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A Response to “Erotic Pedagogy”

by February 23, 2012
filed under Life

Editor’s note: The following response was written by a  Grant MacEwan University student, but who is not personally affected by the paper due to visiting a separate campus. Click here for more information regarding the paper.

I <3 My ProfessorWhen an instructor teaches a class, we assume they are there because they know the material, can impart knowledge and utilize that information to their students. We do not assume the instructors are there to obtain sexual gratification and to establish a sexual relationship with them.

In a recently published paper, Fraser, a professor in Grant MacEwan’s Bachelor of Applied Communications in Professional Writing program, and Garvin, a student in his class, espouse the concept of “erotic pedagogy,” claiming that no legitimate learning environment is possible without it. The authors state that, in their views, erotic pedagogy is about breaking down hierarchical power dynamics, allowing for an intensified desire to both learn and teach. They stress that “sexuality emboldens students to challenge knowledge, and the professor to reciprocate and build on this intellectual growth. Indeed, we argue that it is only through the erotic that the power gap between professor and student can be overcome.”

Bullshit. As the saying goes, if your product was any good, you wouldn’t need sex to sell it. Socrates is widely regarded as one of the most effective teachers of all time – and as far as anyone has been able to discover, he wasn’t sleeping with any of his students.

It’s also of note that, despite their assertions that erotic pedagogy is the only effective method of instruction, the authors were extremely careful to finish all of their academic associations with one another before pursuing an intimate relationship. Clearly, despite the high-flown, “strictly academic” rhetoric about improving the nature of student-teacher interactions, the instructor was aware that a line was being crossed. The odd part is that he seems to glory in it.

This isn’t a professor who genuinely wants to provide the best experience in class for his students; this is the voice of a vain, narcissistic man who, feeling past his prime, discovers that adoration is a great antidote to his ennui. Were his desires to teach and expand the knowledge of his students at the forefront, he would not have ignored the rest of his class in favour of tending to the student that he just happened to want to have a relationship with. Further, his idea that the rest of the students were going to benefit merely from watching them discussing the material smacks of pretentiousness: He honestly seems to believe that the two of them were so advanced that the rest of the class had no hope of taking part. This is not avant-garde, ground-breaking methodology; this is grossly self-indulgent, self-centred behaviour that seeks to excuse its dismissal of others.

Garvin herself states that she was provided special treatment, being driven along a “higher track” than her classmates. Well, fine – but the duty of an instructor is to teach all of their students, not just to cater to the ones they want to sleep with. A good instructor’s duty is to push their entire class to a higher level, to make them go one step beyond their abilities and to challenge them by encouraging better efforts. It’s a poor excuse for a teacher who has to resort to feeling turned on by his students to provide them with attention.

Finally, the way that the paper concludes that “both authors are eagerly anticipating our next opportunity to so deeply engage a student or professor,” this does not come off as daring, edgy or even interesting. It smacks of pseudo-intellectualization of the desire to sleep with people who either have authority over one or who are under one’s authority. There is no reason on the planet that receiving a stellar education and benefiting from first-rate instruction on a subject should come with the assumption that such can only take place when sex is part of the equation. After all, kids in elementary, junior and senior high – not to mention many other post-secondary students – are learning just fine. If Fraser found it impossible to teach students with whom he had no desire to have sex with, that merely indicates his shortcomings as an instructor.

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