Professor-Student Relationships: Love, Lust Or A Craving For Power?

Professor-Student Relationships: Love, Lust Or A Craving For Power?

Salma sits in her seat to the side of the classroom and feels her heart pounding as Dr. Charm walks into the classroom. She has changed her regular place – center and first row to avoid what has become a regular non-verbal interaction with the professor. She is worried that other students might notice the direct eye contact and the blushing and sweating that she is experiencing. In the previous session she felt that Dr. Charm was ignoring all other students and focusing only on her and this made her very uncomfortable. She is now afraid of her own feelings while her whole body shivers – What next?
Dr. Charm is the talk of the college hall, tall athletic in his 30’s and teaches French! Is this a classical crush on your professor? The proximity of the classroom, the direct stares and the warmth of his voice have all been the ultimate ingredients for an erotic fantasy that is guaranteed three times a week.
Salma is just one of millions of college students around the world who fall prey to this scenario. The exact dynamics that interact to tickle remnants of a long forgotten Elektra Complex. This is an ideal opportunity to stare for hours at the beauty of a human body and the silence that allows you to fantasize and dream. The 20-year-old is craving a mature and handsome man who can nurture her desire to elicit her femininity and allow her to become a woman.
The classroom setting is an exhibition of power par excellence. She probably would not have noticed him in any other setting – but, there he is parading in front of the class using all his vocal skills to emphasize the beauty of the French language which in itself alludes sensuality, creating around him an aura of lust.

Do any of the other girls in class feel the same? She doesn’t dare ask. Does he notice her infatuation? Is he aware of all the turbulent emotions that she is experiencing? Is he enjoying the power he has within the classroom? Most probably he takes the liberty to overdo his erotic presentation as he knows that he is protected in his social space.

The power of fantasy

Salma wonders what does this all mean. Is it real or is she imagining…
Is it admiration for the eloquence and wit that he exudes or is it a lust for a sexual encounter? Is it a power struggle for the prohibited? Is it a stage fantasy or an honest longing to touch and smell and be totally embraced by his presence? What if he asks her to his office, what if she meets him at the college library or the bar down the block? What if he is also looking for an amorous relationship?
Professor-student relationships have been a hot topic since the early days of mixed education. The literature both academic and fictional is rich with stories of such encounters. Many are just a fling while others are accounts of really sour endings. Stories of professors exploiting their power by seducing naïve students who are longing for romance have become classics. In the dynamics of the classroom, students may confuse an admiration for the mind with the lust for the person. The professor at the podium is a demi-god whose other life is mysterious! Many students fantasize about the real life of the professor, what does he do in his free time? Does he have a lover? Is he married?
While there are many naïve students longing for this perfect relationship there are others who are witty and sneaky and who will reverse the power game. These are young women who will exploit their youth and subordinance in exchange for power and dominance. Such a wicked game can easily tickle the ego of most men and they end up falling prey for a different kind of fantasy! On every campus, there is at least one story that points to a professor who lost his prestige and his job as a result of an amorous relationship with a student who ended up using the professor to satisfy goals of a different nature.

The game of lust and power is exciting and challenging but it can easily leave either one with a broken heart or a shattered ego.
It is true that there are many couples who are a living testimony to a professor-student relationship that evolved into a healthy matrimonial bonding but the success stories are only the tip of the iceberg – thousands of stories public or discrete are bold evidence that love, lust and power are highly confused in the classroom and can be a deadly combination.
Many colleges have very strict policies in this respect. Recently Harvard University banned professors from engaging in intimate and sexual relationships with undergraduate students. This seems strange when both parties are consenting adults but the move was to protect both from the consequences of the entangled interests in such situations. The authorities might control behavior through penalties but how can they control fantasies, dreams and emotions? Salma is you or your classmate – how can she protect her blossoming personality from the pains of a miscalculated adventure?
Ideally, avoid falling for your professor. The educational setting is an arena for the minds – professors challenge their students intellectually and put a lot of effort to stimulate their enthusiasm to explore new fields and ideas. In this process they project their own passion for the subject – this is their strength and their playground – this is what they excel in. Students very often confuse their lust for words with their lust for the body; their love for the intellect with their love for the person.

What should Salma do?

The best advice is to allow her feelings to calm down. This might be a mental fling that will pass and therefore keeping it to herself will allow her to avoid any embarrassment. Second, by all means, if this is for real, Salma should wait until the semester is over and the grades are out! Love and grades are worst enemies and they can both harm her in this situation. Liberate yourself from the professor-student dynamics and go beyond the classroom.

She might also discover that as soon as the grades are out, the fantasy dies. He is no longer the demi-god and she might be left wondering what was all the fuss about. If on the other hand, her heart is still pounding and she is confident that her feelings towards Dr. Charm are real then take it slowly. Explore the social dynamics with him, are you compatible? Is there a chance for this relationship to develop without being disappointed? How real is the fantasy?
This whole obsession might be just a creation of her mind and it is not met with mutual interest from the other side. The ultimate advice is to protect herself and her reputation from any damage. Professors are human beings who exhibit the full spectrum of human nature from the honest to the deceitful and from the sane and balanced to the psycho and freaky. She might discover that in every class Dr. Charm has a Salma to motivate his teaching prowess but she might also be the chosen one.
Stop, think carefully and then embark on a journey of discovery!

This blog post doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinion of Raseef22.
Loulwa Kaloyeros

Loulwa Kaloyeros completed her graduate work in developmental psychology at the University of Manchester in the UK. She is a faculty member at the Lebanese American University where she teaches psychology. She specialized in stress management at the Centre for Stress Management in London in the late 90's and then completed a specialization in clinical psychology. In addition to teaching, she is very active in coaching and training and has developed training programs for schools, banks and other organizations.

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