Essay on "erotics of mentorship" sets off debate about whether sexuality has any place in academic relationships. Teagle President Judith Shapiro was invited to comment:
"Judith Shapiro, president of the Teagle Foundation and president and professor of anthropology emerita at Barnard College, called the topic 'difficult.' Why? While there 'may be something inherently sexy about one partner being stronger, wiser or older, how does one address noxious abuses of power?' she asked.
Shapiro said it’s also important to think about what 'forms' erotic behavior takes in particular contexts, the essay's 'inspiring examples from other times and places' aside. There's a scene in the 1993 film The Age of Innocence in which Daniel Day-Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer are riding in a closed carriage and 'fall into a state of intense voluptuous intoxication over her bare wrist,' Shapiro said. That's much different than, say, 'hooking up in a state of relative drunkenness at a professional conference.' (Ahem.)
And while actual sex is nothing to 'belittle,' Shapiro said, equating the sublimation of desire with repression of desire -- as the essay at one point does -- 'reflects obliviousness to the fact that we have these two different terms for a reason."
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