goal in writing the report was to help administrators to develop a workable, University-wide anti-sexual misconduct policy, Bagley said.

The dankprofessor finds it breathtaking that the report promulgates a policy of eliminating all sexual misconduct at Yale while at the same time insuring that the policies are legally “feasible”.   Eliminating/eradicating sexual misconduct is simply not compatible with law that recognizes due process and civil liberties.  Such elimination can occur but only in an authoritarian state ruled by sexual zealots.  Of course, “elimination” should be in quotes since so-called sexual misconduct is never completely eliminated.  The anti-sexual zealots know this and know that their work is never completed; vigilance is always necessary in their world view.

What this and other similar policies also foment is the use of informants, third party informants who will report on sexual dissidents.  Based on reports to me from distraught students and profs, the usage of informants is commonplace in  American universities.  Getting a handle on this situation is difficult since the identity of such informants is kept secret by university authorities.  In fact, most often the entire proceeding against sexual dissidents is of a secretive nature.  What makes the Yale policy even more fertile for the fomenting of informants is the usage of the nebulous term “amorous relationships”.  So if the behavior is perceived as not sexual but amorous such is enough to initiate the charges.

But one may ask who would be prone to become informants at Yale or any other university?  The prone would be distraught or jealous students or faculty.  A student who believes that she or he was unfairly given a poor grade may come forward with a false charge knowing that ones identity is protected and knowing in some cases that there are no rules regarding false charges.  Or one may be jealous of a fellow student or fellow faculty member or one may be a distraught ex-boyfriend.  The list can go on and on.

The world of Yale is no different than the worlds beyond the walls of ivy.  The small minded are everywhere.  The paranoid are everywhere.  The sexual zealots are everywhere.  The question is whether they will be allowed to takeover Yale and recreate Yale in their image.

For my prior posting on the Zeta Psi fraternity controversy, click here.

The dankprofessor will also be reporting on prior incidents of sexual hysteria at Yale and on a faculty member who was subjected to said hysteria.

December 15, 2009 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, fear, higher education, sex, sexual harassment, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating, Uncategorized, Yale University | 2 Comments

Hofstra student rape accuser becomes the accused

The Hofstra student who charged that she was the victim of a group rape on campus is now reported to have completely recanted her story.  Hofstra has apparently suspended her as a student and she faces criminal charges.  Those she charged as rapists have been released from jail.

The dankprofessor takes note of this in the context of an East Georgia College prof who was suspended after he protested that his university had no section in their university’s sexual harassment policy regarding false sexual  harassment charges.

The dankprofessor had hoped that after the Duke university false rape charges against the lacrosse team members that more university faculty and students and administrators would be less prone to jump to conclusions and really embrace notion of the presumption of innocence in relation  to alleged criminals, including those accused of rape. 

I guess that such hopes unfortunately represent a form of pipe dreaming.

September 18, 2009 Posted by | consensual relationships, Duke University, East Georgia College, false rape charges, fear, higher education, Hofstra University, rape, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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

   

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