I’ve been out of college for a while, but I’m guessing that students today who bed their professors are still averse to spreading that news beyond a small inner circle.
Boni Mata, sex columnist for The Daily Californian, shows no such restraint.
Or any awareness that the University of California-Berkeley student could probably end her onetime paramour’s career, even without intending to, simply by writing about him in sufficient detail, like a Fabio-decorated supermarket paperback.
Her attitude is a good primer on the double standard at the heart of radical campus feminism, and it boils down to “have your cake and eat it too.”
‘Enough schoolgirl fantasies … to make a feature-length porno’
Mata’s Dec. 2 column, “So, I slept with my professor,” is a Dunham-esque celebration of sexual discovery shaded by her faux-wrestling with the cultural mores that legitimately rein in professor-student liaisons.
Like Dunham, Mata has been on a sexual tear – at least in her mind – from a young age:
I’d done my fair share of flirting with science teachers in middle school when I first uncovered my sexuality but still found teenage boys nasty. I’d had enough schoolgirl fantasies during second period to make a feature-length porno. Same thing in college: didn’t hear a word my professor said in my Shakespeare seminar, drooled through English classes without learning a thing. I wanted to fuck my sociology [graduate student instructor] with every fiber in my nether regions. I knew I was — how do you say — a “sapiosexual” from an early age, but the power-play of a student-teacher relationship became particularly appealing to me as well.
Then the faux-wrestling, in the context of a feminist professor accused of sexual harassment by two female grad students:
In attempting to justify her own sexual relationships with students, though, [feminist professor Jane] Gallop ignores the ultimately protective function of such policies.
The inherent power dynamics involved with any master-apprentice relationship are such that some erotic advances may only be accepted out of intimidation or fear of negative consequences to grades. People can hardly handle sex with peers, let alone with authority figures, so this impediment to “natural sexuality” is an obvious side effect of larger security measures against sexual harassment. In many ways, Gallop embodies a characteristically French sexuality that is unfortunately and impossibly lost in translation in the United States.
That French reference leads to our first caveat about the column: Like Lena Dunham’s autobiography, Mata is tellingly obfuscatory about where her own dalliance happened.
A continent’s worth of obfuscation
Mata’s column starts with a discussion about the nonchalance of professor-student sex in France (and specifically the Sorbonne), where Mata apparently lived for a while, but does not explicitly say whether her dalliance was in France, the Berkeley campus or somewhere else (her two enigmatic clues: “I’d come to class far past Berkeley time” and “I wrote him when I eventually left the country”).
Hence, if this happened in anything-goes France, perhaps Mata’s old professor isn’t in any danger. But if he’s at Berkeley, he may be identifiable.
Like Dunham’s just-specific-enough descriptions of her alleged rapist “Barry” – only belatedly acknowledged as a pseudonym – Mata calls her professor “statuesque … wearing a half-buttoned Oxford shirt and chalk-covered slacks,” apparently so attractive that “I nearly dropped my pants on the spot.”
In another supermarket-erotica passage where Mata’s back is “naked,” she says they “both looked out onto the street at the unfortunate passers-by who weren’t lovers like us.” A handful of other details emerge: they talked about Hegel and “love and death and literature,” the professor drove her home, and it sounds like he enjoys Bruce Springsteen.
None of these details alone is necessarily identifying. All of them together, however, can narrow down the range of professors at Berkeley who could be Mata’s mate.
How to lose a job in 10 days
One of my professors once shared a story about a female student coming into his office to talk about her sagging grades. Her clothes started sagging as she hinted at sexual bartering. He said he immediately dismissed her and went to the department chair to report this before she tried to set the narrative.
Let’s say this student, stung by her professor’s rejection, took liberties with their interaction and started telling people they had a sexual encounter, consensual or not. She could keep the details fuzzy in a halfhearted bid to make sure she didn’t ruin her professor’s career.
I have no doubt many students who know my professor would be able to identify him based on details no more individually revealing than Mata’s. Given my alma mater’s prohibition on faculty-student relationships, he’d be in deep shit even if she alleged the relationship was consensual. It would be her word versus his, and it’s not hard to guess which party the school is more likely to side with.
Mata is undoubtedly very positive about her sexual relationship with her professor:
Never once did I feel sexual pressure on his part; every one of our intimate encounters, I initiated. …
I never expected that a one-night stand with my professor would turn into something so spectacular. “Our bodies were made for each other,” he’d tell me. We could talk for hours and never sleep. …
“Making love” allowed us to integrate the erotic and the didactic into a single force that hit me like a ton of bricks.
But as part of the UC system, Berkeley has strong rules against faculty-student relationships. If he’s actually a professor there, this guy could be in serious trouble if anyone bothers to connect the dots.
So far we’ve only considered what happens if Mata does not want to harm her professor’s reputation – if she’s just sloppy in sharing too many details that can identify him. What if she wanted to ruin him, for whatever reason?
Six-figure payouts to make problems go away
Consider the situation faced by University of Colorado-Boulder professor Brad Monton, accused of violating the school’s “amorous relationship policy,” which only requires faculty to disclose relationships “in which one person supervises the other” and recuse themselves from grading or supervising that party.
It’s possible the school paid him $185,000 to resign – Monton had strong support from the American Association of University Professors – to preempt an even larger payout to students who made accusations against Monton.
The school had already paid out $825,000 to a female student who simply accused a different professor, David Barnett, of “retaliating” against her – by investigating how CU-Boulder rushed to side with her against a male doctoral student she accused of sexual assault. It’s trying to fire Barnett, who’s now suing the school for defamation.
These aren’t even professors accused of engaging in an illicit relationship with students, and CU-Boulder is doing all it can to get rid of them.
If the sexually adventurous Boni Mata wanted to ruin her paramour’s career and reputation – someone she casually admits “was in charge of my grades” as they continued a sexual relationship – she wouldn’t have to do much.
Maybe just talk about their relationship with her friends, who might be horrified enough to tell a school official, who would then make her paramour’s life a living hell.
Mata herself would be highly unlikely to suffer any consequences. She could sue the school under the lax standards the Department of Education is promoting. She’s the victim of someone in a position of authority, after all.
Even though she casually says she “initiated” every “intimate encounter” with him.
It’s the perfect con, Mata could tell ingenues: Seduce a professor who’s too stupid, or entranced by the “erotic and the didactic,” to realize that you can easily get rid of him whenever he displeases you, such as by going back to his wife.
She doesn’t say that, of course. Mata seems completely unaware that she was the one who actually held all the power in this illicit relationship. And she encourages her readers to take the same reckless view.
Greg Piper is an assistant editor at The College Fix. (@GregPiper)
IMAGE: The Life of David Gale/YouTube