Bat fellatio paper in sex harassment dustup

Remember that paper from PLOS One on the act of fellatio in fruit bats? Sure, you do. New Scientist offers the following mind-jog, just in case.

The story had a certain prurient interest, which was only heightened by an explicit video that went with it.

Now, we all got a good chuckle out of that research, but it's stopped being a laughing matter at University College Cork in Ireland, where the bat fellatio paper is at the center of a controversial sexual harassment case. Short story: A male academic showed the paper to a female colleague. He apparently thought he was sharing the information in a jokey manner, but she understood it in a way that was a lot more skeevy and insulting.

Which, frankly, given the subject matter, isn't terribly surprising. Nor is the fact that the University opted to uphold the complaint, while also ruling that the male professor hadn't meant to cause offense. (There also seems to be a lot of back-story that goes into why the female professor made a complaint to Human Resources, though the details of that back-story are disputed and murky enough that the University opted not to rule that as sexual harassment.) As part of the final ruling, the male professor was censured, and given a two-year period of intensive monitoring and counseling. He says that has prevented him from getting tenure.

This is a complicated story that, from my perspective, doesn't have a clear villain. It's a story about how human beings interpret each other's ambiguous actions through the lens of culture and context. What's frustrating to me, though, is how this is being interpreted elsewhere—which is, to say, as a story about a horrible whiner who couldn't handle a discussion about peer-reviewed research and decided to ruin a man's life. There's even a petition going around to remove the censure on the grounds that it will stifle all academic discussion between colleagues.

I don't think anyone deserved to lose tenure over this situation, but I'm equally skeptical of the idea that, because something is peer-reviewed research it could not possibly be presented, as part of a one-on-one conversation, in a way that could logically be interpreted as offensive or sexually harassing. We're talking about bat blowjobs, for pete's sake. They're funny. But I can see how they might not be so funny, or scientifically enlightening, under certain situations.

I'm also pretty skeptical of this ruling as a blow against free speech. Saying that, "in this situation, a guy talked about bat blowjobs in such a way that it was reasonable his female colleague felt uncomfortable" is not the same thing as saying, "Do not talk about bat blowjobs." Asking people to think about how their conversation might be interpreted by others is not the same as telling them to shut up.

I'd support changing the outcomes for the male professor. But I can't support the way this case is being presented, in order to get to that change.


  1. Fair and balanced viewpoint.

    Of course, what none of this mentions is the fact that the professor in question had a fruitbat dangling out of his zipper when he brought the subject up.

  2. There’s a fine line between sexual harassment and someone being intentionally hypersensitive. When enough people think the line’s been crossed it *probably* has.

    The problem with always erring on the side of calling everything sexual harassment is that you just allow the threat of a complaint to be a weapon against which there is no defense. Just like publicly calling someone a pedophile.

  3. ” because something is peer-reviewed research it could not possibly be presented, as part of a one-on-one conversation”

    One of the contentions in the documents at

    is that the conversation wasn’t one on one, but that this wasn’t properly investigated.

    I agree that there doesn’t seem to be enough information to support the ‘horrible whiner’ side of things, but the free speech part does hold up.

    I’m not an academic, but if I were would I speak about bat sex if I thought it would affect my career? Probably not, which by definition affects my ability to discuss peer reviewed articles.

    There’s a big difference between sharing academic articles and ‘funny’ emails


  4. Interesting take. BTW, in the interest of fairness, Maggie, it may be better to give the link not only to one of the linked documents, but to the whole page:

    The cat’s out of the bag for good, anyway. Or the bat.

  5. I disagree.

    Without knowing what both professors specialized in I find it difficult to really gauge how appropriate the paper might have appeared to male professor, but as a male I would think that a statement like this:

    “Dr Evans showed Dr _____ an academic article which Dr _____ claims was inappropriate and offensive and which made her feel hurt and disgusted”

    would have a chilling affect on whether I would share any articles with female colleagues if I had any doubt that they might find something to feel “hurt and disgusted” about. It doesn’t sound like she took offense to how he presented it to her or what HE said, she took offense to the paper itself and IMO that is a problem.

