Foreigner Solidarity

One of the protagonists of Castellanos Moya’s Moronga is, like the author, a Salvadoran who works as a college professor in the US. He finds himself stumped by the sexual harassment training he has to undergo until a compatriot gives him invaluable advance.

“Always answer the exact opposite of whatever you really think,” he says, and the professor aces the test.

This made me smile because I do the same thing to pass these trainings. And I mumble, “Darn Puritans” when I do it, just like the Salvadoran character.

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57 thoughts on “Foreigner Solidarity”

  1. I have a much simpler approach to my annual online sexual harassment training: I don’t even read the questions. I just pick the answer that amounts to “Yes, it was harassment,” “Yes, you need to report it,” or “No, the institution did not handle it properly.” Nine times out of ten I’m right. Without even reading the question.

    Also, every year we have a scenario that involves two students, Chad and Virginia. The question is always “Did Chad rape Virginia?” The answer is always “Yes.” I find it hilarious that they pick a female name denoting purity and a stereotypical fratboy name, and that’s how they teach about rape. So much for training us to handle hard situations.

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  2. Questions from ours go something like this:

    Una, an advanced assistant professor, is going to lunch with friends and asks John, a new hire, if he would like to come along. Is this sexual harassment?

    Una, a department chair, tells John, an assistant professor, that he should date a bereaved colleague if he is interested in making tenure. Is this sexual harassment?

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    1. “Una, a department chair, tells John, an assistant professor, that he should date a bereaved colleague if he is interested in making tenure. Is this sexual harassment?”

      Of course not! It’s valuable career advice! John now knows to be on the lookout for bereaved colleagues, if none are to be found, he can help things along (wire cutters, brake lines that kind of thing) and then be there to offer a sympathetic shoulder to cry on…. win win!

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    2. Jack and Jill were at a party where both had a few drinks. Then they go back to the dorm and have sex. Question: did rape occur? Answer: yes, they both raped each other because drinking alcohol made them incapable of consent.

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  3. I am amazed to hear that sexual harassment training on other campuses actually involves situations set on a campus. We have to do a generic online training that was designed for corporate environments. It all feels very alien when the scenarios involve sales meetings and business trips, OTOH, to their credit, the generic modules never ask us to decide if someone was raped.

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    1. Ours is all Jack and Jill, two freshmen. We are not being trained to not harass each other but to offer assistance to students who might have been harassed.

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      1. “Ours is all Jack and Jill, two freshmen”

        What about if a male student is possibly harassing another male (or a female is harassing a female)? Do they get into that or is it all vulgar feminism (all males are at least potential abusers and all women are potential victims?)

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        1. Gay people don’t exist in our training. ๐Ÿ™‚

          Jack and Jill had sexual intercourse. Jill gave verbal consent but she felt pressured to have sex and communicated her reluctance with a series of non-verbal cues that Jack chose to disregard. Question: did Jack commit sexual assault?

          The reference to non-verbal cues is what usually does me in because, as we all know,
          I’m not capable of understanding the concept.

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          1. What I hate the most isn’t even the training, although the training stinks. What I hate is that the moment you express any doubt in the usefulness of this exercise, a group of harpy-like colleagues descends upon you to accuse you of wanting to harm students or having actually harmed them by doubting the training. Seeing normally intelligent people foam at the mouth in righteous indignation is what stinks the most.

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          2. “The reference to non-verbal cues is what usually does me in because, as we all know, Iโ€™m not capable of understanding the concept.”

            Ah, Clarissa, you obviously grew up in a different world than I did! When I was a young man, I NEVER asked a girl if I could kiss her — never forced her to blush and feel like a tramp by asking her if it was okay if I could go further and touch her breast or unbutton her blouse. She knew what I wanted by the tilt of my head and the twinkle of my eye, and I understood her non-spoken “yes” or “no”by her body language and her totally silent but obvious signals, and adjusted my behavior accordingly.

            If I’d verbalized our obvious mutual sexual lust, my girlfriend would have been compelled to deny her desires and defend her dignity by stating indignantly, ” Oh! So that’s what you want?? That’s the kind of girl you think I am?? OK, fine, then! I’m out of here–goodbye!!” And the amorous evening that we’d both longed for would have been ended by stupid and totally unnecessary words.

            In those days, the only time a man and a woman spelled out specifics in advance was when a loser who couldn’t attract a woman on his own was bargaining with a whore about what their monetary contract included.

            If this is what passes for “romance” on campus today, and if the boy is always guilty if the girl says a hesitant “yes,” but later claims that she really meant “no” — then I’m very glad to be an old man with many beautiful memories but no worries about future misunderstandings or lawsuits. The young people of tomorrow are welcome to run that gauntlet, and see how far they get.

