From an essay in the Times Higher Education on the seven deadly sins in academia, when I first read it this piece on lust made my eyeballs hurt, and not in a good way:

When Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, he is famously said to have replied, “because that’s where the money is”. Equally, the universities are where the male scholars and the female acolytes are. Separate the acolytes from the scholars by prohibiting intimacy between staff and students (thus confirming that sex between them is indeed transgressive – the best sex being transgressive, as any married person will soulfully confirm) and the consequences are inevitable.

The fault lies with the females. The myth is that an affair between a student and her academic lover represents an abuse of his power. What power? Thanks to the accountability imposed by the Quality Assurance Agency and other intrusive bodies, the days are gone when a scholar could trade sex for upgrades….

Normal girls – more interested in abs than in labs, more interested in pecs than specs, more interested in triceps than tripos – will abjure their lecturers for the company of their peers, but nonetheless, most male lecturers know that, most years, there will be a girl in class who flashes her admiration and who asks for advice on her essays. What to do?

Enjoy her! She’s a perk. She doesn’t yet know that you are only Casaubon to her Dorothea, Howard Kirk to her Felicity Phee, and she will flaunt you her curves. Which you should admire daily to spice up your sex, nightly, with the wife…. And in any case, you should have learnt by now that all cats are grey in the dark.

So, sow your oats while you are young but enjoy the views – and only the views – when you are older.

Crooked Timber comments, this is a “classic example of the sort of thing where having shown a draft to a single close female friend might have saved the day, and in the process offered a useful insight into the distinction between the concept ‘refreshingly un-PC’ and the concept ‘creepy’.”

However, the author answers his critics this way:

This is a moral piece that says that middle aged male academics and young female undergraduates should not sleep together. Rather, people should exercise self-restraint. Because transgressional sex is inappropriate, the piece uses inappropriate and transgressional language to underscore the point – a conventional literary device. At a couple of places, the piece confounds expectations, another conventional literary device, designed to maintain the reader’s interest. Sex between academics and students is not funny, and should not be a source of humour. But employing humour to highlight the ways by which people try to resolve the dissonance between what is publicly expected of them and how they actually feel – not just in this context – reaches back to origins of humour itself. In his introduction, [editor] Matthew [Reisz] wondered how many of his contributors would enter into the spirit of levity that inspired the idea of the seven deadly academic sins (submitting a piece on prevarication late, etc) and I suspected that one could get to heart of all that is wrong with sex between scholars and students by employing the good ol’ boy language of middle aged male collusion. I’m not sure I’m wrong.

If it’s intended to be a piece whose style and tone exemplify its subject, I have to admit it does a decent job. Naturally the piece has generated a huge number of comments, though this one takes the prize:

Professor Kealey assumes that every male academic’s wife mustn’t be that attractive. How wrong! I, for example, I am far hotter than any of my husband’s young and inexperienced students could ever (unfortunately for them) hope to be.

Hear hear. When I was in Oxford, walking around in the evening and trying to navigate around the crowds of students in high heels and skirts, I’d sometimes think, “They might be interesting in twenty years.” I can’t be the only man who reacts like that.

[To the tune of Radiohead, “Scatterbrain (As Dead As Leaves),” from the album Hail To The Thief (I give it 1 stars).]