    If the material is from a bona fide scientific journal (or some other legitimate source) and it isn’t presented in a juvenile or prurient manner I don’t think that Dr Evans should have been punished, especially not given what a stigma this sort of thing can carry for him professionally.

    I’m not saying no one should ever be punished but in this case I think it’s overreaching and it can only have negative effects on how male and female professors interact in the future. If the bar is set as low as “he showed me an article that I didn’t like and now I’m filing a sexual harassment charge against him” then we weaken that case for women who are actively sexually harassed

    It also seems like there should be some way to address situations where one person does something that someone else takes in a negative way but where no one really thinks the first person did it maliciously. Maybe they could get one warning and/or sensitivity training or something of that sort BEFORE hitting them with a punishment like this professor got.

  6. Which is why the punishment for a first incident of harassment, in most jurisdictions, is supposed to be just a verbal warning. Not summary termination and public ridicule on BoingBoing…

  7. Since this is all about context, my first question was what kind of academics these people are into? I figured any sort of biology related field would make a difference.

    Nope: The guy’s got a PhD in Economics. If he’s showing someone pictures of bats having sex, it’s not work related.

    1. @anansi133

      It’s not just a question of what he specializes in, we need to know what both professors study. It looks like her information has been redacted so I’m not sure what she studies (e.g. if she’s a biologist it might be legitimate to show her the article)

    2. From Dr Evan’s home page:

      “In September 2008 he moved to the School of Medicine, also at University College Cork, where he is now Lecturer in Behavioural Science”

      Both of the people involved work in the School of Medicine


  8. In his mind he could have been entirely innocent, that is to say, socially clueless. In his written defense, he was saying they talked about parallels between human and animal behaviours, so by his admission his topics may well have ranged to human oral sex. I don’t discuss this with female colleagues, including the times when I was in science. A college professor who is working with young adults should know enough to be able to sense some discomfort around this sort of discussion. If there were two tenure candidates, and knowing nothing else about them, I’d likely go with the candidate who doesn’t go into a female professor’s office and demand she read an article on bat oral copulation.

  9. I was hoping that Koko the gorilla was going to be involved somehow.

    I think a firm warning and some education about sexual harassment would have been appropriate in the situation. The guy had poor discretion but it doesn’t look like he had malicious intentions.

    What’s really scary is that the scientists who wrote the paper think bat fellatio deprivation experiments are in order:
    “In conclusion, we have documented fellatio in animals that may have functional significance. Of course, adaptive benefits remain unproven until tested, ideally by experimentation…”

  10. The complainant claims that this was part of a pattern of frequent sexual references, uninvited hugging, etc. Obviously this is a “He said, she said” situation to some degree — he could be a skeeveball, or he could be an open and friendly guy who ran up against Angela from The Office — but it’s not as simple as a chiropterist saying “Doctor X, I’d like your input on this research.” In her claim, at least, this is the culmination of a long string of suggestive actions.

    1. Agreed. Most readers seem to assume that this one incident happened out of the blue (since it’s the only one written about here), but it’s very likely that this was simply “the last straw” in a series of similar incidents.

  11. Problem here is that there is nothing that can’t be made sexual.

    Hey, I got this paper on seabed drilling you should see. KnowwhatImean?

    Bad jokes and/or innuendo are part of life. Deal with it.

  12. Since Sexual Harassment is a popular hot button, having pushed to insane extremes by all sides of the issue, it’s important to take a step back and try to see this with a fresh eye.

    The problem right now is that we are trying to solve this issue legally, which is a big dumb blunder on our part. No, anyone (regardless of gender) applying pressure on another person to get them to do anything is not okay- it’s disrespectful and manipulative. Not just sexually, but in any way- it’s people trying to force other people to do something they want them to do.

