Wedding Woes

Holy conundrum

Dear Prudence,
I am a relatively young, male, and not-yet-tenured professor at a university. My department is overwhelmingly older (55-plus), white, and male. Several of the senior professors in my department, including the chair, have attitudes toward women that are downright sexist. On a number of occasions I have heard these faculty members make comments about the physical appearance of young women that are inappropriate and creepy. However, recently a female student confessed to me something that truly disturbs me. She said that two of the senior faculty, one of whom is the chair of my department, pays her for sex. She said she does not want to tell anyone else, partly for fear of getting in trouble because prostitution is illegal, but also because the two professors are essentially paying her college tuition in exchange for her services. I feel this is an extreme ethical violation, and judging by the character of the two professors probably only the tip of the iceberg. But I am at a severe power disadvantage in this situation. My boss can easily fire me. The dean and provost at my university are also member of this misogynistic “old boys’ club” and I don’t feel I can trust them. If the student refuses to testify, then the perpetrators can simply deny it and no one would believe me. What should I do?

—Ethical Dilemma

Re: Holy conundrum

  • Academia fucking sucks. NFT.
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  • I went to a prestigious southern university where, about 100 years ago, the "boys college" merged with the "girls college" to form the current "university." There were definitely a number of older male professors who thought the two schools should never have merged, that girls have no place studying in college, that they're only there to find a well-to-do husband, that they should be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, etc, etc, etc. 

    While I never encountered something like "Ethical Dilemna," I did have one tenured professor that borderline verbally abused the girls in class, put us down, insulted us, made us cry, seemingly had no patience with us, then sucked up/ass-kissed with the patience of a saint with the male students. I don't believe that he would actually "tamper" with grades due to his bigotry; he just was open that he disagreed that girls were considered equal to the boys...

    There was one girl in another major who publicly called out one of her professors and tried to press charges for harassment, and "they" put pressure on her/"blacklisted" her so much that she ended up dropping the charges and transferring schools.

    I would agree with the hidden voice recorders. Or blackmailing them. Blackmailing seems like it could be fun. ;)
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  • Academia does fucking suck.

    However, I think there is some information that might be missing.  I see nothing wrong with legitimate sex work.  I don't know if this woman really has any "fears" whatsoever or if this person writing does has an issue with legitimate sex work.  There are some assumptions that come into play with a story like that and assumptions aren't always true.

    I'm not excusing any of the other behavior.
  • VarunaTT said:
    Academia does fucking suck.

    However, I think there is some information that might be missing.  I see nothing wrong with legitimate sex work.  I don't know if this woman really has any "fears" whatsoever or if this person writing does has an issue with legitimate sex work.  There are some assumptions that come into play with a story like that and assumptions aren't always true.

    I'm not excusing any of the other behavior.
    Regardless of your feelings on sex work, it's highly inappropriate if these faculty are her professors or advisors.  There is an unequal power relationship at play here that puts her in a very problematic situation.  

    We had to go to a whole seminar on this stuff when I was in grad school.  Romantic relationships, even consensual non-paid ones, can't be allowed between two people in different positions of power at universities.

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  • VarunaTTVarunaTT member
    Knottie Warrior 10000 Comments 500 Love Its First Answer
    edited June 2014
    I disagree. Normal society can think what it likes, but what if she were a sex worker before, then they came into the picture? That's why I think details are missing that are actually relevant and important to this particular story. Inasmuch as any story that involves sex work tends to be complicated. If she was a student, that was approached for sex work, that is wrong, yes.

    ETA:  I'm completely willing to think this man wants to save the female from sex work. B/c that story is not unusual.  Does she want to be saved?  Where does his feelings work into this at all?  You don't know the actual answer to that w/o more details.  I was friends who a woman who stripped through college and ran into her professors (male and female) while doing so.  Some profs walked out on her, some paid, some asked for someone different, it all depends on the person and their understanding/comfort with sex work.

    Also, sex work is not a romantic relationship.  Period.  I'm not going to guide you to various sex workers blogs, but they are adamant about this is not romance...this is a job.  You might be faking a relationship for the paying partner's happiness, but romance is a laden word with assumptions, expectations, and feelings.  Sex work is not and they do not feel that way.
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