Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Crushing student crushes

Hugo Schwyzer, a Pasadena City College professor, blogs on educational issues and at times on matters relating to student prof consenting sexual relationships.  He strongly disapproves of these relationships, and has expressed his strong disapproval of my writings on the subject.  He indicates in his last post and in his other posts on this subject that in the 1990s when he was single he engaged in a number of sexual relationships with students.  But now such relationships are in the past since presently he is married.  To a cynical  outsider, it may appear that Schwyzer engages in an ethic of convenience- when single it was OK for him to find partners who were students, but now that he is married he disapproves of such relationships.  Of course, such a cynical view also reflects a basic sociological tenet- ones attitudes change as a function of changes in ones social positions.

Schwyzer’s change in his attitudes and behavior in regards to student prof sex would have been of no importance to me except for the fact that he uses his past experience in part as a rationale for coercing students and professors in matters relating to their sexual behavior.  Schwyzer admits to having done the wrong thing when he slept with some of his students.

He feels guilt about the errors of his past ways.  Given his past wrongdoings, he wants to redeem himself.  He states:

“Part of my own redemptive work was to chair a committee to write a policy for Pasadena City College on consensual relationships, a policy that was not in place during the years in which I was conducting a series of these affairs.”

So in order for him to feel good about himself, he is willing to take away the rights of others to engage in mutual date/mate selection where the dyadic relationship is student/professor.

Or to make this matter more personal for me, he would have supported policies that would have barred my dating/mating with my wife to be in the 1990s.  Why? To relieve his sense of guilt.  To stop students from acting on their crushes for particular profs.  Crushes are his words.  Its always student crushes, never professor crushes; he sees profs as falling in love. Profs don’t have crushes since profs are not children.  For Schwyzer, students have crushes since students are de facto children.  They are not yet grownups who can experience a mature love.  Or translated- they have not yet graduated; once they graduate then they are adults. Reminds me of the old idea that a girl cannot become a woman, remains a girl or a child until she married.

Schwyzer states-

If we’re doing our job right, we have the power to change the way a student thinks about himself or herself. At our best, those of us who love to teach are practiced seducers, Casanovas of the classroom. But my agenda isn’t about sexual conquest, it’s about creating an interest and a passion where none previously existed. It’s about getting students to want something they didn’t know they wanted! Though some students may sexualize their crushes, what they really want is to continue to feel the way you make them feel: excited, energized, provoked, challenged.

The key is to remember that old mantra of youth workers everywhere: “affirm, and re-direct.” Though it is surely almost always best for a faculty member not to name out loud his or her responses to a student, it is the job of teachers to say to themselves: “These feelings I have are normal, and quite understandable, and not bad at all. But desire is not an irresistible predicate to action, and while I affirm that there may be ’something here’, I’m going to take the responsibility to re-direct all of that intoxicatiing intellectual/sexual energy on to the work itself.”

When a student has a crush on a teacher or mentor, it’s the job of that prof to “affirm and re-direct.” The affirmation doesn’t have to be as obvious as calling the student out on the crush, unless the student has already confessed it. The key is avoiding three “wrong” responses: shaming or belittling the student, withdrawing from one’s mentoring role, or engaging in amorous relations. Each of these responses represents a different sort of betrayal, and a sensible teacher ought to avoid them all…

Advise and redirect reminds me of the “advice” of the elders of bygone days- to go take a cold shower, to deal with your needs in a solitary manner.  Or going back a 100 years or so, children were coerced via having their hands forcibly tied at night.  Crushes were obliterated by crushing children and others who had sexual desires.  Oppression and repression were the traditional ways of dealing with those who deviated from sexual norms in an anti-sexual society.

And being anti-sexual is what Schwyer is ultimately “all about”.  He often dresses up his rhetoric in a garb of maturity, responsibility and self-control.  But his bottom line is the same as all the others who are at the core anti-sexual- coercion.

September 29, 2010 - Posted by | corporate dating bans, ethics, higher education, Pasadena City College, sex, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating


  1. You said it just nicely, Dank – & the same goes for any other relationship, be it a teen/adult liaison, no matter of which genders the mature teen or older partner. Suddenly from one second to the next the female (or boy for that matter) is an ‘adult’ when the age of consent clock strikes, just because the feminist blanket anti-sex laws say so and the adult is always the predator. Preposterous.

    Comment by Novalis Lore | September 29, 2010 | Reply

  2. Hi, Mr Dank! Have been a huge fan of your blog for a long time now, and I must say I feel this assessment is spot on…having also read quite a bit of Mr Schwyzer’s work, I have to say I feel he seems to be on somewhat of a personal quest concerning this topic…as if he’s a ˝born-again˝ zealot trying to atone for his ˝sins˝,so he’s is trying to fit everything into tidy little drawers in order to support this new lifestyle. But every situation is different, and there are students (and professors) of all shapes and sizes, of all ages (!) and levels of maturity…so forcing the students-as-children paradigm as he and many others do is quite questionable indeed. Perhaps by favourably comparing himself to these immature children incapable of making proper decisions, he is strengthening his own ˝rhetoric of maturity˝ (to paraphrase your post) and boosting his sense of self-worth, which is obviously still somewhat impaired by guilt over his past.

    Freedom for all to make their own decisions, I say…and once again praise to your lovely blog. I hope you will respond to Mr Schwyzer’s answer to this post, as this is an interesting discussion indeed.

    P.S- There is one thing I never really understood – many say that, in a prof-student relationship, a prof would become partial to his student/lover and this would influence his judgement, i.e. grades, which would in turn be unfair towards others. But how does that differ from him/her having a mere crush on a student, as he might give the equal preferential treatment (even more so, probably, as I’d imagine that, in a relationship, the two might discuss the issue more and come to an agreement of sorts about it), even though a relationship is not realised? What about other types of preferential treatment, like a prof being friends/relatives with someone or simply liking somebody more and thus being biased? I don’t understand why all the big fuss just because sex is in the question…but then again, everything obviously still seems to be a ˝big deal˝ and touchy when it involves sex, even in the 21st century, while many people continue to give themselves the (undeserved, I should say) right to preach whether two consenting adults ought to have sex or not.

    Comment by Cornelia | September 30, 2010 | Reply

  3. Great Response to Hugo Schwyzer, Dank Professor!
    I can actually agree with Professor Schwyzer, concerning HIS present married status precluding HIM from getting involved with female students now. However, this hardly gives him the right to dictate to unmarried professors & students to “do as I presently say, not as I formally did”!!
    I especially like the expression, “ethic of convenience” and the statement, “He often dresses up his rhetoric in a garb of maturity, responsibility, and self control”.
    That last one reminds me of priests who, when I was a kid, often taught the “evils” of heterosexual sex-even fantasies, outside marriage. Yet, as we now know, at least some of those priests were engaging in pedophile sex-what sorry hypocrites!!

    Comment by Donald Visconti | October 1, 2010 | Reply

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