Sex and the Single Feminist Science-Fiction Scholar

By Barr, Marleen S. | Academe, September/October 2018 | Go to article overview

Sex and the Single Feminist Science-Fiction Scholar


Barr, Marleen S., Academe


Women discussing sex is all the rage. The august Christiane Amanpour responded to #MeToo by conducting worldwide interviews with women about their sex lives. During my career as a science-fiction writer and scholar, I have negotiated being a sexual "other" in relation to the academy.

Academia positions male biology as the norm and subordinates women in relation to this norm. The tenure clock is not set to accommodate motherhood. Heterosexual female professors do not have wives to follow their career paths-and to undertake the domestic work unfairly assigned to wives. I describe confronting the systemic obstacles faced by academic women in my novels Oy Pioneer! and Oy Feminist Planets: A Fake Memoir. Sondra Lear, my protagonist, has flying sex with a vampire and marries her gray male cat, who turns into a Cary Grant clone; I did not share Sondra's experiences.

In light of #MeToo, it is time for me to speak about Marleen's real life rather than Sondra's fantasy life. It is wrong for men to commit sexual assault with impunity. It is not wrong for me to tell the truth about my experience as a sexual female human being. It is wrong for the president of the United States to brag about "grabbing pussy." It is not wrong for me to tell the story of my sexuality and its relation to my professional ambitions within the patriarchal academy. This truth is not analogous to a box of Tampax that belies female biological truth by shrouding female reality in obscuring feminine modesty. This truth should not be "taboo."

What Sondra and I have in common is that we both, as Rick Rojas wrote about Edna St. Vincent Millay in the New York Times, "subverted typical gender roles, casting women as pursuers of men they desired instead of the other way around." When we had occasion to see a man as an object of desire, we said something. Sexual assault played no part in my novels or in my life. The #MeToo movement prompted me to reflect on my sexual experiences in the academy. I was lucky to have avoided sexual assault.

As a young assistant professor at a southern landgrant university-the school I called Blackhole State University in Oy Pioneer!-I saw, and described in my fiction, racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia. The Blackhole English department was filled with many female assistant professors whom I knew well. Neither they nor other close female Baby Boomer colleagues have ever told me that they had been sexually abused in the academic workplace. This does not mean, however, that sexual abuse did not happen to academic women.

I did experience other forms of exploitation. All of the scholars who were Blackhole assistant professors of English together with me know that the department head made it clear that receiving tenure was contingent upon cleaning his swimming pool and removing the pool's cover. I still resent being coerced into doing this hard and dirty work. But at least I was exploited together with my female and male untenured colleagues. This experience, of course, pales in comparison to sexual assault. If I feel exploited by swimming-pool cleaning, I can't imagine the pain that a survivor of sexual abuse in the academy must feel.

A brilliant science-fiction scholar who is a generation younger than I am is currently using social media to grapple with the fact that she was raped by one of her professors in graduate school. My heart goes out to her. Social media, a tool unavailable to young Baby Boomers, enables her to communicate her devastating experience widely.

How did I function as a biological other in relation to the patriarchal "academic tribe" (Hazard Adams's term)? I will haul out the way-back machine and start at the very beginning: I had a close relationship with a male high school English teacher. With the consent of my parents, I would routinely go to his apartment to discuss Shakespeare. These discussions formed the inception of my wish to become an English professor. Nothing sexual occurred. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Sex and the Single Feminist Science-Fiction Scholar
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.