My Daughter's Vagina, Part 6

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

The next words I want to give you are not mine:

During the course of the Independent Study work I did on personal essays this semester and when I was in Professor Newman’s advanced composition class last semester, I found my voice, [which] ha[d] been silenced for many years […] Now I find myself in a situation where I want to say what my new voice has been saying for a while now, but I’m a bit afraid. This is all very new to me—sharing my work with an audience, allowing someone other than myself to listen to my words.

The essay that I’m going to read to you is very personal. Writing the essay has helped me come to terms with certain things that have happened to me in my life. What I’m going to say may shock some of you and may even disturb some of you, but I’m in the business of writing the truth.

Cassandra read that passage during the annual Independent Study Colloquium at the college where I teach, a forum in which all students who do independent studies in a given year are required to present their work in order to receive college credit for it. As she spoke, tears came to my eyes. I knew what her essay was about, and I knew how hard it had been for her to write it in the first place, much less gather the courage to read it publicly, and I was deeply moved, the way any teacher would be, to hear a student speak about their work together the way Cassandra had just spoken about ours. I was also crying, however, because in the process of helping Cassandra to find her voice, I’d given voice to something in myself that I too had “silenced for many years,” and it felt good to be letting that silence go.

This part of my story, though, begins not with Cassandra, and not in the independent study we did together, but with Esther, one of Cassandra’s classmates in the Advanced Composition class I’d taught the previous semester. The central question I’d used to frame my syllabus and the assignments I asked my students to do had been What do you care about enough to write about? Esther made what she cared about very clear from the start. She brought her progressive and feminist politics into class discussion without hesitation, and she peppered me in almost every class with questions about writing that bespoke a level of passion and commitment to the craft that few students bring with them to college. It was Esther who first approached me with the idea of doing an independent study. She wanted to be a writer, she said, a writer whose words could change the world–and those were her exact words–and she let me know that, as much as she was looking for instruction, she was looking perhaps even more for a role model. A few weeks later, when she handed me the first draft of the essay that would eventually become the one she read at the Independent Study Colloquium, I had to decide just how much of a role model I was willing to be.

Esther’s essay dealt with the sexual abuse she’d survived as a child and how she had shaped her ideas about motherhood–she had three children–in response to that experience. Like any draft, the piece was full of holes, but because I too am a survivor of child sexual abuse, and because I had struggled for many years, and was in many ways still struggling, to learn how to write about had happened to me, I knew that simply focusing on the mechanics of making the words work and/or providing Esther with model essays by women who had written successfully about this topic, would not be enough. The difficulties Esther was having in saying what she wanted to say were as much emotional and psychological as they were writerly: the shame of revealing what had previously been hidden; the question of whether she really had the courage to make such a revelation; worrying about how her family, especially her mother, would react; worrying whether anyone would even care about what had happened to her; and, most importantly to her, at least in terms of  why she was in my class, wondering whether she was talented enough to write in a way that persuade anyone else that they should care.

I’d always been very careful to keep my identity as an abuse survivor out of my classroom teaching. Not that there were many situations in which I was tempted to reveal this aspect of who I was, but when it did happen that a student shared her or his own experience of abuse, there was a part of me  that wanted to say, “Hey, something like happened to me too. You are not alone.” I worried, though, that talking about myself in this way would shift attention away from the student in a way that would be antithetical to the focus on her or his performance and needs that constituted what I believed good teaching to be about. Not to mention the misunderstandings that could arise if, based on my personal revelations, the student assumed a level of intimacy, or that I was trying to establish a level of intimacy, inappropriate to the student-teacher relationship.