    Trying to “solve” the matter by forcing them with the fist of the law, is equally as stupid and unproductive, and leads to our current problem, which is a WAY TOO UPTIGHT SOCIETY obsessed with what’s “appropriate” all the time.

    The solution isn’t that hard- we as parents, friends, and neighbors need to encourage each other to respect each other, and discourage / criticize those that don’t. Forget legal action, forget getting fired or fined, forget all that other bullshit that just wastes time, money, and energy.

    We’ve come to believe that our discomfort entitles us to X Y and Z, which it doesn’t. I don’t know if the guy is innocent, stupid, funny, or what, but he certainly shouldn’t be the subject of a boing boing news article. Let’s move on.

  13. I think you’ve spun this story rather unfairly into a case about bat fellatio, when the papers you link to make it clear that the bat thing was on in a long series of incidents.

    I have no idea whether the behaviour of this professor was objectionable or not, but it isn’t a question of whether peer-reviewed academic material can be shown to colleagues without fear of an harrassment case. It’s whether you can get tactile with said colleague, tell her lies about your qualifications, interrupt her, AND tell he bat sex anecdotes… and one about Casanova which is unspecified. Sounds like there was a lot more to it, and we are not best qualified to judge without the full story.

    In my experience, if the lecturer who was involved behaves like this with one woman, he’ll be known for it by others.

  14. To all the people saying “suck it up” I hope none of the women in your life ever have to go through the hell of sexual harassment at work.

    It’s a hellish bureaucratic nightmare, and usually all you want is for this person to leave you alone. You don’t want to punish them, or get them fired, you just want them to leave you alone. But the moment you report it, it’s out of your control. And then things get public, and horrible, and then some people think you’re a whiner and that you should “move on” or that you’re making it up. And you just end up wishing you quit instead.

    All you wanted to do was to be able to do your job in peace and not be harassed.

    1. Well, OF COURSE ‘suck it up’ would be an inappropriate response. Considering the subject and all…

      MODS: WHY OH WHY don’t you have an option to ‘stay logged in?

    2. Any procedure that acts as you describe is a prehistoric piece of crap. For about 50 years we’ve known that the first thing that should be done is to ask the complainant what they want done and how far and how public they want things to go. You should also outline the possible consequences of the various courses of action. If things are put up on an asinine “zero tolerance” basis and you “go nuclear” as the first and only option then you’re just a guilty of taking choice away from the victim as the person being complained about is.
      If I’m supervising people and the guys are hanging around the cutest woman’s cubicle telling dirty jokes I have a discrete word with her BEFORE the shit hits the fan: Are you bothered by this? If so, do you wish to deal with these jerks yourself or with my aid? Would you like me to complain to them about it without bringing you into it? And so on and so on. Responses vary from “Those losers? Who cares?” to “Yes! Fire them all now!” and we go from there.

      1. Sure, I agree with you, prehistoric and a pile of crap. But it’s still true and it still happens everywhere. I would say that kind of “nuclear” experience is even more typical now because now women are expected to tell the men off themselves, and god forbid they don’t feel comfortable doing it and look to the company for help, they either get the situation that I described or the one we’re discussing here.

        The situation I described happened in 1998-99 in Calgary, at a manufacturing company, so lots of “good old boys”, and not many women, certainly not many young good looking women. In the end the man did not lose his job but was moved far away from her, and prohibited from talking to her ever, but by then everyone in the company knew and everyone had picked a side, mostly his side.

        Her car was repeatedly vandalized after that, they had to give her the CEO’s front parking space to stop it. Even after that people that thought it was all a “misunderstanding” and that she should “just talk to him”. She quit not long after that and he got his old position back, no harm no foul.

  15. I agree with other comments that it’s significant that this is the latest in an alleged *string* of incidents. If she’s right and he’s been harassing her repeatedly, it’s not unreasonable for her to see everything he says coloured that way.

