“I just assumed you slept with someone”

Posted: April 11, 2011 by Jender in sexual harassment, Why else....?

During your first round of story-gathering, I sent a story about my experiences as a graduate student in the 80s. In light of the discussion that is taking place in the blogs about the Lance et al Proposal of Shunning, I wanted to tell another story. (FYI Mark Lance is an old friend.)

Here’s the story:

For those who doubt the lingering effects of harassment or who think it might be difficult to ascertain who the serial harassers are, let me offer this. I spent three hellish years being harassed and finally driven out of a highly ranked department. Two years later I applied to another graduate program in the same institution, in the social sciences. After I submitted my application, I had a meeting with the department chair who said “Wow. You have some pretty decent academic credentials.” I answered with something like, “Um, you sound surprised?” He said, “Well, you were a graduate student in [that department] and you’re a woman… I’m sorry, I just assumed you slept with someone.”

Yeah. I didn’t enroll in that department either. The twenty-eight-year-old me didn’t have the strength or confidence to confront what I assumed would be a widespread presumption about my abilities. I gave up on an academic career.

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