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            1. This reminds me of this old italian movies, ‘La ragazza con la pistola’ (The girl with the pistol), where a sicilian girl goes to the UK to get revenge on the man who “dishonored” her. At a point, she befriends an english man, and he takes her to his house. Cultural conflict ensues.
              This scene is half-english/half-italian, but the key points is: “The real man must go for it, but the real woman must defend herself.”

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              1. “La ragazza con la pistola”

                If you turn on the subtitles to this video, you’ll see that they were written by someone who doesn’t speak either English or Italian competently.

                At the end of the video when the young man goes into the bedroom and slams the door, the girl calls out pleadingly, “Michael — where’s the key?”

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              2. The subtitles are automatically created by youtube’s speech recognition technology, and yeah,they’re really bad.
                In the end, when the man storms off, she’s confused that he locks himself away, because in her reality it’s women who do that to escape from men.

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            2. \ I understood her non-spoken โ€œyesโ€ or โ€œnoโ€by her body language and her totally silent but obvious signals, and adjusted my behavior accordingly.

              If it’s not too personal, but what about birth control?
              Did men usually carry condoms in those days since those silent, ‘I pretend to say no’ women seem unlikely to do that?

              The first thought in my head was about birth control, probably since I am a woman and immediately think about unwanted pregnancies.

              I was probably raised to think of men as yes having (consentual) sex w/o asking verbal permission, but also being too irresponsible to use condoms w/o a woman demanding it.

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            3. I get it and was raised with these ideas but by the time I was old enough to have sex it had become fashionable to actually discuss things like birth control and STD prevention. I don’t think this was a bad idea.

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              1. \ to actually discuss things like birth control and STD prevention

                What is there to discuss beyond using a condom?

                I suppose, Dreidel didn’t talk about long term couples but about beginning stages or something short term.

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              2. Condoms aren’t 100% reliable for birth control, especially since not everyone uses them truly right. When I was young, there was no HIV/AIDS, and the most likely result of sex was pregnancy. There was the birth control pill, if you had access to medical care and therefore a prescription, but you have to take it every day for it to work, and not all young men trusted all young women to really have done that. Then there were IUDs, diaphragms, foam, sponges, tubal ligation, vasectomies, all sorts of ways people had of not getting pregnant in addition to condoms. Which were embarrassing to buy in those days, and you couldn’t necessarily get a good one easily. You pretty much HAD to talk about what you were going to do, and you had to hope your partner was informed enough and at ease enough to be able to have the conversation and not have it take forever.

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            4. My God, Dreidel. You are on a roll this week. You are describing a terrible situation. You think it’s a good thing that women couldn’t discus sex with a potential partner for fear of being labelled “a tramp”? Only “losers” actually bothered to talk to women about what they want? I have an uncomfortable image in my head of a youthful Dreidel groping a hapless women who is too cowed by aggressive masculinity and Puritanical social standards to articulate her needs or desires.

              I have big problems with how the “rape on college campuses” conversation has developed. I think it casts desire as something alien to women and “natural” to men. And I don’t think women benefit if they start fearing the specter of the college campus, (which are by and large quite safe for women.) But I will take PC Culture and all the problems that come with it over the world that you idealize: a world filled with social stigma and unsatisfying, or perhaps undesired sex, a world in which women are conquests and never partners. It sounds lonely, actually and I think we are better for having said goodbye to all that.

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            5. You know, Dreidel, I imagine that I have had sex in ways almost this old-fashioned — without paragraph 2, but also without a whole lot of explicit verbal negotiation — but upon reflection there’s always been quite a bit of verbal communication about it, just not in the form of contractual negotiation. No talking at all CAN lead to misunderstandings and awkward situations. Also, I’ve noticed that within regions and social groups there are norms and conventions that are agreed upon and can go unspoken but that when you go somewhere else, what you think goes without saying may not be the same as what they think, there. Also, within recent memory I had a MALE student (we were at a conference hosted here) meet a girl and say she was coming over and he was concerned the local gas station, where he bought condoms, would be closed by the time she got to his house. I said he should go buy them now, or go to Walgreen’s at his leisure to stock up. He said, and I quote textually, “But that would mean admitting I plan to have sex.”

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              1. I had a boyfriend who lived in New Hampshire and would come visit me in Montreal. Every time he’d arrive without condoms and say that if he’d bought them, it would mean he was being presumptuous and expecting sex. Although he was my boyfriend and we missed each other, so expecting sex was quite normal. I gave up and started getting them myself, joking that I apologise for being so presumptuous.

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          3. The reference to non-verbal cues is what usually does me in because, as we all know,
            Iโ€™m not capable of understanding the concept.