    Reading her statement, it appears to be beyond just sexual harassment, but an overall tendency to cross social boundaries and misrepresent himself. His sharing a paper explicitly about sex, in this way, comes across as the “last straw” as others describe it.

  16. I don’t think I can comment on this particular situation, but I witnessed a sexual harassment situation in college, and can say there are always more extenuating circumstances than we see. I saw people immediately choose sides based on who they were better friends with, or because of socio-political ideals rather than the actual facts of the case.

  17. Is it bad to hope this has a chilling effect? I don’t think joking about sex at work is an intelligent thing to do, and it shows terrible judgment. Call me Hank Hill but it’s guaranteed to offend someone and it gets irritating fast, I tell you what.

    There’s a fine line between ‘funny’ and ‘creepy’ and most people I’ve known who like to make blowjob jokes in the office don’t walk it very well.

  18. I find it hard to believe that anyone could have read the available background information ( ) and defend the punishing of Dr. Evans. The investigation was clearly flawed as there are numerous differences in the stories given by the two sides that remain unclear, yet they still chose to pursue punishment. Having inconclusive evidence is as helpful to making a ruling as is having ZERO evidence.

    To those who say this was a “last straw” situation, the investigators concluded that all prior incidents were not sexual harassment. They also concluded that this incident was a misunderstanding. Essentially, they are saying that he deserves the censure because he inadvertently caused discomfort.

    They are punishing Dr. Evans for what they’ve decided is a misunderstanding, and that makes no god damned sense.

    1. I find it hard to understand how anyone could read the papers this article linked to and NOT feel that Dr Evans may have been subjecting this woman to low level harassment. That doesn’t make you wrong and me right. It just means that we don’t have the same viewpoint.

      I don’t think supporting him is appropriate because of the way the information has been spun… the PZMyers blog is just sleazy, and seemed to be ignoring any implication that there was more to the case than the bat fellatio thing.

      Frankly, I think the whole premise of the post on boingboing and pzmyers was undermined by the revelation that the evidence submitted was far more complex than a simple case of one academic showing another an interesting article.

      1. Yes, Dr Evans may have been subjecting this woman to low level harassment, however, the investigation concluded that they did not have sufficient evidence to support that possibility. They also concluded that the bat bj article incident was a misunderstanding and unintentional. They decided to punish him despite the above two points. I am not saying he was innocent, I am saying that they need to investigate further. I believe, like you, that there is more to this case, and I believe that all available evidence should be reviewed before deciding to ruin a man’s career and reputation.

  19. Anything can be skeevy in the right context.

    If you know what I mean, Maggie…

    That context is what sexual harassment policy is supposed to prevent. The reactionaries can go over the top (no distributing peer-reviewed scientific papers to anyone, and you loose tenure!), but it’s a worthy case to pursue.

  20. Obviously the complainant had felt uncomfortable with Dr. Evans for some time, and this was the incident that pushed her over the edge. But her feeling uncomfortable with him for a long time is not evidence that he did anything wrong. He may have, he may not have, but the reports on the story presented here really don’t give us the information we would need to make that assessment.

    Two things that stand out about this incident are:

    1. The University President gave him a punishment that greatly exceeded what he was actually found to have done. This could be because the President had observed for himself that Dr. Evans is a sleazy, manipulative, sexual harassment machine; it could be because the President know the complainant or her husband (as implied in the IFUT response).

    2. Dr. Evans insists that the basic facts of the situation presented in the report are untrue, that there was another party present at the time the incident occurred. The idea that he would say this and it wouldn’t be looked into is absurd. Far too many harassment cases are he said/she said cases with no real resolution. A third party presents a great opportunity to get another perspective. On the other hand, if the third party wasn’t there, it would portray Dr. Evans as delusional, crazy and/or stupid. Either way, shouldn’t this have been checked? Of course there is also the possibility that he intentionally never mentioned this so that he could complain about it not being looked into later, but it really doesn’t matter. Either another person was there or they were not, this sort of thing can be checked (giving due consideration to the possibility that if the third party is a friend/supporter of Dr. Evans their account might not be any more use than Dr. Evans’ own).