Working with Esther, however, forced me to question whether this separation between my personal and professional identities needed to be as absolute as I had thought. Because she was so passionately intent on becoming a writer, because this essay about her having been abused was so clearly part of what she believed she needed to do to become the writer she said she wanted to be (as opposed to being, simply, a means of catharsis), and because I had already been through the struggle she was facing, I taste in the professional distance I would normally have maintained from her not merely the saccharine sweetness of artificiality–because of course it was artificial; it was a very carefully constructed pose–but also the sourness of dissimulation. It was not just that the professional distance I had so carefully cultivated was, in this situation, very clearly a way of hiding a truth about myself from Esther–a truth that I doubt anyone would argue she had a right to know–but rather, and  more so, that the distance was a way for me not to face the vulnerable and frightened part of myself that having to respond to Esther’s essay had touched.

It had become relatively easy for me to write about my experience, to publish that writing, even to get up and read that writing in front of an audience; after all, in those situations, it was only me up there, or on the page. People could take or leave what I said, believe it or not believe it, respect it or not. I had long ago reached the point where what was important to me was less that any given individual should give credence to what I had to say than that I had said it in the first place.Few if any people were talking at that time about the sexual abuse of boys (and I am not so sure this situation has changed all that much), and so the simple fact of putting my experience out there–and I really did believe it would eventually find an audience who needed to hear it–was what I cared most about.

As I said above, however, responding to Esther’s essay scared me. Revealing to her that I had been abused meant putting myself on the line as a survivor in a very different way than I was used to. It meant allowing Esther to use the process of my survival–and writing was absolutely central to that process–as a model for her own, and that meant making myself vulnerable, both personally and professionally, in ways that were very new to me. I will write more below about the very concrete form that vulnerability took in my life. For now, I will tell you that I decided to test these new vulnerabilities because doing so meant breaking yet one more of the many silences behind which I had hidden my abuse and because I felt that not doing so would betray the trust that Esther had shown me by showing me her essay in the first place.

So I wrote Esther a long response in which I talked in very personal terms about how I had faced precisely the issues she was facing. It transformed the way we worked together. For Esther, knowing that I too had been abused gave her the courage to say and write things she’d never before expressed, and the fact that I’d been able to do what she wanted to do, become a writer, gave her hope that her goal was indeed reachable. For me, teaching became less a matter of managing the relationships between and among my classroom expectations, my student’s performance and the grades they would receive and more about examining the relationship between life experience–mine and Esther’s–and our chosen discipline. As a result, when Cassandra came to me with an essay about her history of sexual abuse, and since she too was committed to becoming a writer, I did not hesitate to share my experience with her as well. I also suggested that she and Esther would make good independent study partners. They agreed. They wrote proposals which were approved and we began to work together the following semester.

I wish I still had a copy of that proposal and of the reading list that accompanied it, not for anything that my having either of them would contribute to this essay, but for entirely sentimental reasons. The semester I spent working with Cassandra and Esther was the most fulfilling experience I have ever had as a teacher. We met once every two weeks to discuss either the material they had chosen to read or the essays they were working on, and, as the semester progressed, our discussions became more and more personal and intimate. One of the most remarkable aspects of this sharing–and it was one of the shortcomings of the original version of “My Daughter’s Vagina” that I gave what I am about to talk about very short shrift–was the way race figured into the dynamic of our work: Esther had been born in the Dominican Republic and had come to the US as a young child. Cassandra was an American-born child of Haitian immigrants.

My own racial identity, or at least the way I understand my own racial identity, is a bit complex: On the one hand, to all outward appearances, I am white, and I fully acknowledge that, all else being equal, I benefit from white privilege and from the racism that is pervasive in the United States. On the other hand, though, once the fact that I am Jewish becomes known, white privilege is no longer as straightforwardly mine to claim. The antisemitism I experienced when I was younger would be familiar to any person of color who grew up in a neighborhood where racism was expressed both with words, spoken and written–in my case, on the walls of the public library, where you can still read some of those words even now, thirty years later, because the town I grew up in never bothered to remove them completely; and I know this because I was there the other day with my son–and with fists, rocks and other weapons. More to the point, the people who wielded those weapons were all white; and I have been in situations too where Christian people of color have stood united in a commitment to Jew-bashing with white Christians—white Christians who, were it not for the fact that there were Jews to bash, would have been happily bashing the people of color instead.