            Exactly. I also do not understand “non-verbal cues.” In self-defense, I many years ago learned to interpret all “non-verbal cues” I have no idea what a positive non-verbal cue would look like. For me, such a thing does not exist.

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            1. I guess you are right. I’d have said I’d had all kinds of sex without a long conversation about it first, but on second thought, never without any talking.

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              1. I’m all about verbal consent and open discussion. I just prefer for these discussions not to take place in front of a professor. ๐Ÿ™‚

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            2. “I have no idea what a positive non-verbal cue would look like. For me, such a thing does not exist.”

              Oh, come on! You never had a girl smile at you and then open her arms wide, clearing wanting an embrace?

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              1. Of course. But I know not to interpret such a signal sexually. In circles I move in, such friendliness is common. So far as I know, it is never sexual in intent.

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  4. Jack and Jill? I can’t believe that all of the examples involve two people with Anglo names. That’s so exclusionary!!!

    Do Jack and Jill at least get the gender neutral pronoun zie?

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    1. You laugh, but I now break into a cold sweat whenever my toddler starts singing Jack and Jill. I’m hoping that the training hasn’t reached daycare just yet but you never know.

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      1. We also had an ethics training where a worker called Ahmed was doing all kinds of shitty and dishonest things. I started getting sorry for Ahmed by the end of it because the poor bugger kept messing everything up and was constantly getting into trouble with his insanely upright assistant John.

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          1. It also comes with illustrations, so that everybody is fully aware of differences in Ahmed’s and John’s skin tones.

            I thank God in heaven that there are no pictures in the sexual harassment training.

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      2. “I now break into a cold sweat whenever my toddler starts singing Jack and Jill”

        Jack and Jill climbed up the hill,
        where they got drunk at a campus party.
        Things got romantic, then she got frantic.
        And now he’s in front of a student tribunal facing expulsion….

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        1. Come on, Cliff, at least use the traditional verses:

          Jack and Hill
          Went up the hill
          To fetch a pale of water.
          Jack fell down
          And broke his crown,
          And Jill came tumbling after.

          Up Jack got
          And home did trot,
          As fast as he could caper;
          He went to bed
          And exclaimed with dread,
          “I didn’t mean to rape her!”

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            1. “I have no idea what a ‘pale of water’ is.”

              You ever held up a glass of pure, clean water and looked at it? Looks pretty pale to me.

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    1. If you suspect a higher up of being a lech who is likely to say “Put out or you are fired” or anything like this, put your phone on record every time you meet them alone. And as soon as they come out with the threat, post the recording on social media. That’s what I’d do.

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      1. “put your phone on record every time you meet them alone. And as soon as they come out with the threat, post the recording on social media. Thatโ€™s what Iโ€™d do.”

        They’d end up embarrassed, but you’d end up in jail. Illinois has an eavesdropping statute that makes it a crime to record a two-party conversation without the knowledge and consent of both parties.

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        1. You can, however, keep a log of these things. And you can send a memo or repeat back to them: I understand you to have said X. I say no and I point out that this is harassment. Please stop or I will file a complaint. See above, the things I’ve done in these situations.

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    2. Required first step is to tell them to stop. To the TA who started it when I was a sophomore, I said stop or I will tell the professor and get transferred, and I will also call your wife and tell you what you are doing. To the colleague who started it when I was tenured and he wasn’t, I said stop it, you are disgusting me and it is exhausting. (So he called me a Puritan.) To the ex who stalked me, on police advice I sent an official no-contact letter and within the university, a letter ccd to a lawyer to him and the administration reminding them I was to be protected under OSHA.

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      1. Talking about harassment, the former owner of my house is at it again. I’m half a beat away from reporting him for harassment to the campus authorities.

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              1. I did a mild and polite version of exactly this three times already.

                But now he wants me to run errands for him, too. I’m so mad I could blow.

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  5. So he’s a colleague, too? I’ve got one like this. He bugs me, I tell him to piss off, he then refuses to speak to me for months, then comes back and asks me to do errands.

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    1. It’s worse. He’s a Dean and the main reporting person for my largest service assignment. I suspect he wouldn’t do any of this if roles were reversed.

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      1. I think your position is pretty much unassailable and you should say to him, look, this is out of line. OR just don’t do the errands, but I am one of those who has to speak. At the same time, I’ve got a dean I want to talk back to right now but am afraid, because I fear retribution, so take whatever I recommend with three grains of salt.

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  6. “I just prefer for these discussions not to take place in front of a professor.”

    The most embarrassing, to me, discussion had in front of me was in class. We had read La casa de Bernarda Alba. The class got into an argument about whether or not it is true you bleed the first time you have sex. Women were exclaiming about whether they had or had not. They were all fascinated and forgot I was there.

    I was mortified.

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