    Jumping to conclusions about what actually happened from the letters people wrote back and forth seems pretty impossible.

  21. Not being an idiot here would mean talking to the colleague in question before going whining to administration. She never gave him a clear message about the boundaries and is therefore a douche for reporting him.

  22. Another thing I should have noted was that Dr Evans states in his correspondence that there was a third party in the room at the time of the incident. Also, the complainant mentions another co-worker who Dr Evans showed the paper to who felt it was inappropriate. I wonder if these other parties have contributed any testimony.

  23. As a member of the faculty at University College Cork, I would like to add two points:

    1. This article is factually incorrect about his being denied tenure over this. That’s not possible, since there is no tenure system here — job security and rank promotions are separate in Ireland. Anyone hired in a “permanent” position (the equivalent of tenure-track) has indefinite job security after a two-year probationary period. And all rank promotions are currently frozen because of economic crisis. So the only consequence the guy got was therapy, which probably couldn’t hurt him (or any of us for that matter)

    2. There’s a lot of gender essentializing and old boys club here (both in Ireland in general and in the university system here), and an ongoing history of sexist comments that would offend both a good Catholic girl and a sensitive feminist would not be surprising in the least.

  24. Denying the professor tenure is far harsher than asking him to consider how others might interpret his actions. This subjective form of “harassment” should not be illegal, unlike explicit quid pro quo bartering of sex for advancement. In my years in the workplace it seems that what happens is that if someone a person finds unattractive flirts with them, it is harassment. On the other hand, if the subject finds the actor attractive, there is no problem. Sure, it’s weird to use a bat fellatio paper to flirt, but should weirdness be prohibited? Is it really so awful to feel uncomfortable? Why is it just sexual discomfort that is so heinous? Are we that puritanical still?

  25. It’s fascinating that such crazy behavior took place among human behaviorologists. It’s also interesting to read the replies here based purely on emotion rather than reason.

    I don’t know if the OP intentionally selected only certain documents concerning the incident, but thank you davenicholls and Irene Delse for posting the link to all the documents. I read through all of them with an open mind before coming to any conclusions.

    After reading the initial post, I also thought it was completely inappropriate to be passing out this type of material to colleagues. But the initial post failed to mention that the professors worked in the field of human behaviorology and possibly were having an ongoing debate concerning the uniqueness of human behavior vs. animals making this appropriate workplace discussion, although its tastefulness may be in question. In that sense, this does become a censorship question, although I have no idea what the laws are in Ireland concerning free speech.

    The independent investigators also acknowledged receiving “e-mail evidence that casts serious doubts on some of the evidence of Dr. —” and her “string” of incidents. In most lines of work, lying in the workplace and lying about your colleagues is a much more serious offense than simply getting handed a paper on bat sex. For some jobs, it is cause for termination because the integrity and trustworthiness of that employee will always be in question. I’m also concerned that they did not question the third party to determine if he was in the room when the paper was shown which would also have determined Dr. XXX’s truthfulness.

    Dr. XXX also admits to laughing about the paper at the time she saw it and asked for a copy. This doesn’t indicate severe distress to me. She admits to never informing her colleague that his other actions were inappropriate either. In some European countries, the cultural norms support hugging and a kiss on the cheek. I do not know what the norms are in Ireland.

    Finally, the fact that Dr. XXX didn’t try to resolve this informally as university policy expects troubles me:
    Paragraph 20 of the UCC Policy on the Duty of Respect and Right to Dignity states that, “in general, Complainants will be expected to have attempted to resolve their concerns using informal means before resorting to formal procedures wherever possible”.
    The president is correct in that the policy doesn’t “require” informal resolution, but “expect” is a very strong word, and the fact that the university did not attempt to get Dr. XXX to follow university policy first is disturbing. True, this is not a case of hyper-sensitivity (or at least open hyper-sensitivity) because this is the first time she complained about an incident, but it is obvious that she is very passive aggressive.

