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NYU lesbian philosopher accused of sexual harassment had past affair with … male teen?

The sordid tale of a New York University lesbian philosopher just became even more labyrinthine.

As reported by The College Fix, “superstar” academic Avital Ronell had been the subject of a Title IX investigation for sexually harassing a (gay) male grad student, and that student is now suing her for “sexually harassing, assaulting and stalking him” over a three-year period.

In an ironic #MeToo movement twist, fellow “superstar” professors automatically had jumped to Ronell’s defense, such as UC Berkeley’s Judith Butler. The right to due process was important again!

Now, Salon.com reports that when Ronell was in her 20s, she had an affair with a male teenager … and not just any teenager — the son of renowned French philosopher Jacques Derrida:

It’s well known that Ronell was a student and acolyte of Jacques Derrida, the biggest name in postwar French philosophy — and a notorious womanizer who would surely run afoul of #MeToo if he were teaching today. I can find no indication that she and Derrida were lovers, although that would surprise exactly nobody.

But their relationship takes on a different coloration in Benoît Peeters’ authoritative biography “Derrida,” which reports that Ronell began an affair with Derrida’s son Pierre while she was staying with the family for the Christmas holidays in 1979, when she was 27 and Pierre was 16. They moved in together the following year (after Pierre’s graduation from high school), living for a time in a Paris apartment borrowed from one of Derrida’s colleagues. Her relationship with Pierre, Ronell told Peeters, “was a way of becoming part of the family. … For me, those years in Paris correspond to a really lovely dream.”

That liaison may look slightly unsavory in the rear-view mirror, but it was not illegal and was only mildly unconventional at the time — the teenage boy’s love affair with an adult woman is a staple ingredient of French fiction. It reportedly made Derrida père pretty uncomfortable, which may have been the point. But I think we can agree that the whole thing would be deemed off limits today, whatever the genders of the people involved.

Ronell could have “learned early that sexual seduction of younger people could be a tool of power,” the report continues, and that if she “struck a blow for feminism, it may lie in the fact that she believed she was so awesome that the rules about how to behave with other human beings didn’t apply to her.”

The professor will be on unpaid leave from NYU for the upcoming school year.

Read the full article.

h/t Scott Greenfield

MORE: Male grad student sues female feminist NYU professor

MORE: Petition calls for resignation of prominent academic feminist

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