Dear Levi B.,
I have a small problem. Okay – a big problem. I have a big, big crush on one of my professors. Obviously, I am a student. I have trouble paying attention in class, and I’m sometimes too nervous to talk in our
discussions. I know it sounds crazy, but I feel like we might be a good match. Help!
Pining for Professor
I can relate. There are many interesting, intelligent, and exciting faculty at Antioch, it’s hard not to find some of them attractive and crush-worthy. Before we go any further, though, let’s get one thing straight – do not pursue this crush.
It’s important to acknowledge the power differential in this situation. Your professor is (though I hate to underscore hierarchical models of education) an authority figure in the classroom. That person holds in their hands the power to make or break you in terms of your classroom learning and your performance evaluation. Moreover, due to the size of our cozy little community, your professor is likely to be a member of a governing body or committee that impacts your life (such as Community Funds Board, APRC, Community Standards Board, etc.) or serve as the head of your academic area. While it might seem appealing to have a sex partner, who may show favoritism toward you, filling those roles, think about the ramifications of making yourself vulnerable to someone in that position. What if the relationship goes bad? What if it isn’t the picture-perfect scenario you envision?
In the SOPP, and many conversations around consent, it is vital to consider the power dynamics involved. A person needs to be free from built-in opportunities for manipulation and coercion in order to be able to consent. Let’s say, for example, that you hook up with your professor, but it was bad and you are over it. If your professor wants to continue, they could threaten you with a bad evaluation, no credit for the class, etc.
You hold power over the professor in this situation, too. If you go public with the relationship, your professor’s job is over. In both directions, it is not a level power playing field. You cannot freely consent and neither can your professor. And who wants that?
The more important reason not to pursue this crush is that it violates the sexual harassment policy (in addition to the SOPP). It is against college and university policy with no gray area or room for negotiation. Like I said before, your professor’s job, not to mention reputation, would be in jeopardy. Also, and you won’t like this, the likelihood is that your professor will turn you down, which will certainly be embarrassing.
Faculty here may seem laid back, but they are still professional and maintain appropriate boundaries. You should be respectful of that.
That being said, you are not crazy for having this crush. I could be wrong, but I’m going to guess that you are really excited about the subject matter of your class. In social psychology, there is a theory called “misattribution of arousal.” I’ll explain: arousal isn’t only sexual; it is the state of heightened alertness and sensitivity in your body and mind. This includes feeling scared, exhilarated, angry, over-caffeinated, anxious, in love, and sexually aroused. Because your body and mind are in similar states for all of these emotions, it can be easy to confuse one with another, or to misattribute your arousal. It’s possible that you are excited and mentally aroused by the intellectual depth of your readings and class discussions and attribute it to a crush on your professor, who is not only an authority on the subject, but is probably able to help you think more critically about the information, which is exciting. It’s also possible that you have a profound respect and admiration for your very intelligent professor, causing you to have those warm fuzzy feelings that feel like a crush.
To reiterate my first point, we have some interesting, intelligent, and exciting faculty at Antioch, and it’s entirely possible that you have a full-blown legitimate crush on one of them. And though you should not pursue it, it’s okay to have the crush. Use it as a motivator to do well on your assignments (you want to impress your crush, don’t you?). Try making notes before class about things you want to say during discussion and enlist a friend’s help when you’re having trouble paying attention in class. Have them sit next to you and nudge or pinch you when you start to get that moony look in your eyes. And, don’t count on it, but if it’s really meant to be, wait until you graduate and then see what happens. If it’s worth it, it can wait. In the meantime, enjoy your euphoric crush feelings, but keep it professional and classroom-appropriate.
Lusting for You,