    I understand why the principal believes he needs to take this stance in order to protect the university from liability because of the potential for a multi-million dollar lawsuit because this poor distressed woman read about bat porn. But his reaction to elevate the response to such a high level actually give more validity to Dr. XXX and her claim that this was a serious offense.

    This whole topic on the still evolving fallout from enforced coed environments in industries that were traditionally gender specific fascinates me. This story is a great example of that it is still a work in progress, although, I’m not sure we are heading in the right direction.

  26. Of course we can’t know for sure either way.

    But I am inclined to side with the accused. The accuser’s alleged mental anguish simply can’t be on par with screwing with another person’s career, due to the viewing of an academic paper. I just can’t buy that.

    If it were a corny/offensive joke, that’s one thing. But this was a real paper. That’s the crux, IMO. You have to assume innocense on the part of the sender when there truly isn’t any malicious/salscious content in the forwarded article in question. Giggling/blanching at bat oral sex – that is on the reader, not the research.

  27. Sexual harassment laws were created to keep bosses from coercing blowjobs from their secretaries, to keep skeezy office gnomes from ass slapping or copping a feel, or expressing how much and in what way they’d like to fuck you.

    They were not created as a weapon for people who happen to feel uncomfortable regarding anything relating to sex.

    The proper response? For her to say, “Bill, I don’t find this amusing. Knock it off.”

    I think that there’s a good possibility that this guy is kind of skeezy, but ultimately harmless, which makes him merely annoying.

    Well if everyone who worked with someone who was consistently annoying or disruptive could sue, the courts would have to install drive-thru’s.

    Worst case scenario, this guy exhibited poor judgement and perhaps needed a stern talking to.

    Best case scenario, this guy is completely normal and found the idea of bat-jobs amusing.

  28. For males unable to see the accuser’s side, imagine a female boss who spoke about traumatic penile amputation. Routinely. Purely from a research standpoint. There’s 158 references to it in pubmed, some articles likely have glossy pictures. She came into your office and left one on your desk and told you to read it.
    But that’s violence, he was talking sex…
    Rape and sexual violence is frighteningly common. The accuser may or not have experienced it, but even women who haven’t experienced it have often come close to it.

    1. I think the posts that claim discussing such research is obviously offensive and that males can’t empathize with the accuser are not taking context into account. Addressing the example posted by Snig, if the colleagues were doctors who specialized in reconstructive surgery or were criminal detectives working sexual related crimes, then it is perfectly appropriate to pass on a paper about penile amputation. Obviously the fact that there are 158 papers on the topic (that someone looked this up actually frightens me) means that this is relevant to some line of work.

      But back to the bat story. Given the nature of the professor’s ongoing debate on the uniqueness of humans over beasts, which is a philosophically religious doctrine, it may also be that this is more than just retaliation against perceived sexual harassment. Of course, without more back story, and knowledge of the religious orientation of the accuser, this is just speculation.

      1. I have a strong bias in this, in that I taught a women’s self defense class, where many participants had had social interactions that led to things quite a bit more unpleasant than batsex paper sharings.

        The woman seemed to feel his interests were more personal than work related. In conjunction with the “unwanted patting, hugging, kissing on the cheeks and touching behaviour” (which is not a cultural norm to do with other people’s wives in the Irish), my guess is it seemed more innapropriate flirtatious vs. work related.

        He seems like an interesting person, his website is worth looking at:

        There are some quite otherwise smart eccentric people who don’t understand boundaries. And some who understand them, but don’t feel like they apply to them. My guess is that he was acting more out of cluelessness to what’s appropriate. If it was solely a research position, that would be one thing. Since it’s a university, and he would have interaction with students, that kind of ignorance/defiance of normal boundaries is a problem. Yes, in that environment he should be told that that behaviour was inappropriate, and yes he should have been scrutinized.

