January 2, 2009

An academic conference about sex at academic conferences.

Yeah, I know it sounds like the the theme of novel that should have been written in the 1980s if it was going to be written at all, but there really was this conference. This week, in San Francisco, Modern Language Association.
Jennifer Drouin, an assistant professor of English and women’s studies at Allegheny College, argued that there are eight forms of conference sex...:
  1. “Conference quickies” for gay male scholars to meet gay men at local bars.
  2. “Down low” sex by closeted academics....
  3. “Bi-curious” experimentation by “nerdy academics trying to be more hip” (at least at the MLA, where queer studies is hip)....
  4. The “conference sex get out of jail free” card that attendees (figuratively) trade with academic partners, permitting each to be free at their respective meetings....
  5. “Ongoing flirtations over a series of conferences, possibly over several years” that turn into conference sex....
  6. “Conference sex as social networking”...
  7. “Career building sex,” which generally crosses lines of academic rank....
  8. And last but not least — and this was the surprise of the list: “monogamous sex among academic couples.” Drouin noted that the academic job market is so tight these days that many academics can’t live in the same cities with their partners. While many colleges try to help dual career couples, this isn’t always possible, and is particularly difficult for gay and lesbian couples, since not every college will even take their couple status seriously enough to try to find jobs for partners. So these long distance academic couples, gay and straight, tenured and adjuncts, must take the best academic positions they can, and unite at academic conferences. “The very fucked-upness of the profession leads to conference fucking,” Drouin said.
Okay, so we are doing lists. Here's mine:

1. Sex at conferences. Do you have sex at conferences?

2. The AALS — Association of American Law Schools Conference — is next week. Are you going? To have sex?

3. Have you ever had "career-building sex"? Why wasn't there a category for career-destroying sex?

4. Why all this positivity about sex, especially from English professors? In novels, sex — more than the fucked-upness of any profession — is always destroying characters. Don't these jokers think the world owes them a living for reading novels? Why don't they sound like people who've plunged deeply into the lives of fictional characters? (I used to want to write a novel called "My Life as a Fictional Character" — based on being married to a novelist.)

5. Doesn't it seem as though the MLA is trying too hard to be hip? An academic conference about sex at academic conferences? It's like a coffee table book about coffee tables. Hip or hipster doofus? I know I don't want it! I don't need you to tell me what I don't want, you stupid hipster doofus!

6. Now, go, go, go have sex at your sex at conferences conference, and when you come home, I won't be here anymore....

26 comments:

MadisonMan said...

All these years they were saying make-out sessions, not break-out sessions?

Simon said...

Sounds like a conference designed to get people to show up to conferences more often.

ricpic said...

Career-building sex: isn't that a nice way of saying prostitution?

Pogo said...

Take the SDS, add 40 years, and this is what you end up with.

Ron said...

So that whole Prager thing yesterday, was, what, just a submitted paper?

Mortimer Brezny said...

Out of all types of professors, English professors, unlike professors in the social sciences or natural sciences, may reject science and adopt an anti-rational and anti-realist posture in their work. Even Classicists and linguists must on some level accept reality and rationality, the former because of their concern with ethics and history and the latter because of their dependence on cognitive science. English professors, whether critics or artists, are advocates and designers of fables. It is entirely unsurprising, then, that English professors would exalt the passions over stoicism. Confabulation leads to passionate engagement with the world. Myths stir passions. Post-modernism leads to a rejection of truth, objectivity, history, and meta-narratives and reduces human interaction to value-laden, emotion-driven power dynamics. The English Department is the only department in the academy that still teaches Freudian psychoanalysis. Interpretation liberates the interpreter from social convention, from logic, from common sense, from authorial intention and There Is No Right Answer. One can project onto a text any emotion or problem. Books can provide pleasure and resolve issues. Unsurprisingly, bookworms imagine a lot of sex. They have the freedom to envision sex everywhere and contemplate sex constantly. Indeed, they have a duty to contemplate sex constantly. It is their job.

Pogo said...

Just imagine the post-coital questionnaires.

Using a Likert scale, please answer the following items:
1. Strongly disagree
2. Disagree
3. Neither agree nor disagree
4. Agree
5. Strongly Agree


#1 The sex advanced my career.
#2 The sex was multiply orgasmic.
#3 I am no longer bi-curious.
#4 My conference quickie rate was more than two per day.
#5 I have had ongoing flirtations over a series of conferences, possibly over several years, with multiple partners, none of whom are aware of each other.
#6 Advanced degree credit should be given for sex with a colleague in whom you have no interest except professional advancement.
#7 The next Modern Language Association conference should schedule sex breaks in curtained booths within the main lecture hall, so participants will not miss any of the meeting.

commenter said...

sometimes i wonder how different sex at the university level would have turned out if herman b wells would have stayed in madison and gotten his phd in economics there. what would have become of Kinsey,father of sexology, and our vast library here in Indiana? Ann, do you think Wisconsin would have picked up the ball?

Edward said...

"It's like a coffee table book about coffee tables".

Actually, isn't it more like a coffee table book about coffee table books?

Original George said...

Whenever I read about a company doing silly things, I know that within a few years the company will experience budget cuts, layoffs, or worse. One example of this would be Google which has recently shed some of its silly personnel policies, one of which allowed employees let to do whatever they wanted to do.

And, so, when I read the above nonsense, it tells me that universities need a sharp course in budget cutting and layoffs to save taxpayers and parents money, especially since coursework can be delivered over the internet.

Big Mike said...

