A Question for Teachers

Dear fellow teachers,

have you ever written the following comments on your students’ work:

“Your writing is dreadful.”


“God, your writing is awful.”

“This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read.”

“I’m sure there are people whose writing is worse than yours but I’ve never met them.”

“You seem schizoid.”

“Pathetic writing.” 

“This is garbage.”

Do you feel like there is pedagogic value to this kind of comments?

P.S. I know somebody (khm, khm) who got every single one of these comments from her professor.

Male Identity and Sex

One of my favorite bloggers, Danny, wrote a beautiful guest post for Womanist Musings that says, among other things, the following:

The script of being a man says we are supposed to have as much sex as possible, and if we aren’t trying to have sex, or are thinking about having sex, it’s an indicator that something is wrong with us.

I wanted to discuss the issue of how sexual expectations define male identities in negative ways for a while now and this great post reminded me of that.

A very close male friend once said to me, “Clarissa, I’m very worried. I think I have something very wrong with me and I need to see a doctor.”

“What’s happening?” I asked.

“I’ve been hanging out with this woman and she’s great. We have a lot of fun together. But then she wanted to become intimate and I couldn’t get it up. I’m only 29 and I’m already impotent. This must be a sign of major health issues.”

“Have you considered the possibility that you simply feel no desire for this particular woman?” I asked.

“But that isn’t normal,” my friend said. “I’m young. I’m supposed to be able to perform any time.”

This pernicious idea that men are supposed to want sex anywhere, any time and with anybody does untold damage to their health. Sex becomes not something you do because it brings you joy but, rather, a performance you engage in for the benefit of others and to affirm your masculinity. The perfectly normal manifestations of human libido (which include, for example, not wanting to have sex with specific people or during certain periods of time) become a sign that something is deeply wrong with the man in question.

This view of male sexuality is deeply harmful to both men and women. Having sex for any other reason than wanting to have sex with this particular person (or people) causes great damage to a person’s sexual, emotional and physical health.

My friend did not believe me and finally managed to have relations with the woman in question. After a month of a pretty miserable relationship, she confessed to him that she never wanted to have sex with him either but thought that this had to be what he wanted. Why else would he be hanging out with her, anyway?

My Students Rise In Protest

Yesterday, I started the class by telling my students the following:

“The mini-quiz we are writing today will be very hard. But the good news is that, to reward ourselves for the hard work we have been doing, we will spend next week watching a movie.”

The reaction of the students can best be described as a mini-riot. I never have any problems establishing and maintaining discipline but this time I just couldn’t get them to calm down and start preparing for the quiz.

For almost 15 minutes, we maintained the following conversation.

“Will there be nudity in the movie?”


“Because I had a prof who showed us a movie with nudity.”

“And my prof showed us a movie with full frontal nudity.”

“And I had the worst prof ever! She showed us a movie with full frontal male nudity.”

“Guys, there is no nudity in the movie we will see next week. I promise. None whatsoever. So let’s just settle down and start preparing for the mini-quiz.”

“Are you sure there is no nudity? Or sexual scenes?”

“Yes, I’m very sure. Now let’s go over the conjugations of. . .”

“Because it is stressful to sit there in class and watch sex flicks!”

“Yes! I’m so over that, too!”

“Guys, I promise, no sex flicks are scheduled in this course. Now, back to the conjugations. . .”

“I just think it’s wrong to make people see nudity for a grade!”

And thus it went on.

As an example of a sex flick they saw in class, students named Motorcycle Diaries. I watched this film several years ago and it struck me as anything but erotic. I don’t even remember if there was any nudity there.

This wasn’t a regular discussion of the kind that I always have with students. I described it as a mini-riot at the beginning of the post because it was loud and very highly charged emotionally.

As a result, I have had the very first old-age discussion of the “Kids today!” variety. When I told N. about this, we spent a while talking about how “in our times, kids this age wanted nothing more than look at some nudity for a grade.”

And this is how I became a “when I was your age, things were different” person.

Why Are They So Rabid?

Reader Evelina Anville says a propos of my post on Girl Scouts and their vilification by the Catholic Church:

On the one hand, the Catholic Church is one of the major churches in the US (and the world); and, on the other hand, Girl Scouts is so wholesome and so very “establishment.” So it’s not like some fringe church is rejecting a group of radical feminists. It’s a major church with a great deal of clout rejecting a mainstream group (and, from what I understand,continuing to support the Boy Scouts.) So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I am worried what this means in terms of gender and sexual politics when a major Church brands a group that encourages cookie-selling, arts and crafts and camping, as radical or extreme. I agree that it’s the Catholic Church’s right and that the Church shouldn’t be forced to recognize the Girl Scouts or anything. Still, I find the entire thing disturbing.

I agree completely that the Church’s attack on the Girl Scouts is completely out of proportion but I have a different view of what this means. I find that the rejection of such an – as Evelina says – wholesome group and such a vicious backlash against a very non-threatening organization for children signals complete and utter desperation on the Church’s side. They are losing parishioners left and right. There is one scandal after another, they are being slowly squeezed out of contemporary reality, so they flail around like a drowning person.

This is precisely why the Fundamentalists are trying to pass all of these outrageously barbaric measures against contraception and abortion. This is why the Republican primaries have been so bizarre. The Fundamentalist, ultra-religious brand of Conservatism is dying out. These are their final moments, and they know it extremely well. This is the very last opportunity they have to signal their presence. They are so rabid because they are scared. I have a feeling that even among Conservatives there is a growing dissatisfaction with how the Conservative movement has been overrun with shrill religious fanatics, which does great damage to the rational, intelligent Conservatism.

I believe that soon the prolonged agony of fanatisicm will be over. Religious people will give up on trying to make the secular society follow their rules and bow down to their beliefs because very very soon this will become completely untenable. And then, finally, the reasonable, non-fanatical representatives of Conservatism will recover their movement and we will start seeing productive interactions between Liberals and Conservatives.

As stressful and depressing as it is to observe the current developments in the war against secularism, feminism, human rights and choice, the reality that they obscure is very hopeful and positive. The more rabid the fanatics get, the greater is the desperation that they are communicating by their acts.