        1. I get the impression you are picking the information you like (or dislike) – the accuser said Evans had a history of unwanted inappropriate touching towards her, and showed her a paper that disgusted her.

          Evans says there was no inappropriate touching, and the paper may have disgusted her, but that this was not intentional

          He said/ she said on the touching, and consensus on 1) the article and 2) the claim that she never made her unease known to him

          the report cites evidence undermining her ‘previous occurences’ claim, and calls the paper-showing ‘probably a joke’.

          I do not claim the report to be the truth – Evans could be Dr.No and she the reincarnation of the Virgin Mary, for all i care. I claim that the punishment should be dealt according to the evidence, which in this case consists of a meagre 1 page report that chronicles false allegations and one case of bad judgement. – I can empathise that the term ‘one case of bad judgement’ may lead to flashbacks of ol’ boys covering for each others depraved depredations, but please remember: in this case, it is about one incident involving a guy showing a paper about mating habits of bats to a female coworker (not below him in power structure, just coworker), in a university, in a medical department. No crescendo to a series of incidents, no wink/nudge (not even alledged), just showing a paper.

          I am most puzzled about your admission concerning oral sex, that “I don’t discuss this with female colleagues, including the times when I was in science.” – I hope you were not in any scientific topic related to sex. I was, and the topics discussed, with female and male colleagues, in groups and one-on-one, sometimes crossed over my comfortability line, and other’s too, probably. Yet not to discuss it would have been the wrong decision. If anyone felt so uncomfortable as to consider him/herself harassed, i never heard about it, probably because they chose a slow escalation route, jsut involving the harasser and the next higher authority, not HR from the start.

          1. Again, I have admitted a bias in this, from having heard a lot of first hand accounts of people being attacked, which sometimes progressed after what seem like minor boundary violations. Her backstory is not that dissimilar to several that later resulted in someone experiencing aquaintance raped. Being friends, being afraid of offending the future attacker, thinking his behaviour is likely just a joke is really not that unusual. Women being afraid of offending or hurting the feelings of someone pushing boundaries does not mean it’s ok to push those boundaries. I say this to give my perspective, not that I think he was trying to sexually assault her, but he was ignoring boundaries, likely unknowingly. That’s just not OK in a college professor.

            My research was not related to sex. I am aware that in sex related research, you have to talk about things beyond man on top, women on bottom get it over quick sex. You are hopefully aware that when sex isn’t the focus of a collegial research interest, it’s often not ok to discuss it explicitly, alone, after coming uninvited to a woman’s office. Her research and his were not directly related to sex, and they were not doing research together. Yes, they had a conversation about human/animal behaviour overlap. Part of the reason I find her behaviour believable is what she didn’t say. She could have said, “he showed me the paper, and put his hand on my leg.” If her intent was to destroy his life, that’s all it would have taken. I think she just wanted him out of her office, and especially not discussing batsex/Casanova or dressing up in devil’s costume. For her I’m guessing it was an uncomfortable, unsettling relationship that involved his bringing sexual toxics up.

          2. I find both parties in this affair believable, and the findings of the report too, to boot. What i cannot understand is the punishment resulting from the established facts (‘facts’ here meaning the assertions of the three parties, as there is no other evidence available).

            People being attacked after minor boundary violations? Sure, that happens. The edgy kid on the street asking for the time often is just an edgy kid in need of knowing the time, but once wanted my watch (and showed me the knife he already had). The people in Thai markets virtually clinging to you and yammering nonstop about some cheap purchase to be had just want you to come over and have a look at some overpriced tidbits, but one once helped him/herself to change out of my pocket. The colleagues with social deficiencies and no sense of smell, personal space or communicative norms might just want to tell me about their newest exploits but … well, actually i just had to listen to their exploits. What i am saying is: there are lots of people behaving in weird and sometimes seemingly menacing ways, and some of them actually do something bad, but just because the minor perceived offence and the later major real one are of the same ilk (in your cited case sexual harassment and rape) this does in no way hold any water statistically. It is not ok to punish people for bumping into someone in the bus, just because that’s a common trick of pickpockets, and it is not ok to punish people for staring at you menacingly, just because that is a common precursor to getting beat up. – That is because getting stared at menacingly may be awkward, but most of the times it is a misunderstanding, a stroke (rendering the face immobile), someone deep in thought, someone drunk and unaware, etc. – all poodles are dogs, but not all dogs are poodles, is what i am saying.

