A feminist professor said she was so triggered by a male student’s paper that “I began to have trouble distinguishing him from the man that [raped me].”
Writing anonymously in Inside Higher Ed, the professor described a lesson on rape culture she included in her gender class, saying she was frustrated with male students skeptical that it exists.
But one male student’s paper left her “thrown back into a pit of traumatic, fragmented memories,” she wrote.
The student cited a men’s rights advocacy group, referenced a case where a woman raped a man, questioned whether feminism was relevant, and said that concerns about gender inequality were overblown.
The professor thought the paper was not well sourced, and that the argument wasn’t sufficiently supported. But that wasn’t all.
“As I went over his paper,” she wrote, “I realized that I was reading a paper that sounded word for word like something the man who raped me would say. And not only did this sound like something my rapist would say, this student fit the same demographic profile as him: white, college male, between the ages of 18 and 22.”
She said she was so upset that she could no longer grade papers or read.
“Although I knew it was unlikely that this student would literally try to rape me, his words felt so familiar that I began having trouble distinguishing him from the man that did. Their words were so frighteningly similar that the rational-instructor side of my brain could not overpower the trauma-survivor side,” the professor wrote.
She recounts screaming “Zero! You get a f*cking zero!” at the computer screen as she graded the student’s two-page paper, saying that she also felt that simply by writing the paper, he had undermined her authority as an instructor.
“I imagined him sitting on the other side of his computer screen laughing at my pain, joking about my distress,” she wrote. “I imagined him being friends with my rapist (though the man who raped me is now significantly older than this student, he is frozen in the 18-22 age bracket in my mind).”
She says never received any training to guide her through “how to grade a paper that sounds like something my rapist would say,” speculating that other professors who survived rape might also be similarly triggered.
“How, I wondered, could I possibly evaluate this student’s work in an ‘unbiased’ fashion?” she asked. “Such a request would involve me living an entirely different life than the one that I have had.”