Thursday, April 28, 2005

Don't stand so close to me

I've been meaning to comment on this recent article, but I see that new kid has already done so, and done so brilliantly. Since she incorporates much of the original article, especially the creepiest aspects of Professor Too-Close, you should probably click on over there before you read any farther here.


Our semester is drawing to a close, and my patience for and devotion to my students has waned rapidly this term. So I'm not really in a frame of mind where "too close" is much of a temptation. And frankly, for whatever reason, I don't often feel tempted, even a little, to get too close to my students. Don't get me wrong--I'm very fond of many of them. And one of the nice things about my t-t job is the knowledge that I might get to know the best of them a little better, since I can be around for at least a while.

For me, Sofka's situation raised questions similar to those New Kid raises--about how much we, as professors, should or can allow ourselves to want to be liked by our students. I agree with NK that in general, faculty need to get their social affirmation from other "adults," by which I mean from those not subordinated to us by education, experience, age, or the gradebook. I have colleagues who seem to aspire more to "friend" status than faculty status, and I find it disturbing. On the one hand, it robs the students (most of whom, at my school, are in fact traditionally college-aged and relatively sheltered) of the chance to have a friendly relationship with someone who is, even if only in status, their "superior." For me, one of the most difficult parts of my graduate career has been learning to interact intellectually and socially with my own mentors--to figure out how to be friendly, even to be friends, within the hierarchy of our academic relationships. A friendship with a mentor who accepts his or her role as someone older, wiser, more experienced is a tremendous thing for any young person.

I also don't think our students owe us the burden of their friendship. College is hard enough without having to feed the ego of your thirty-something physics prof by convincing him that he's still up on the current slang. I would have found it incredibly nerve-wracking to have a drink with a professor when I was an undergraduate--it would have entirely destroyed the pleasurable release that alcohol appeared to bring back when I was that age.

And as a colleague, I really, really resent those chummy prof types--the ones that are inevitably referred to as 'cool' by my students--the ones who are always having coffee, or beers, or going to movies with our students. Even when there's nothing remotely sexual going on (although I would argue that those erotic tensions are always present), I think certain kinds and degrees of socializing risk cheapening the intellectual quality of the student-faculty relationship. And I firmly believe that it's part of the professor's responsibility to maintain carefully that intellectual friendship. I'm not a prude by any means--I enjoy time with my students outside of class. But it is always my job to make sure that those meetings are not about my need--for attention, adulation, confirmation, admiration--but about theirs. I'm not saying there isn't room for genuine reciprocity. I am suggesting that it is very difficult to establish that kind of reciprocity across the gulf in experience (and usually age), and that we have a duty not to mistake a student's desire for attention, or for guidance, with our own need to feel sexually or intellectually attractive.

In practice, too, my overly "friends-y" colleagues damage the relationships the rest of us have with students. Students already have trouble making the adjustment from the evaluative consumer (this sucks because I'm not interested in it; I'm not interested in it because it is not easily and directly applicable to my immediate needs) to engaged thinker. Having a professor who makes casual conversation and personal interaction the center of his or her pedagogy just makes it harder for the rest of us to convince those students that we are not their mothers, babysitters, or pals. The great revolution in student empowerment, while all but inarguable in theory, has in practice effectively diminished professorial authority almost beyond redemption. I don't think we need to be unfriendly hardasses to our students. But I also don't think we need to serve as yet another realm of mere friends--from whom they can expect blanket support and approval. In some ways, I think my calling as a teacher is higher than that. While I am eager to befriend my students, I think that I serve them better by offering them my challenge, my criticism, and my respect.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The blues

The fabulous Dr. B. has the blues. I use the term not to diminish the real suffering she's feeling, but to pay my own little tribute to the creativity that springs therefrom. The blues are what you get when you make art out of pain; she does the same thing with her blog. The blues, at their best, also tap into a sort of deep, collective human mournfulness, a kind of shared universe of pain. There's something about the academic (and friends) blogging circle that, at its best, echoes that communality. I don't want to overstate my case. But it seems to me that the kind of intimacy and immediacy associated with the blues might also describe the best of blogging. So hop on over to her blog and share the love.

Like so many of my fellow academics and grad-school colleagues, I've had my own struggles with depression. My husband and I often joke that Zoloft is what makes our marriage work; that's a bit of an overstatement, but I don't think we could have gotten married, or made it through some horrific patches in the past few years, without it.

