An old man - a prominent researcher in his field - just put his arm around me, kissed me on the temple, and called me sweetie.

Last year at this same conference, he took my photo without asking, then asked to take a photo with me. I said yes, because I thought I'd misunderstood the unsolicited photo - this was my first time meeting him. As we were posing, he puts his arm around my waist and on the top swell of my buttocks. I moved before the photo was taken. Later, he asked to share a taxi with me back to the residences where everyone was staying. What a coincidence, we're in the same hallway! I said no. I made up some sort of excuse.

Last year, I found out this man drove one of my treasured mentors out of her PhD school due to sexual harassment. To get away from him (her supervisor at the time), she switched schools rather than try complaining, because he is known for his temper and no one wants to tick him off.

Last year and this, everyone rolls their eyes when he finds new prey - this year, undergrad students who have been reading his work in class. He's taking their photos. He's hugging them. And no one is doing anything. Including me.

The conference organizer is troubled by his behaviour. He said "I really should talk to Paul. I warned my students about him, and told them if he tries to kiss you, back away - you don't have to let him just because he's a scholar. But I should probably tell him, too." I wanted to ask this middle-aged man how often he's had to 'back away' from a kiss from someone who has their arm(s) around you. I also wanted to ask him how these young girls are supposed to overcome all of this politeness conditioning (or rape culture, or what have you) to make that split second decision to refuse these relatively platonic-on-the-outside overtures.


I told myself I would back away. I didn't. I laughed and smiled and walked away, rubbing my temple.

I usually love being in academia. I usually am not so conscious of my gender as this. But man, when things like this happen, and it's so obvious that my fellow academics will tolerate 'mild' sexual harassment OF STUDENTS rather than piss off an intellectual, I get very, very tired.


[ETA: I've reported him to the conference organizer via email, so there's a paper trail, for this year and last.]

[ETA2: GUESS WHAT ANNOUNCEMENT I JUST HEARD? "PAUL" IS RETIRING!!! HOORAY!! He will still be at the conferences, I'm sure, but at least he isn't teaching any more!!! He isn't super old, I'm curious how voluntary this retirement is, or if someone he did this to was making noise at his institution...]