When Esther, Cassandra and I met, in other words, we brought with us into that very small room a very potent mix of racial and sexual issues. (Class was there as well, but it always remained an unacknowledged subtext, which is a topic perhaps for another essay.) While we discussed these issues almost every day in terms of both the work Cassandra and Esther produced and our reading list, however–which included, among others, James Baldwin, Julia Alvarez, bell hooks, and Andrea Dworkin–we did not talk about how the very particular configuration of race and sex that we represented stood in relation to the context of our meeting–school, grades, etc.–until the semester was around three-quarters finished.

I do not mean we did not talk about our differences. Of course we did. Cassandra’s story about being harassed in a camera store in Garden City (a very white, very wealthy neighborhood on Long Island) when she went in there to buy the equipment she needed for a photography class is still with me, and I know, though I do not remember specific examples, that Esther told stories about what
it was like to be a Dominican woman in the US; and I shared my own experiences as well. Still, while I do not want to deny the importance of sharing stories like these, telling them, once we trusted each other, was relatively easy. What we did not talk about were the stakes involved in the three of us doing the work we were doing in the setting in which we were doing it.

Cassandra had just finished reading a draft of an essay in which she talked about how masturbation had been for her a conscious act of rebellion against her tyrannical and physically violent father. A central point of the essay was that, at the time, she thought she must be the only girl on earth who masturbated. When Cassandra finished reading, Esther looked down, smiled, and said in a very quiet voice, “When I started doing it, I thought the same thing.” It was a consciousness raising moment on which I did not want to intrude, so I said nothing while we sat there in silence, until one of the women–I don’t remember which one–said, “Can you imagine what people would say if they knew what we were talking about?”

And there they were, the eyes of the institution peering in at us, austere, judgmental, male.

“What do you think they would say?” I asked, and Cassandra answered by asking me who would be at the honors colloquium when they read their work. I recited the list that I knew: other independent study students and their guests, their mentors, whatever faculty were invited to attend, the college president, the vice presidents of academic and student affairs–all three of whom were men—the head of the honors program, and I told the women that I imagined other members of the college community would be there as well.

I repeated my question. “Well, what do you think they would say?”

What struck me most about the conversation that followed–and I wish I remembered it in more detail–was that Esther and Cassandra’s first concern in terms of what “people” would say was to worry that I might get in trouble. When I asked them what they thought I might get in trouble for, they pointed of course to the fact that they were writing, that we’d been talking and reading, not just about child sexual abuse, a subject which made people uncomfortable enough, but also about female sexuality in terms far more explicit than you find in most community college literature classes. More than that, though–and I think it was Esther who made the point first–they were worried that people would look at who we were, a white college professor in his mid to late thirties working with two beautiful women of color, one ten and the other almost twenty years his junior, and automatically assume first that I was somehow exploiting them–getting my vicarious jollies through my students’ very personal sexual revelations–and, second, that the women could not possibly have chosen to make those revelations on their own, for their own purposes, and/or that, being women, and given the nature of what they wanted to write about, they would never have chosen me, a man, as the person they wanted to work with.

It was a profoundly teachable moment for all of us. For Esther and Cassandra, it was a more powerful lesson than I could ever have taught them in the abstract in the power words can have and in the ethical responsibilities a writer confronts the moment he or she chooses to put pen to paper. They were so concerned that they might have put me in some kind of professional danger that they were each willing not to give the required presentation and to take the resulting F I would have had to give them. For me, for reasons I will explain in more detail in a moment, this meant confronting both the degree to which I had kept my identity as a survivor of sexual abuse separate from my professional identity as a teacher and the degree to which my work with Esther and Cassandra had moved far beyond what might reasonably be considered the “normal” parameters of college writing instruction.

