Male Professors Who Want Adoring Female Students

News and views from academia.
Oct. 31 2013 11:24 AM

Wanted: Adoring Female Students

Do male professors need and seek out attention from their female students?

Young women sitting on a college campus lawn
Some male professors make you wonder if they're more interested in teaching their subject or appearing cool to young ladies.

Photo by Thinkstock

This article originally appeared in Inside Higher Ed.

The intellectual and physical seduction of young female students by older, male professors—usually in the humanities, and in the throes of midlife crises—is so common in movies and books that it’s become a cliché.

But a recent Twitter thread started by a popular feminist blogger examines a dark side of that cliché in real-life academe, one in which professors’ advances—intellectual and otherwise—feed a need for validation and flattery, and at times cross the line into sexual harassment.

Advertisement

“Please share with me all your stories of the male professors you had in college who thrived upon and demanded female admiration to function,” Mallory Ortberg, editor of the website the Toast, tweeted. She soon followed up with a humor piece imagining a conversation between two male professors bemoaning diminishing adulation from the new generation of female pupils.

“Just yesterday, in one of my intro classes, I used the word ‘problematic’ in a sentence—real casual, just to let them know I’m one of the good guys—and not one of them stayed after the lecture to ask me just what I meant by that or to see if they could borrow the conspicuously dog-eared copy of Pedagogy of the Oppressed I like to leave on my desk in case any female students want to borrow it,” one imaginary professor says.

He continues, later, after some bottle-passing: “That copy has my phone number in it. You know, the old ‘write your phone number on the front page of a copy you lend to female students only under the “IF LOST PLEASE RETURN TO” bubble’ gag?”

Almost immediately after her original tweet, Ortberg’s Twitter followers began to respond with their experiences with such professors, some humorous and others less so. A sampling:

@hallleloujah: “had one who called everything sexy in a weirdly drawn out, British way. Also started a rumor he was undercover for CIA (he wasn't).”

@kitalita: “one kept conveniently ‘forgetting’ my graded assignments in his office and specifically told me he was divorced (he wasn't).”

@AmyRosary: “Let's talk about the English department chair I got fired for harassing EACH AND EVERY female English major. He liked to insist [continued in a separate tweet] upon meeting girls in his office and serenading them with Bob Dylan covers with the door closed, or ‘accidentally’ putting on porn.”

@kellieherson: “Providing a validation space for those men is the only reason university administrators allow the humanities to continue to exist.”

Another follower cited a proclivity for flirting among her theater professors, one of whom bragged about once trying to meet women with actor Pat Morita. One said her professor had emailed her to tell her that not doing her homework was “not sexy”; yet another fended off a request for her to model for a professor who said he was an amateur photographer.

Jaya Saxena, a web editor for the New-York Historical Society and writer who studied English and political science at Tulane University, said: “Lots of [him] inviting classes to his house for pizza and making sure to corner the girls and talk about his art collection.” That professor also once hit on her in a bar, she posted.

In an email, Saxena said she enjoyed close relationships with several of her professors, and that in New Orleans, seeing faculty members out at a bar was not outside the norm. But the “line gets drawn when you're throwing your arms around your students and drunkenly saying they look hot when they dance!”

Saxena said she never took classes from the professor mentioned, and therefore felt less intimidated than awkward following the incident.

That wasn’t the case for Tamara Johnson, who tweeted about an English professor who told her as an undergraduate that “female students were like fishing lures, drawing male instructors into deep waters.”  He also made inappropriate remarks about rape, vaguely in relation to a lecture, soon after, she said—making her feel highly uncomfortable.

Johnson, who has her Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from San Diego State, said she saw male professors seeking sexual attention from their female students as the rule, not the exception. Saxena, by contrast, said there were several “attractive” male professors in her department who reacted to the attention from students in different ways. And while male professors did seem to bask more in that attention than did female professors, she said, “I never saw the ‘attention-needing male professor’ as a rule.”

TODAY IN SLATE

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

Where Ebola Lives Between Outbreaks

Gunman Killed Inside Canadian Parliament; Soldier Shot at National Monument Dies

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Paul Farmer: Up to 90 Percent of Ebola Patients Should Survive

Is he right?

Science

“I’m Not a Scientist” Is No Excuse

Politicians brag about their ignorance while making ignorant decisions.

Politics

The Right to Run

If you can vote, you should be able to run for public office—any office.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea 

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 22 2014 6:30 PM The Tragedies That Have Shaped Canada's Gun Politics
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Gentleman Scholar
Oct. 22 2014 5:54 PM May I Offer to Sharpen My Friends’ Knives? Or would that be rude?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 22 2014 4:10 PM Skinny Mark Wahlberg Goes for an Oscar: The First Trailer for The Gambler
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.