When I first got to my undergraduate program, I was hit on by a married grad student that I did not desire. Every time I looked up from my desk, I would find him checking me out. During office hours, he would do things like seductively invade my personal space while staring at my lips and slowly licking his own. This behavior displaced any academics altogether. At one point, when we were in a hallway together, two male grad students went by and laughed when they saw us. One said, “At it again, L?” So, his behavior was not a secret and yet he was still hired for TA work. That’s sad. But what really frightened me is the fact that L wasn’t reading my social cues very well. For instance, all gentlemen retreat when I unnecessarily weasel the words, “my toddler” and “my husband” into the conversation. L did not. In fact, his response to these cues involved a phallic demonstration that I’d never seen before featuring a blue whiteboard marker. My husband asked me to stop attending L’s discussion section and office hours, which I did. My final grade was low so I asked L for a copy of my final exam. The commentary that he gave me on the final paper had a hostile tone and it was sent with a second attachment that turned out to be a spyware program.
The following quarter, L took the same class as me and sat behind me daily to harass me, regardless of where I sat. He pointed at me and said that “that thing” smelled, was irrelevant, and didn’t belong in the field because it wasn’t White. His main focus was my sexual undesirability. To be clear, this was not hazing. It wasn’t even racism. This was obsessive retaliation for sexual rejection. Women should be able to politely decline flirtation without being harassed for three months. Things worsened as it became clear that the class professor, “Friend” and I shared an intense sexual attraction. My husband of ten years, to whom I tell everything, was not concerned. However, the attraction infuriated L and, the more I tried to hide it, the more vicious his comments in class became. He began lurking around when I’d go to Friend’s office hours. I felt physically afraid of him and had trouble sleeping. L then tried to arrange to be the one to grade me, despite not being my TA. Wisely, the gods saved L from himself and denied the bizarre grading proposal. Later, he sidled up to me as I tried to outrun him down the hall. He explained that grad school sure beats having to work in the workforce. And, I’m sure that it does. Outside of academia, sexual harassment is both illegal and illicit.