First, though, I had to reassure my students that I would not lose my job because of the work we were doing, so I explained that, because I had tenure, the only way the college administration could dismiss me was to prove that I had done something so egregiously wrong that dismissal was the only appropriate response; and the only way such a case could be brought against me was if either or both of them filed a complaint. Otherwise, while there might be people in the college who would object to the work we were doing, no one could take any concrete disciplinary action against me. (Interestingly, though, there was one person who felt it necessary, after the colloquium, to inquire in a semi-official capacity about who first suggested that my students should write about sex and sexual abuse, but more about that below.)

Once Esther and Cassandra were reassured that I couldn’t get into any serious trouble, we had to deal with their anxieties about what it would mean for them to speak publicly the very private truths they’d been writing about. These concerns ranged from worrying about how their families would react to the fear that the administrators present would invalidate the work we had done because it was inappropriate in content. My students’ most immediate concern, however, was whether they would even be able to say out loud the words they had written, and so I arranged for them to give practice readings in front of my own classes. I don’t remember whether Esther gave such a reading, but I remember Cassandra’s very clearly because I could see, as she took questions after finishing her essay, how my class’ generally positive response helped her see that the world would not end if she said out loud the things about her abuse and its aftermath that she wanted to say.

Nonetheless, reading in front of my class was very different from reading in front of the president of the college. In my class, any student who wanted to “have a go” at Cassandra for being inappropriate or what have you, would have had to go through me first. The simple fact of my presence, in other words, was a buffer against any inappropriateness on the part of my students. Esther and Cassandra were quite reasonably concerned that no one would be able to run that kind of interference at the colloquium since, after all, the administrators in the audience were my superiors.

We talked about this for a long time. I pointed out to them that since they were my students and had produced their work under my guidance, it was my responsibility, not theirs, to validate their work in the institutional context of the colloquium, and so I said that I would introduce them by telling a little bit of my own story of abuse, focusing not on the abuse itself, but on the fact that when I was struggling to come to terms with what had happened to me and to figure out how to write about it, at a time when the sexual abuse of girls was barely acknowledged, much less the abuse of boys, there had been no one to whom I could turn as a mentor, no one who could be for me the kind of role model I had been for my students. I would tell the audience how fulfilling it had been for me to help Esther and Cassandra find the voices in which they could say what they had to say, and anyone who wanted to say that their work was inappropriate to an academic context would have to come through me first.

I gave the introduction; Esther and Cassandra read their essays; and they were each rewarded with a standing ovation from the students who were in attendance. Even some of the faculty and administrators stood, and almost all of them walked over to the two women to offer praise and congratulations. Only two of my colleagues had anything to say to me, however. One with his eyes averted, shook my hand, said, “Nice job,” and walked away, while the other let me know in no uncertain terms that by allowing my students to read what they’d read I had trivialized and demeaned what was supposed to have been a serious occasion of intellectual inquiry. We argued about it; I did not persuade him, though our conversation made clear to me that my introduc
tion had made him at least as, if not more uncomfortable than my students’ essays. Particularly egregious in their work, he felt, was that Cassandra had ended her essay with the story of the first time she’d been able to have an orgasm during intercourse, after years of suffering because one piece of the psychological damage her abuse had done to her was to make penetration painful. He would not even respond when I referred to points I made in my introduction about the need to open up the discourse of the academy, of creative and intellectual inquiry, to include stories like the ones my students had to tell.

Angry as he was, however–and he really was angry, not just disapproving or disagreeing, but angry–he did not express that anger to my students, and I spent the rest of the evening with Esther and Cassandra talking with the students who had been in the audience, several of whom revealed that they too were survivors, and they thanks Esther and Cassandra for having had the courage to read their work, and the look of surprised happiness on my students’ faces as other students actually thanked them is the most enduring image I have of that semester.