Dr. B raises the point that depression is perhaps "socially constructed." A similar argument appeared in the NYTimes Magazine a couple of weeks back, where the author of Listening to Prozac discussed our cultural investment in depression as both a mark of genius and a test of one's superiority (i.e., alienation and despair demonstrate one's unfittedness for the humdrum world). He claims that many of his audiences resist the idea that depression is a disease, or that it should be fully clear, because they romanticize the intellectual and artistic potential associated with it. (The link to the article is here, but it costs money to access the full text--sorry).

I think his article raises some interesting points about how intellectuals relate to depression. On the one hand, it makes perfect sense to me that much of what we identify as depression is in fact a pretty logical, sane response to a fucked-up world in which our country is waging unprompted and trumped up wars, trampling on civil liberties, and apparently working hard to pretend the last 50 years (at least!) of social progress never happened. It's like those bumper stickers I see; the ones that say, "If you're not outraged, you haven't been paying attention." If you are a progressive, a feminist, a pacifist, a humanist, a thinker, an altruist--then it's impossible not to be depressed by the cultural "shift" (so they say) to national values that are not only foreign but hostile to one's own.

And it seems perfectly sensible to me, furthermore, to be highly suspicious of the current generous distribution of anti-depressants, and of the apparently endemic nature of depression. The bar is now set ridiculously low; almost anyone who complains of sadness and laziness can be issued a prescription for anti-depressants, often without any sort of complementary counseling that might allow them to address some of the cultural, personal issues that might catalyze or exacerbate depression.

But the fact that both of those positions seem eminently reasonable does not at all negate the amazing power these new drugs have. There's a genuine difference--although I'd be hard-pressed to define or identify it--between the frustration and sadness one logically feels at the world gone wrong and the enervated hopelessness that is perhaps best labeled "depression." It seems to me that part of the problem is semantic; calling this chemical imbalance "depression" maybe inadequately differentiates it from the more mundane, temporary situation expressed by "I feel depressed." I have days where I "feel depressed"--my students frustrate me, I fail to live up to my own expectations, little obstacles feel insurmountable. But even on those days, there's an undercurrent of health and stability that is entirely missing in "depression." For me, the key issue with depression was my absolute inability to envision that I would ever feel better. I lacked the energy even to imagine feeling better--let alone how I might arrange things in my life so that I could feel better. At that point, it makes no difference whether the depression is socially constructed or not--and right now, the thing that seems most effective in breaking the cycle is drugs. It may very well be that the rampant spread of depression has everything to do with social and historical causes--our lack of exercise, our toxic environment, the lack of meaningful social exchange, the death of god (just kidding, people), and our desire for a quick, individual fix for what are systemic issues. It could be that the depression, like the increase in types of cancer, is one more real sign that we are destroying ourselves as a species. It may also be true that, as Kramer's article suggests, depression is a disease of privilege brought on by an excess of thinking.

None of that, to my mind, justifies refusing the drugs that clear away the fog. With the drugs, with that choking dead weight lifted, you can find the energy to deal with the situational, cultural, and political things that depress you. Without the drugs, you risk becoming their victim.

Friday, April 22, 2005

A pleasant surprise

I took this quiz with trepidation, since my stressful life has eaten away at my youthful joie de vivre. Imagine my delight:

You Are 27 Years Old


Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view - and you look at the world with awe.

13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world.

20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.

30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!

40+: You are a mature adult. You've been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.

What Age Do You Act?

Someday, I will again have more coherent thoughts than mere links to other people's blogs (OPB) and goofy games--(thanks, ABDmom, for the diversion...)

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Oh happy day

Don'tcha just love it when stuff like this happens? (Courtesy of the eagle-eyed Dr. B, of course). It's good to be reminded that arch-conservatives are not the only ones capable of a wee bit of narrow-minded assumption.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Just because you're a woman...

Am I the only one making a connection between "the gay agenda"'s quest for world domination and the preponderance of advertising that provides waaaaay too much information about the opposite sex? I mean, clearly homosexuality is so appealing that many heterosexuals would rush right off and convert if they got wind of it. Otherwise, why worry so much about whether that homeroom 8th grade teacher is or isn't? Clearly the Cialis and Viagra ads, with their veiled threats of four-hour-plus painful erections are the work of some conspiratorial gay cabal, designed to send hetero women running for the hills at the thought of their menfolks frozen for days into priapic little pre-columbian figurines. It works for me. Two Viagra ads and a couple shots of Angelina Jolie in a damp tanktop, and I'm switchin' sides.

