by Laura Kipnis
Should teachers date their students? The subject never fails to divide opinion but, says Laura Kipnis, a feminist who teaches filmmaking at Illinois’ Northwestern University, in the United States, restricting relationships between faculty members and students is hypocritical, given the “legions” of such on-campus romances. In a 2015 essay about sexual paranoia in academe, Kipnis argued against codes introduced at American universities that made such relationships off-limits, believing them to infantilise students and ramp up the climate of accusation. In response, outraged students organised a protest. Unwanted Advances is a result of complaints filed against her (later quashed) on the basis of that article, and, she says, will “test the limits of what can and can’t be said about the sexual and intellectual situation
on campus”. That statement dares others to joust with her on the subject, which involves shifting views on what should be permitted and proscribed. Kipnis makes the point that, unlike in her day, sex is now seen as angerous, which is one reason students are demanding more regulation over their lives from college administration. Kipnis’ views on sexual paranoia cannot be ignored, whichever side of the debate you’re on.