Doesn’t everyone sexualise their students?

Posted: December 9, 2010 by Jender in objectifying women

One of my male colleagues made the comment that he got “distracted” during class if one of his female students wore clothing that was sexy or revealing. This was not “distracted” in the sense that he would notice that her clothing was inappropriate in some way or that she was overdressed, but rather that he found himself sexually stimulated and unable to concentrate on teaching.

I told him that I had never experienced this and he was amazed! He asked: “You mean to tell me you wouldn’t be distracted if one of your hot male students came to class shirtless?” My answer was no, because I don’t see my students as targets for sexual desire. I do not feel attracted to them because (I reasoned) it is totally inappropriate for me to see them that way. The response from my male colleagues was that it was fine (and in fact impossible for them not to!) for them to have sexual thoughts about their students as long as they never acted on it. They reacted to my experience with utter disbelief, as though I had some magical power to turn off my libido any time I wanted to.

I have encountered this mindset in graduate school and in my professional life. It horrifies me to think that any of my professors were secretly ogling me as an undergraduate. If female undergraduates are fair game for (imagined) sexual conquest, what about graduate students or colleagues? When do we just get to be philosophers?

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