home Education, Sex, Society Fellatio and fruit bats: sexual harassment vs. academic freedom

Fellatio and fruit bats: sexual harassment vs. academic freedom

When is sexual harassment not sexual harassment? When it pertains to the rights of an academic to discuss the sex life of fruit bats with a colleague. Add a cry for understanding, a wail of academic censorship and a quick online petition and the academic community is up in metaphorical arms.

This is the tale of Dylan Evans and his online fight to prove himself innocent of sexual harassment and to place himself as the victim of a politically correct university regime determined to undermine his academic freedom. In a presumably desperate act, he transmitted his story to the HuffingtonPost who obligingly printed his point of view, started a petition about his academic persecution and began to stir up what was to become #fruitbatgate.

His fight was undermined, however, by his publication of the relevant correspondence allowing all denizens of the internet to judge for themselves, and more recently by his lack of respect for the confidentiality of the disciplinary proceedings. In fact, it has all blown up in his face.

The online affair began as a simple claim that Evans’ academic freedom was being limited because he was unable to discuss the sex life of fruit bats with a colleague without being accused of sexual harassment. Plenty of academics all over the world enthusiastically signed the petition, probably without reading the details. As Evans’ said

If we cannot discuss scientific articles about topics directly related to our own research, published in leading peer-reviewed international journals with colleagues in the same department, this bodes very ill for informed inquiry and debate.

What Evans fails to add is that he is an evolutionary psychologist and the woman he harassed is an expert nutritionist. Fellatio in fruit bats would not seem to be a topic directly related to the research of either party.

Evans seems to have a couple of major gripes. Firstly, he did not mean to offend her. Secondly, she did not tell him she was offended. Thirdly, he wants to be allowed to discuss fellatio with anyone is chooses.

Not meaning to offend someone is neither here nor there. An offender does not get to justify hir offense. An offender gets to apologise and to not repeat the words. Instead, Evans has created the biggest “I didn’t mean to” cry by casting his plea all over the internet. If he truly did not mean to offend, then he needs to learn what can cause offence and the university-imposed monitoring and counselling can only aid with his understanding.

I do not see that it is the job of the harassee to explain the error of hir ways to the harasser. Is it not enough to experience the harassment the first time around without having to relive the experience by pointing it out and no doubt hearing explanations and justifications and not a hint of apology?

Academic freedom is an important issue and that freedom must be guarded. Nothing makes a bigger mockery of that freedom than using it to cover one’s ass in a case of sexual harassment. Evans’ actions mock academic freedom. His violent defence in the face of a sexual harassment suit will make it all the more difficult for other people to bring such cases in the future.

After all, an academic brought a case of sexual harassment against a colleague. Now, her name and picture have been published. Comments about her are all over the internet. While there are those that are supportive

We now have a witch hunt online and in newspapers of a woman who made a complaint of sexual harassment. There are plenty of well-known advocates for free speech in the science community but how many senior scientists are women and who is an advocate for women working in science and their right to make confidential sexual harassment claims without having their name splashed online and in newspapers? Way to go Greg and others for stoking up a witch-hunt of a woman who made an allegation of sexual harassment – great “post-enlightenment” values there.

Others take their vitriol from a misogynist’s bingo card:

This is absolutely ridiculous that HR would consider the showing a peer reviewed paper during a discussion as “harassment”. That Michael Murphy didn’t just laugh this off as someone being a prude and incapable of dealing with the reality of modern science

Evans claims innocent but it seems to me that he engaged in high level bullying with his internet campaign. The thing about the internet is that the information is saved somewhere. I looked at some of his tweets and was unsurprised at this.

It seems like the world has not moved on at all. In the past women did not always bring sexual harassment suits against offenders because of the backlash. Those who did, lost their jobs and had difficulty finding new positions. Fast forward to 2010 and not much has changed. There is a glaze over sexism which only makes it more difficult to see in most cases.

4 thoughts on “Fellatio and fruit bats: sexual harassment vs. academic freedom

  1. The links don’t seem to be working any more. (I know I am late on the scene). Are you able to update them? Cheers..

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