Does anyone but me remember that old tag line for feminine hygiene spray? It went something like this:

"Not just on heavy days...
"Not just between showers...
"But use it every day...
...Just because you're a woman"

And presumably, if you're a woman, your body is so unspeakably foul that you need to put the equivalent of a shot of deodorant on your genitalia...every day.

So in response to Dr. B's question, I'm the kind of feminist who doesn't think her own body is disgusting. And I don't want to be around anyone else who does.

This somewhat tasteless post is occasioned by two recent ad campaigns. The first features a woman in the 'feminine hygiene' aisle of a supermarket, asking women about the state of their pantyliners--the odor, sogginess, and general discomfort, the crowds of dogs trailing them and snuffling at their asses, the humiliation of the generally revolting condition of being female. She has, she claims, the cure for all that--a new kind of panty-liner! Just because you're a woman! This is the kind of thing that causes me to rise hysterically from my couch, slopping my gin and tonic with wild abandon as I shriek "Then change the goddam pad! More than once every three days!"

Yesterday, however, I chanced upon the Oxygen network (my husband calls it "Television for Victims"), which was running an ad for a new product by the makers of Monistat. Ladies, you all know Monistat. The ad features a woman in soft light, wearing a tennis-dress (huh? WTF?) and fondling her slim and shapely arm. "I'm a woman," she says, "And I have a woman's curves." ["A-men, sistah," I shout, holding my g & t aloft in her vague general direction. Finally, a celebration of us full-figure gals!] "But sometimes," she continues, "Those curves can cause chafing..."

Let me see if I have this right. Monistat has now come up with a skin treatment that prevents us "curvy" women (size 8 and up, judging by the model) from the unbearable friction of our unseemly body parts rubbing together, thwack, thwack, thwack all the damn day. Coat yourself with it, and it's like pantyhose in a bottle. Presumably, any body parts fleshy enough to come into contact (can you say "breasts," everyone? "Thighs"?) now require a patented treatment. I happen to know a few women, a very few, whose thighs don't actually touch when they stand with their legs together. Whose breasts never come in contact with an arm, or with the skin over the rib cage. Most of them do not choose this look. I do not choose this look. Flesh, even in sufficient quantities that it intermittently comes into contact with other flesh, does not in and of itself constitute a "condition." Unless, of course, one is a woman...

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Whistlin' Dixie

Swiped unrepentantly from ABDmom, this nifty little look at my linguistic origins:

Your Linguistic Profile:

45% General American English

30% Yankee

15% Upper Midwestern

5% Dixie

0% Midwestern

What Kind of American English Do You Speak?

I'm more than a little disappointed that none of the questions picked up on the curious Appalachianisms we think came from my maternal grandmother's family. She had a host of quirky phrases and quips that I assumed were uniquely hers until I read a fascinating article that I have never again been able to find. Enough of the phrases corresponded that I was pretty sure she'd had family or neighbors with Appalachian roots, something confirmed by another family member at my grandfather's funeral.

Itching to respond to ABDmom's post about doctoral anxiety, and to engage somehow with Dr. B's thoughtful post on the "I support legal abortion, but" paradox that dogs feminism (and who is served by having all debates about feminism start and end at reproduction? I agree that our control over our bodies and our sexual and reproductive capacity is perhaps the central issue, but I've noticed that the public response to almost any "feminist" critique of any element of society is to refocus on the issue of abortion.

I suspect that forever returning the debate to abortion serves misogyny in the same way as calling any outspoken woman "strident," or a bitch. Both discredit the logical, rational, philosophical, and practical issues at hand and appeal instead to something visceral, often inarticulable, and sacrosanct--society's presumed revulsion at "unfeminine" women and its kneejerk equivocating about "morality."