I did find out, several days after the colloquium, that one of my colleagues did approach Esther and Cassandra to ask whose idea it had been to write about sex in the first place. They felt the question was patronizing, since it assumed that they might have been manipulated into producing work that was, for them, not only the result of a fully conscious choice, but also something they felt they had to do for reasons having nothing to do with school or the grade they received. I saw the question, on the other hand, as not entirely unreasonable; I had heard more than enough stories of professors who titillated themselves by getting their students to talk about sex in class. On the other hand, though, I have often wondered if this colleague would have asked that question if I hadn’t given the introduction that I did–because the moment I acknowledged that I had an emotional agenda in working with Esther and Cassandra, I also admitted that my work as a teacher was not pure and disinterested, that it was more than something I did out of the completely selfless desire to help young people learn; and I can imagine how, for some, this admission might be profoundly unsettling. It reveals teachers to be in our own way as hungry as our students are to make meaning out of what we know of the world. It is to admit not only that we can be hurt–that we are hurt–when our students refuse to see the value of what we teach, but also that the passion and excitement of teaching students like Esther and Cassandra can as intense and meaningful, and therefore also as full of heartbreak, as the passion and excitement of falling in love.

A few years ago, I gave a paper at a conference in which I used my experience teaching Esther and Cassandra to raise questions about what it means to make teaching personal, to recognize that teaching is personal. One of the responses from the audience was, I thought, very telling. Teaching, the woman who raised her hand said, is not therapy; it would have been entirely possible, she continued, to elicit from my students fully satisfactory essays without making things as personal as I did. Whether that statement is true or not, I don’t know. Perhaps I could have “elicited”–which is an interesting choice of words in itself, in terms of how it structures power relations–“fully satisfactory” essays through a more impersonal approach, but I doubt they would have been the essays my students ended up writing.

More interesting, though, I think, is the assertion that by making the teaching situation as personal as I made it, I was somehow turning it into a therapeutic activity. Because it seems to me that it is the instructor who does not make teaching personal, the instructor who refuses any connection between–or at least refuses to make visible the connection between–what a student’s writing means to the student and what the student’s writing means to the instructor, both as a classroom artifact and as a very personal form of communication, who truly resembles a therapist in her or his professional detachment. Which is not to say that I think such professional detachment is wrong. It is, of course, absolutely necessary, but I have–as a very precise result of my experience with Esther and Cassandra–more and more come to question its deployment as a near-absolute boundary that instructors are not supposed to cross; or, perhaps more precisely, what I have come to question is the definition of professional detachment that suggests students ought not to be allowed to see/understand/experience their instructors’ very personal investment in the work of the classroom and in the work that the students produce.

And still there is a line that should not be crossed. The academy is full of stories of professors and graduate students who fall in love on the basis of the work they do together, only to find that, after a time, what they really fell in love with was not the full person, but the person within the relatively narrow borders of whatever discipline they were working in; and of the stories I have heard, more than a few ended unhappily. The fact is that teaching and learning are about desire and the fulfillment of desire, and so the classroom can be a powerfully erotic space, which means we bring with us when we enter the classroom, when we enter that erotics, all of the ways in which desire and the fulfillment of desire are motivated and shaped by age, race, class, gender, sexual preference and all of the other differences that exist between and among human beings. To deny this fact is silly; to negotiate its ramifications in the daily life of the classroom can be inordinately difficult.

Esther, Cassandra and I shared an experience of sexuality that opened a common ground between us that our age, gender and racial differences would most likely have otherwise made it very difficult for us to find. We occupied that space in an atmosphere of trust, caring and accountability that, in my experience, is rare except between and among the closest of friends and lovers. I have talked a little bit about how this happened in terms of sex and gender; a part of me would like very much to say more than I already have about how this happened in terms of race, but the truth is that–aside from noting briefly how salaciously others might read the racial makeup of our group in light of the material we were working with–we did not dwell on race very much, except, as I have already said and since neither of the women took on questions of race in their essays, when it arose in our reading….though even as I write this, I recall an essay one of the women started–I don’t remember which one–about a white boyfriend she’d had and how amazed she’d been that he had been attracted to her, that being with her–and these were the terms she’d put it in–had given him a hard on.

