#232: Prof HP

#232: Prof HP

Yes, it’s more on the McGinn scandal. He and his defenders continue their repugnant campaign to slander the victim, all the while demonstrating a complete failure to grasp some very simple points, and so I am responding with one more comic.

In particular, a lot of people – including academic types who should know better – still don’t seem to grasp the very basic notion that if you are in a position of power or authority over someone else, then his or her apparent consent to your salacious comments/emails/texts/advances/etc might not be genuine consent. Instead, he or she might feel coerced or pressured into playing along. Consider this comic my very unsubtle illustration of this point.

For more on the debacle, see Pharyngula here and here (he’s disappointed with philosophers, and rightfully so). There’s also an excellent collection of baffling comments on the McGinn scandal here. And of course, there’s plenty more from McGinn himself, where he explains how the UMiami department of philosophy will crumble without him (and blames his victim), where he explains how his harassment of students makes him a counter-culture hero, and where he explains how the women out there really support him. McGinn had posted an even more sinister piece this morning – wherein he defamed his victim at length and also identified by name another recent research assistant of his who he claims still likes him (thereby providing further clues to help remove the anonymity of his victim) – but it seems he has had the good sense to delete that one.

Also, it should be noted that my good friend Mark Warren conceived of the idea of Professor Handpenis. So if this comic offends you, he’s the one to go after.

Discussion (8)¬

  1. Those who think that McGinn’s alleged emails are “mild” or “not severe” would do well to remember that many seemingly small actions over a long period of time can produce a hostile or offensive work environment. Sexual harassment does not require that there be an obvious, severe offense in order to be in violation of Title VII — or to be problematic and painful for the victim.

  2. chaospet says:

    Exactly, Jeanine.

  3. Ben says:

    Is there much work being done within mainstream philosophy on sex and sexuality, or has this been passed off to biology, psychology, sociology, etc.? Like is there a good underlying of why some people are sleazeballs and others not, or why some people are sleazeballs sometimes and not others?

    Because clearly HandPenis is a sleazeball, and I don’t mean to defend that, but there’s likely something that physiologically different between HandPenis and most non-sleazeballs, and I don’t know how that might factor into the moral calculus.

  4. chaospet says:

    I’m skeptical that a simple physiological difference is going to give us a good explanation of what makes guys like HP so much sleazier than others. Psychology might tell us something (for instance, this post at Feminist Philosophers discusses a lot of the psychological traits common to sexual predators like HP), and sociology, etc. And I know there is a lot of philosophical work done on the power dynamics and social structures that engender the misogyny, the sense of entitlement, etc that lead to this kind of sexual predation being so prevalent, but that’s completely outside my area of expertise. Perhaps some other reader can say something more informative.

  5. Ben says:

    So what I’m driving at here, which is admittedly tangential, and feel free to let me know if this not the right forum, is a remarkable absence of practical, accessible ethics regarding the modern dating/mating landscape, which seems like an actual problem.

    There is plenty of advice from religious groups, which I find to be largely outdated, from feminists, which I often find to be extreme to the point of parody, and from the “pick-up” community, which I find to be often very unethical. To be specific, I wonder whether academic philosophers have, or might be inclined to tackle questions like:

    1) Is it ethical to sleep with somebody and then never call them?
    2) Is it ethical to go on three dates with somebody and then stop taking their calls?
    3) Is infidelity ever ethical?
    4) Do what extent is one obligated to reveal long-term intentions to a significant other?
    5) Is it ever ethical to use “negs”?
    6) Is it ever ethical to lie to a significant other?
    7) How should someone with socially inappropriate sexual desires behave?

    I have personal answers for all these, but I think there’s a really rich and meaningful conversation to be had, and I’m not sure why academic ethicists wouldn’t want in on it.

  6. Locutest of Borg says:

    Someone let’s call him “PP” [note the clever wordplay] tried to post this on a certain professor’s hate filled blog (let’s call him CM just to be witty). Apparently, you can’t post things on C.M.’s blog anymore unless you are already a member of his Hateblog. Yes, the same blog where he continually incriminates himself. So this is what PP wrote to one of CM’s defenders who was moaning about a “witch hunt”:


    What I find “amazing” is your profound ignorance of how sexual harassment works and the details of this case.

    Here’s what has been publicly admitted to: Mcginn sent sexually explicit emails from his U.M. account and he chose to resign. There is nothing to defend. Where there is evidence of that nature there is exceedingly little that can be done. The department is blameless. The grad student is blameless. The policy is clear and everyone was doing what was required of them. There is no “witch hunt”. Mcginn did not need a lawyer as there would have been a University (not A *LEGAL*) investigation.

    Again: Prof. Mcginn admits to sending messages of a sexual nature to his subordinate! These messages made the grad student uncomfortable (and now it becomes clear this occurred MORE THAN ONCE showing a pattern of such behavior). She reported her claims with supporting evidence. McGinn chose to resign. That’s it.

    Some people (especially those in academia) fail to realize that you are guilty of sexual harassment if you send your subordinate sexually explicit emails which makes them “uncomfortable”. Moreover, if those messages are sent in your capacity as instructor or employee you can be terminated just for that ALONE. Yes, just for sending the emails. There’s no need for further speculation or debate. If you send such communications you’re finished. If you have any doubt about the law or policy, here is a (very) partial list of people who have been fired or faced sanction for sending emails with sexual content:









    There’s many, many such instances. If you send emails with “sexual content” you are fired or resign to avoid charges (by the way this is so even if the emails are **consensual**: the precedent is clear). Moreover, there is more evidence that the emails were not the only inappropriate behaviors that occurred. So, defenders of Mcginn should bear all of the preceding in mind before they talk of “witch hunts.”

  7. B says:

    Please tell me that he makes the argument that if not for the evolution of hand jobs, men would be forced to rape women… oh please… that would be so fitting.

  8. chaospet says:

    Ben: I think some of those questions are more philosophically interesting than others. I know there certainly are several philosophers who do work on moral questions related to sex and relationships, but again I am not very well acquainted with that work (something I should fix). Perhaps a better informed reader can chime in.

    Locutest, thanks! The comparisons to “witch hunts” are especially infuriating. The evidence here is overwhelming; aside from the emails themselves, McGinn’s several posts on the subject are quite damning, for just the reasons you point out.

    B, it wouldn’t surprise me. I guess we’ll have to wait for his forthcoming book on the evolution of the hand to find out!