And by the above I mean that when critics of women's rights return the debates to abortion from every other sphere of the discussion--not when feminists themselves engage in political debate on the topic. As much as we bloggers try to celebrate feminism as a plurality, its detractors use Americans' incoherent morality to discredit and divide feminists.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Worth the price of admission

Today's Tom Tomorrow is worth the annoying little promo (if you are cheap like me, lazy like me, and haven't renewed that ol' Salon premium subscription). The current administration's ongoing and unspoken distinction between the lives worth saving (white comatose folks who want to die, fetuses) and those that aren't (anyone brown-skinned, Muslim, or who has used drugs) bears constant scrutiny and repetition.

Horrifyingly enough, the actual promo (which I watched without sound and without paying attention) is for something called "Revelations"--which appears to be a "moral values" crowd pleaser along the lines of "The Day After" and the other current end-of-the-world dramas, but here with an overtly Christian tie-in. If I were a responsible blogger, I'd watch it again and provide more accurate info., but I'm not and I won't. Instead, allow me to merely blather on about my assumptions, which are that the presence of the film and the ad confirm that secular culture is rolling over and playing dead before the inflated assumption that the vast majority of Americans have, in the years since 2000, when Gore actually won the popular vote, become screaming and bigoted fundamentalists. I just don't buy it.

I am fascinated by the re-emergence of personal faith as a public topic--and by this, I mean not a topic for cultural debate, but as an acceptable early topic among colleagues or acquaintances. It was just not that long ago when I could go semesters on end without having the faintest idea of my students' religious affiliation OR the degree of their fervency. Now it's suddenly okay for two or three per class to show up in my office, dragging their Faith like a deflating balloon, and flaunting their (to me) all but unrecognizable claims about Christianity as a mark of their moral superiority. Again, they seem to be buttressed by the commerical media's (I hate to use the collective, but here I think it fits) eager embrace of the idea that a fundamentalist Christian revolution has taken place. Again, I don't think it has. But I am surprised at how many of my peers in the business of secular knowledge and morality (yes, there is such a thing), have rolled over and played dead at these arrogant intrusions. My point is not that they have less right to say what they say, but that so many of "us" (secularly trained academics, well-versed in the development of the nation's political principles and its religious history) respond immediately by retreating. If there is to be a debate, why is their position any more sacrosanct than another religious or philosophical viewpoint? We wouldn't hesitate to challenge a student's simplistically Marxist interpretation. And I count myself among the wimps...

What I was really going to say, however, had nothing to do with fundamentalism. I note, (via Dr. B the passing of Andrea Dworkin. (Dr. B, being a Better Blogger than I, provides link to her own sources, and places to find more info. And frankly, if you're not reading her, you should be, so I'm gonna piggyback on her links rather than redoing them here). I'm amazed that most of these current defenders of feminism in its muliplicity still feel compelled to distance themselves from her version of feminism. It reminds me of the time I taught Baldwin's Giovanni's Room, during the discussion of which, every single student felt the need to preface his or her remarks with the statement that he or she "didn't condone homosexuality" or that he or she "had no way to really relate to homosexuality." It saddens me that even among the outspoken feminist blogosphere, we still believe (and probably accurately) a) that to acknowledge someone's passing is to express endorsement of her views; b) that most of our readers still assume that feminism is unilateral unless we remind them otherwise, and c) that Dworkin's views require us to distance ourselves from them because they are insupportable. I guess it's the grown-up blogwoman version of what my female students say: "Well, I'm not a feminist [because, presumably, feminists are man-hating, emasculating bull-dykes] but I still think women and men should be paid the same."

Dworkin was an outspoken woman who participated in the public discussion of feminism and raised questions worthy of attention. She pissed a lot of people off, as a feminist should. She's dead. 'Nuff said.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

And now for something completely different

I've caught the poetry month blog-bug. Trying to pick a "favorite" poem is simply impossible for me—my favorites change depending on what is going on in my life. Sometimes I like rhymes; other times, I'm all about free verse. Some days I want hard poems, and other days I'm a sucker for doggerel and bathos. But this one always gets me.

one's not half two. It's two are halves of one:
which halves reintegrating,shall occur
no death and any quantity;but than
all numerable mosts the actual more

minds ignorant of stern miraculous
this every truth-beware of heartless them
(given the scalpel,they dissect a kiss;
or,sold the reason,they undream a dream)

one is the song which fiends and angels sing:
all murdering lies by mortals told make two.
Let liars wilt,repaying life they're loaned;
we(by a gift called dying born)must grow

deep in dark least ourselves remembering
love only rides his year.
All lose,whole find

(e.e. cummings, of course)