The essay never got written. I don’t now remember if I ever knew why, though my guess is that part of the reason had to do with my student not having enough distance from the relationship and/or the vocabulary to talk about the racial dynamics at work within it. Had we continued our work for another semester, maybe the essay would have been written, and then race might indeed have become a more explicit part of our work together; and maybe that is as it should be, that Esther, Cassandra and I would have taken on the layers of who we were to each other a little bit at a time, the way friends and lovers do as they deepen their relationships.

So, did I fall in love with Esther and Cassandra? In a way I suppose I did. As special as my relationship with them was, however, I have to admit that this love is also a promiscuous one, since there is a part of me that looks for it in every class I teach, wondering which of the men and women I am standing in front of might take me to the edge of where my teaching is right now and challenge me to move beyond that
point. For if my experience with Esther and Cassandra has taught me anything, it is to value not simply how personal teaching is, but also how deeply into ourselves teachers and students can invite each other, if we choose to, and that we need to see this invitation, even though it is risky, and even though it makes many people uncomfortable, as a legitimate part of what it means to teach.

This entry posted in Feminism, sexism, etc, Race, racism and related issues, Rape, intimate violence, & related issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

23 Responses to My Daughter's Vagina, Part 6

  1. 1
    slag says:

    Interesting, profound, and difficult to fully comprehend the various layers of these issues. Good post!

  2. 2
    Jamie says:

    I just read all the parts of this piece and it truly was amazing. You inspired me to find my own voice. I was looking for an e-mail address to continue a dialogue that wasn’t as public as comments. I have something I’d like to share with you and hope that you will appreciate that your writing has sparked something within me I didn’t know needed sparking. Please e-mail me your address if you’d like to continue the dialogue.

    Thanks for your honesty. It was an incredible read.

  3. Hi Jamie–

    Maybe I missed it, but I couldn’t find your email address on your blog, so you can email me at my full name (my actual name, not those words; no underscores) at gmail dot com.

  4. 4
    Mandolin says:

    Richard, do you still have mod privileges here? You can grab her email address by going into the comment moderation bit.

  5. Thanks, Mandolin. I’d forgotten about that.

  6. 6
    Ben-David says:

    [This and several response comments have been moved to an open thread. –Amp]

  7. 7
    Jake Squid says:


    This series of essays was truly awesome.

  8. 9
    Mandolin says:

    The anger is so odd to me. I don’t think your choices would be framed the same way if the context were creative writing. Or actually, if the projects had happened in any liberal arts context at either of the undergraduate univerisities I attended. Both Sarah Lawrence and UC Santa Cruz were pretty explicitly open to that kind of work. Although I’m not sure what year this happened, so perhaps it’s an artifact of time.

    I find the classroom space powerfully *unerotic.* I like my students lots, but the concept of romance or sexual attraction entering that space — well, any space with a rigid power dynamic — squicks me.

  9. Mandolin:

    I don’t think your choices would be framed the same way if the context were creative writing.

    Which choices?

    I find the classroom space powerfully *unerotic.* I like my students lots, but the concept of romance or sexual attraction entering that space — well, any space with a rigid power dynamic — squicks me.

