Monday, January 30, 2006

Short-Answer Quiz

Sometimes I think that writing about sex is not nearly as scary and threatening as writing about my job. Any blogger who pays the least bit of attention to what goes on in the blogosphere has read about another blogger who lost his/her job because s/he wrote about it. I don't want that to happen to me.

But I do want to vent. Specifically, I want to know if anyone else has ever had to send an email message like the one I sent over the weekend to the students in an undergraduate literature course:
I graded all the quizzes from Friday this afternoon. Unfortunately a couple of people used the quiz as an opportunity to make dirty jokes. If you don't know the answer to a question, DO NOT provide a guess that involves sexual content--I try to avoid such matters when writing quizzes, and you should avoid such matters when you take them. If, in the future, I receive quizzes that include answers I find excessively inappropriate or offensive, the quiz will receive a grade of zero, no matter how many other answers are correct.

I should add that all the jokes involved mocking female sexuality, and while there was one woman who wrote inappropriate answers, the worst offender by far was a young man.

It might seem weird that a "dominatrix" is chastising people for talking about sex. But the thing is, I'm a BORED dominatrix: Not only am I tired of dealing with men who don't want to take responsibility for much of anything that happens in a relationship, I'm also really tired of having to tell people to sit down, shut up and act like grownups, just so I can do my job.

I'm far more interested in balanced exchanges between equals. But when I can't get that, I'm not going to put up with the crap so many people want to offer instead: whiny, pathetic defenses for why they can't be expected to behave like adults; self-important explanations for why they don't have to be accountable for clearly stated expectations; sheer meanness.

I have learned to deal with such behavior by saying, "This is not acceptable work. This is not acceptable behavior. Do not produce such work or engage in such behavior again," in a measured and even tone. And OH MY GOD from the shocked, open-mouthed stares and silent bewilderment such statements produce, you'd think I'd produced a pair of handcuffs and cracked a whip! People are sometimes more flummoxed than if I'd lost my temper and started yelling (though I would never suggest that I don't believe there are times and places when it's utterly appropriate to lose one's temper and start yelling, to be not just churlish but downright bitchy). Still, while I wait for people to process my matter-of-fact declaration that I will not approve or accept their work or behavior, I can see them scan the room, my face, the inside of their brains as they try to find the answer to this perplexing question: What kind of frustrated, dominating bitch must she be to assert her authority so decidedly, so assuredly?! Something is wrong!

Something is wrong indeed.


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