Saturday, April 9, 2005

I never tire of shockingly-rude-student stories

Mine's nothing compared to ABDmom's recent experience. But we've reached the point of no return in our semester, which occurs simultaenous to an influx of new "shoppers" (aka prospective students). Many of my campus colleagues, upon achieving tenure, heave a sigh of relief, upgrade their automobile, and enforce a unilateral ban on the "prosbies" in their courses. I, as a young, eager, and eager-to-please first year type, welcome any and all to my doors, and try to give them a good show. And for my pollyanna pedagogue friends, let me be sure to point out that many, if not most of the visitors are delightful. A significant number approach me before I can get to them (or wait eagerly outside the room), shake my hand, ask questions about the course. A smaller but cherished number of them participate in whatever we are discussing that day, thank me when the class is over, and generally make me beam contentedly at the thought of the day when their generation assumes the reins of power in the world.


There are the others. Some bring their parents, which is perfectly acceptable, and, in these days of "helicopter parenting," inescapable. These same parents are about to shell out big bucks to a relatively unknown (to them and in terms of national profile) college; they are to be commended, for the most part, for their engagement with their child's choice. As I recall, my own mother's contribution to my college decision consisted of a single conversation in which she suggested an excellent small women's college a few hours from our home. I responded, "No, I don't want to go to a college that's all girls." Sum total. I don't remember any guidance whatsoever, in fact, from anyone. Nearly everyone from my high school attended college, and it was a foregone, if frequently erroneous assumption that we would all excel there. So the guidance counselors expended most of their energy on the aspiring Ivy leaguers, and on the stoners and "chew"-brothers who threatened to skew the statistics on achievement by our h.s. grads.

I remember a particularly egregious example of parental rudeness: a father who accompanied his daughter to a small seminar in my (admittedly somewhat esoteric and less than wildly popular) area of specialization. He proceeded to text message various people on his phone during the first half of the class. Halfway through, he initiated a not-very-quiet conversation with his daughter as to how the class was "boring" and they "should head to lunch." With my best teacher-from-the-frosty-reaches-of-outer-hell demeanor, I paused the class, and we then proceeded to sit in silence while he conducted his consultation with her until he a) realized everyone could hear him, and b) apologized, lied, and said they had to be going to another appointment. I then thanked his daughter for attending the class and offered lengthy and florid expressions of my deep desire to see her join us on campus in the fall.

Last week, we were blessed with a visitor from a pricey and prestigious private school in an exclusive coastal California area. I've taught several of their grads, and they have been among my best students—not so much for their "skills" as for their enthusiasm for new ideas, and their willingness to try on those new ideas, even in front of other students. (Timidity: the curse of the student-centered classroom). This kid was obviously the exception--perhaps he's the class fuck-up, whose parents' willingness to cough up full tuition enables some other talented student to attend this school. Harsh? Hell, yes.

He was slouched at the back of the class, between the two prettiest female students, when I entered. He made no move to sit up, wave, or even acknowledge me. I approached him to shake his hand, which he did reluctantly, limply, from an odd slouching position. As I started the lesson, I made my usual humorous disclaimer about how I hoped he'd feel free to ask questions or join in the discussion. He allowed as how he wasn't sure how long he'd be staying, because he "just wasn't sure [he could] take [i.e., endure] another [subject area] class. [He] might get bored." Yes, I'm quoting. I replied, frostily, "Well, I certainly hope we meet your standards of interest." While students were writing a brief response to prepare for our discussion, I returned to my office for some extra copies of a class handout. When I returned, he was gone. I was tempted to contact admissions and see if it was too late to rescind his acceptance:

Dear Student X,
We regret to inform you that a grievous clerical error mistakenly suggested that you had been accepted to Puny U. Instead, we find that nothing short of the character-building discipline of the armed forces* will prepare you for life as a fully functioning human being. We hereby refund your application money. Your application has been burned and its ashes doused in holy water. For good measure, we have also sent a representative to spit on your grandmother's grave.
Sincerely yours,

Puny U admissions officer

*Despite my deep horror at the military shenanigans of the current administration, I have great respect for most members of the armed forces, and realize that their mission is not to provide a reform program for delinquent, recalcitrant, or otherwise snotty little punks. The reference is meant merely as a humorous f'rinstance, with all due respect to the rigorous training and discipline of our men and women in service. Except for that stupid c*&t, Lynndie England.

