I ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and all I got was this lousy wankstain


Clio Bluestocking once again has a tale of nastiness from inside the Ivory Tower.  To wit:

Today, the security office at our campus sent out this notice:

“Yesterday evening two female students were studying in the lower level of the library when they were approached by a man who engaged in extremely lewd behavior.”

The “lower level” is below ground and houses the majority of the book stacks and some study space, so there aren’t many librarians or other employees down there very often. This sort of thing has happened at lots of libraries that I’ve used, too. Closed, quiet spaces seem to bring out the perv in a lot of people.

The next sentence in the notice, however, bothered me for some reason:

“Personal safety practices and knowledge are your best defense against incidents of this nature.”

Exactly how does that address the issue of being accosted sexually? What exactly do they mean by “personal safety practices and knowlege”? . . . . The women, students, were studying, at school, in the library.

Like we need to give our students any other excuses to avoid studying  or to avoid the library?  Moreover, one could argue that in so doing, they were actively engaged in the pursuit of knowledge in an environment they presumed was safe.  How presumptuous of those students to think that they had equal rights to equal access on their own campus!  How foolish of them not to huddle in group study rooms and escort each other to the bathroom so as to avoid the notorious campus whack-off artist?

When I was in college, “campus safety” for women was handing out rape whistles in the school colors, and (true story!) installing “rape alarms” in the women’s bathrooms in the library.  (They were there at Penn in the early 1990s–I don’t know if they still are.)  But, these measures, like the advice from campus police that Clio B. reports, put the onus of women’s safety on women.  Instead of presuming that all women college students are potential victims and asking them to always walk around and study in pairs or groups, let’s just presume that male college students are potential aggressors, and make them always walk and study in groups (either with other men or women) when on campus?  Campus police would have the authority to arrest male students who were unescorted, and the women students could use their own campus with much greater confidence in their own safety. 

In the absence of policies like this, I think women college students should be charged less tuition, since they clearly aren’t free to use the campus and its resources the same way that their male peers are.  No walking home to your dorm or apartment late at night, no drinking at all in bars or at parties unless you want to be accused of asking for sexual assault, and now, no studying alone in the library!  Professor Blackwoman at W.O.C. Ph.D. had an interesting post on this a few months ago when she was threatened by a creepy dude who liked to hang out around her department, and I wonder if Breaking the Code would like to weigh in on this issue, since she’s interested in questions about gender and space, and she’s got a post up now about women being rubbed against in public.  (Read the article she links to about the MBTA’s new anti-frottage PR campaign.  Interestingly, the only time Historiann had that unfortunate experience was in fact on the green line in Boston, which is always packed above-ground heading West after work, because it’s free for outbound riders.  An elbow to the guts works pretty well, but still–who needs that crap?)

UPDATED 4/28/08:  Clio B. has an update concerning the police investigation, and the continued absence of creative thinking about how to fend off attacks like these.

0 thoughts on “I ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and all I got was this lousy wankstain

  1. This is an important issue, but I think you need to consider the possibility that the lewd acts are not being committed by male students but men from the community, in which case you could just keep all non-students out of the library or at least that portion. Having more security around as well as cameras would help too.

    More importantly, it’s not just female students who are vulnerable (although the police makes it appear that way). On urban campuses like mine, male students get robbed and beaten up, or at least threatened with violence. Then of course there’s the whole issue of homophobia and anti-gay violence. So, really, the issue of security needs to be aimed at both men and women.


  2. Good points–yes, the peepers and creeps are frequently random community members, which is why my solution of forcing all men to have escorts on campus works so well. An unescorted creep would not have been admitted to the library.

    My escorts for men plan also works to protect their safety too–they’re much less likely to be set upon if they’re always with their buddies.


  3. The Librarian at a major university that both Historiann and I are somewhat familiar with (a position that made him a Deputy Provost, with a courtesy appointment in an important humanities department) was hauled out of his office by the FBI a few years ago, followed by his office computer, which was filled to bursting with kiddie-porn images, paid for by his credit card! So the potential for strain on any escort system is almost unimaginable. The penchant of campus security officials for meaning-stripped and degraded bureaucratic language, undecipherable by the faculties of reason, such as “personal safety practices,” suggests how far the overall loss of coherence in academic administration has proceeded during the last generation.


  4. Hi Historiann! I love your suggestion! It exposes the sexist hypocrisy of (the often white, male) “campus security” bureaucrats, who insist on blaming the victims of sexual assault and harassment.

    I hope you pitch your idea to the administrators at your University.


  5. Funny how the gun nuts who spout off whenever there’s a school shooting never suggest that all women carry concealed weapons, just in case a man gets aggressive.

    You do that and that would probably solve the school shooter problem too, since aren’t they men, as well? Just a thought….


  6. Pingback: Wednesday round-up: How-to edition : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

Let me have it!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s