That's what I get for being a techie. At the conferences I attend the men outnumber women by about 50:1 (and I'm in a branch of computing that has relatively more women -- God help me if my specialty was Java programming). Also I bring my wife along whenever I can, which would also have an inhibiting effect ...

Henry Buck said...

Big Mike -

Then techie conferences should be a hotbed of Drouin's first three categories.

TosaGuy said...

I work in the private sector...where conference going was a budget line item that was cut long ago. Those who actually pay to go to a conference know their true worth and either do not go at all or only pick the most important one. Perhaps universities should start doing the same.

Michael_H said...

I was going to post a question about whether Jennifer Drouin might have done some in depth research on the topic.

This caused me to change my mind.

knox said...

the academic job market is so tight these days that many academics can’t live in the same cities with their partners ... So these long distance academic couples, gay and straight, tenured and adjuncts, must take the best academic positions they can, and unite at academic conferences. “The very fucked-upness of the profession leads to conference fucking

It was only a matter of time before intellectuals turned intellectuals into the latest victim group!

Although with stuff like this conference going on, we're going to have to come up with a new name for "intellectuals"... something that more clearly connotes well-educated but stupid.

TosaGuy said...

"I was going to post a question about whether Jennifer Drouin might have done some in depth research on the topic.

This caused me to change my mind."

Yikes...she has shorter hair than I do and the National Guard pays me to cut mine.

TosaGuy said...

From Drouin's website

"I did my BA (entirely in French, except for the English lit courses) at Université Sainte-Anne in Church Point, Nova Scotia, obtaining a double major in French and English literature magna cum laude (1996-99). I did my MA at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia (1999-2000). My thesis, supervised by Jessica Slights, was entitled "'Sigh no more, ladies': Marriages of Submission in Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew and Much Ado About Nothing". I then taught Postcolonial literature and Composition at Sainte-Anne and Acadia for a year before moving to Trois-Rivières to do the first year of a PhD in Études québécoises at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières. In 2002, I moved to McGill University in Montréal and began a PhD in English Literature, specializing in Shakespeare. My compulsory research project (equivalent to comprehensive exams), supervised by Michael Bristol, was entitled "Shakesqueer Separatism: Gendered Nations and Imagined Communities". My doctoral dissertation, supervised by Leanore Lieblein, was entitled "'To be or not to be free': Nation and Gender in Québécois Adaptations of Shakespeare". Upon defending my dissertation in September 2005, I took up a three year postdoctoral research fellowship in Humanities Computing with the Making Publics Project in the English department at McGill. In Fall 2008, I began a tenure-track joint appointment in the Deparment of English and the Women's Studies Program at Allegheny. My current research consists of a book entitled Shakespeare in Québec: Nation, Gender, and Adapation, as well as a French anthology entitled Le grand Will : une anthologie critique des adaptations québécoises de Shakespeare, 1960-2005, plus an online database entitled Shakespeare au/in Québec. I'm also working on homoerotic representations of Diana's band as an early modern public and several other articles. My full list of publications is available on my CV."

A very poorly written narrative for an English professor. Yet another person of marginal ability who fancies herself as an "intellectual" when in reality no one would ever pay her for her written word.

MadisonMan said...

Knox, I also rolled my eyes at that reason. In other words, they've both picked their respective careers over their partner. That is not a good foundation for a relationship.

Pete the Streak said...

I read her bio, and my question is: what in the world does she actually teach that would benefit anyone, anywhere?

Good grief. This is considered 'higher education'? Tuitions go through the roof to make nonsense such as THIS available?

I'm glad I graduated in '78, before most of this garbage became prevalent.

Ron said...

the academic job market is so tight these days that many academics can’t live in the same cities with their partners ... So these long distance academic couples, gay and straight, tenured and adjuncts, must take the best academic positions they can, and unite at academic conferences. “The very fucked-upness of the profession leads to conference fucking

So more conferences in the Poconos or the Vegas strip in the offing?

Christy said...

Good God! Anyone who believes Beatrice was submissive to Benedict has the reading comprehension of a turnip. It was Claudio in the end, not our heroine Hero, who submitted. And she, Drouin, a professor of literature!

I certainly had some delightful flirtations at conferences over the years, but as one of only a couple of women present, anything more would have been stupid.

tim maguire said...

4. The “conference sex get out of jail free” card that attendees (figuratively) trade with academic partners, permitting each to be free at their respective meetings....

What does this mean? If it means the spouse can sleep around at the conference, what happens at the Ramada stays at the Ramada, why not just say it?

Knox wrote: we're going to have to come up with a new name for "intellectuals"... something that more clearly connotes well-educated but stupid.

Doesn't "intellectual" cover that pretty well? You rarely hear legitimately intelligent people describe themselves as intellectuals.

Big Mike said...

Has anybody besides Drouin read Shakespeare in the original French? (JUST JOKING!!!)

Drouin must have had some pretty rotten translations if she thinks Shakespeare's women are weak. Katherine may have been "tamed" by Petruchio in Shrew, but I always read it as a marriage of equals.

I'm glad I'm a techie -- I think my interpretation of Shakespeare would get me barred from tenure in today's academia. Of course I'd miss out on all that sex in the conferences.

Ophir said...

I think my interpretation of Shakespeare would get me barred from tenure in today's academia.

I'm reminded of this article from the Onion:
Unconventional Director Sets Shakespeare Play In Time, Place Shakespeare Intended

Big Mike said...

Ophir, I almost split a gut. Thanks, man.

save_the_rustbelt said...

Geez, I go to accounting conferences and health care conferences, and we attend sessions and study serious stuff.

And a lot of female CPAs are really hot.

Damn, I guess we need new conference planners.... or more drugs.