Friday, April 8, 2005

Yadda, yadda, yadda

No excuses--just too tired and too overwhelmed by my daily life as mother, t-t faculty with several students undergoing total meltdowns, wife, dissertator, occasional nursemaid, and now house-hunter to manage anything resembling coherent thought here. If I lose my three lovely and supportive readers, I have only myself to blame. In the meantime, amuse yourselves with the science of "popstrology". I'd tell you my pop-song "sign," but then I'd have ta kill ya. I can tell you that my husband and I come from terrifyingly different realms of pop song history. Frankly, I'm not sure I've ever even heard the song that was number one at the time I appeared on this planet, but I must applaud any schema in which the rapper 50 Cent can be typed as an "Afternoon Delight" baby.

Soon I'll try to find the energy to blog about real estate listings from hell, the sexual politics of the classroom, and the thong vs. panty issue. I was gonna talk about the Pope, Terry Schiavo, and ANWR, but everybody else has that covered.

Friday, April 1, 2005

Hot for Teacher

I can't decide. I'm referring to yesterday's article in the Chronicle about the sexualizing of the classroom space by a TA whose nom de plume is Humbert Humbert. For all my distaste for my (mostly) male colleagues and their tastelessly sexualized responses to their female students, I just can't really work up a lot of feminist rage against the guy. He's too aware of the political untenability of his desires, and too self-consciously willing to interrogate them. Oh sure, I despise him, but I know too well the secret activity of scanning the "rate my professor" website to see if I've earned a chili pepper (indicating I am "hot") or received a scathing comment that will eat away at my soul. What really interests me in his post is not his post-adolescent male angst over his hot student or the cuteness of his own ass, but his connection between the commodification of the classroom and the increasing tendency of many of my female students to flaunt themselves in ways that would have been unthinkable a few years ago, let alone 'back in the day' when my own stomach was flat enough to bear baring:

Wouldn't the university be a refuge from this "Shut up and do me" culture of exploitation and objectification? Not really. As Thomas H. Benton put it in a previous column, "The rise of the consumer model of education, rather than the older notion of preparation for citizenship and leadership, has stripped faculty members of the robes of authority, even exposing them to the sexual gazes of their students."

As in so many other spheres of life, the Internet is enabling a steady erosion of older norms, an outstanding example of this being the Web site, Rate My Professors.

Professors and professors-in-training are just like everyone else in this appearance-driven society, to be judged in terms of impression management (as indicated on Rate My Professors by happy or sad faces) and -- perhaps even more important, if you're a youngish single grad student -- how your rear looks when you turn to the blackboard (if it's hot, you get a little chili-pepper symbol).

But I have to disagree with him on one key point: students have always turned a sexual gaze on their instructors. Any good novel about education at least alludes to the erotics that infuse the classroom--a tension that I think has as much to do with the desire for the knowledge, for the status and confidence the professorial position endows, as it does with any physical desire to jump his/her bones. At least in my experience, part of the teaching exchange (one of the most powerful parts) takes place because the teacher has and represents something the student desires. This is why I'm so suspicious of my male colleagues who can't keep their eyes off their female students OR stop talking about it. They seem to think that the students' desires are, like theirs, relatively uncomplex and largely physical. They mistake the erotics of teaching, the adrenalin of making and sharing knowledge, with a personal, physical desire for them. But most women I know remember having a crush on the ugly bald poetry prof, or a same-sex infatuation with a feminist mentor, either of which was both highly sexualized and completely chaste. The yearning to have my professor notice me, select my ideas, validate my thinking, was certainly powerful and aphrodisiacal. It also had nothing to do with wanting to see him or her naked.

I wonder, instead, if the commercialization of every aspect of our culture, what he calls our "appearance-driven society," has merely driven a nail into the coffin of such intellectual erotics. Instead, I think we live in a sadly diminished age, in which we are nearly unable to understand and enjoy eroticism without reading it as explicitly, gruntingly sexual. I fear for the displaced sexuality that animated learning. It seems to me that rating my professor's ass is not what it's about. Like Cheap Trick said, "I want you to want me"--but that's not quite it. I don't want my students to want me; instead, I want them to desire what I have—a rich intellectual life, a physical and emotional fulfillment in my work, an exhilarating connection with the life of the mind.