    And yet this stance is, in itself, think, a response–an entirely valid, reasonable and necessary response, but a response nonetheless–to the erotic potential of the classroom. I certainly do not go looking for romance or sex in my classrooms, and yet I have, over the years, had a fair number of women students make rather overt passes at me, and some have even propositioned me. In many cases, the women were significantly younger than I, and so what they were feeling could easily be categorized as a “school girl crush,” but one woman–who was close enough to my age to be considered a peer–invited me to the hotel of my choosing, that night, and she would pay, and it would only have to happen once, and no one would ever know. More to the point, I met my wife when she was a student in my class–and she is close enough in age to me to be my peer. We did not start dating till she was out of my class, and “shedding”–if I can use that term–the teacher-student relationship that was the context of our meeting took work, very conscious and hard work, but our initial attraction took shape in the context of the classroom. (The story of how we finally came to acknowledge that attraction is more complex than I have time to go into right now.)

    I guess my point is this: I don’t think the classroom is unerotic by nature; I think its nature, especially including the power dynamics you are talking about, makes it erotic (and by erotic I do not mean, obviously, genitally sexual; I mean a place full of the tension of desire and desire fulfilled or unfulfilled between and among human beings) by defiition.

  10. 11
    Mandolin says:

    “Which choices? ”

    To reveal your investment, to work with students who wanted to talk about sexual abuse or other kinds of sexuality.

    “And yet this stance is, in itself, think, a response–an entirely valid, reasonable and necessary response, but a response nonetheless–to the erotic potential of the classroom.”

    Inasmuch as there is an idea of it as erotic which I’m responding to, yes. I don’t feel that personally, though, at all.

  11. amazingly written, honest to the point of scary, and moving.

    and yet…i am wondering why i felt the end was anticlimactic…almost as if the focus on teaching/student was not the most powerful place this could have narrowed in on…almost as if larger points made earlier overshadow such a conclusion. that feeling of the lede being buried.

    but an inspiring piece, nonetheless. just my storyteller chops were asking me questions, so i passed them on to someone clearly adept at the same process. they are still questions, not really conclusions. it may be a piece you need to read a few times to get all in place.

  12. oh but really i shouldn’t even comment, now that i realize (remember) this has six parts and i only caught the last. so…sorry for that. of course i have an incomplete picture.

  13. Nezua:

    First, thanks for the kind words. And you may be right about the place where this section ends; it is the one entirely new section of the essay and so I am not entirely sure if it fits well, if it needs, in terms of the ending, to be retrofitted, etc. Section 6 actually began as the conference paper I wrote about. Section 7 picks up pretty explicitly on the ideas in the last paragraph of section 6, so we’ll see. I will be interested, if you come back to read section 7, to hear what you think.

  14. 15
    debbie says:

    I really appreciated this piece, and it resonated with some of my experiences as a beginning teacher (well, teaching assistant/discussion group leader). I’m still trying to figure out what it means to be on the other side of the student/teacher dynamic, and how that limits what I talk about in class.

    In terms of eroticism in the classroom, bell hooks has a really interesting piece in Teaching to Transgress about teaching being an erotic experience. Audre Lorde’s piece “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power” in Sister Outsider also comes to mind.

  15. 16
    Spicy says:

    Thank you for this post – no – the whole series. It has been a pleasure to read; thought-provoking and moving. I have really appreciated it – not just for your style (which has been pleasure enough) but also for your courageous honesty.

  16. 17
    Ampersand says:

    Richard, I’m thinking of moving Ben-David’s comment to a different thread, since I think left here it is likely to turn into a discussion that would prevent other, more central themes of your post from being discussed here.

    However, if you tell me that you’d rather I not do that, I won’t. Let me know when you have a chance, please.

    With Richard’s permission, I’ve moved a discussion that used to be here to an open thread.

  17. 18
    Daisy says:

    I’ve been reading this essay since you started posting it, and I continue to find it moving and wonderful. Thank you. I look forward to the next segment.

    Is #7 the last one, or are there more?

  18. Daisy:

    Thanks for the kind words. There are more segments, though I am not sure how many, since I am dividing the essay for the web–for length and readability considerations–differently than I did in print. Again, thanks!

  19. 20
    Daisy says:

    Oh good. I was hoping there were more.

    : )

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