            “If her intent was to destroy his life, that’s all it would have taken.” – That is hyperbole, and starts from a strawman premise. Why should her intent be to destroy his life? Why couldn’t her intent be to do something to him that is somewhere on the scale of a light elbow jab to a forceful kick to the nuts, not on the kill and scatter his ashes one?

          3. My belief is that this guy wasn’t taking the hints that he should get lost, which is why she asked for help.

            If your daughter was a undergraduate/grad student/faculty member at the university, ahd she told you about a professor that she felt was dishonest and not completely right in the head, who was following her around, creeping her out, getting her alone and showing her research involving oral sex, what would you advise her to do? Should she stay quiet? Should she confront him privately?

        2. Thanks for the link to Dr Evans’s webpage. I must say that I already felt rather uncomfortable about the frequency and extent of the postings he had made on the PZMyers blog… he seems to be revelling in the publicity which the case is attracting.

          I note that that “balanced report” from the Irish Times fails to balance the information from the Evans camp with any from the (named) colleague, and again misrepresents the case as being all about whether the colleague was offended by the ideas in the bat sex paper. It seems like a gross distortion of the case to me.

    2. There are also 1855 “female genital mutilation” journal references listed on PubMed… ;-)

    3. you forgot to include in your scenario:

      you are both medical professionals involved post-amputation recoveries? surgeons specializing in penis reattachments? there’s a time and a place for it.

      and, by the way, he’s not her boss.

      of course nobody should be subjected to unwanted discussions on animal sex. but then dont expect to get far in a career researching animal sex.

  29. Being a female with a scientific bent I have to say, I am not sure I have enough information to pass judgement on this one.
    On it’s face it is ridiculous. If a male coworker handed me the article on bat fellatio, I would have been equally fascinated and found it hilarious.
    Hypothetically if the same male counterpart had been doing things for months like waiting for eye contact in the cafeteria and taking that moment to shove an overly large unpeeled banana in his mouth. Perhaps he would somehow manage to always be standing around when you exited the women’s restroom with a pervy look on his face and mentioning that his wife is at her mothers for the next week.

    If after all that he handed me a report on bat fellatio… I could see where I might feel compelled to report him or possibly staple his dick to his desk.

  30. Harrassment? Sounds like a close working relationship with a friend and colleague.
    What is wrong with these people? Apart from paranoia that is?

    If they don’t want to be friends, maybe they shouldn’t just smile and lie about it. Maybe they should open their mouths and say something.

    (You’d also think that people in academia would understand abnormal social behaviour of nerdy types. Because that would pretty much be the prime cause in these kinds of misunderstandings.)

  31. So, basically it was a kind of a “You stand accused of robbing a bank and parking illegally in front of said bank. You are acquitted of all charges related to the bank robbery and found guilty of the parking violation. The penalty for a parking violation is normally a fine but we’re going to add a couple of years of hard jail time because we figure you were probably guilty of the bank job anyway.” thing.

    Apart from any other consideration what the case does show is that the University’s procedures on any complaints dealing with (gasp!) sex are farcical jokes. If you’re going to elevate individual’s claims of emotional upset to a legal level with penalties then for Elvis’s sake put enough effort into it to make it a real legal system and not a “guilty by accusation” joke like this. I mean really; the “investigators” found him guilty on one charge without bothering to interview an alleged witness to the incident. The evidence in the harassment case that he was acquitted in didn’t even come up to that “standard” but was used to determine his sentence in the other case. How does bringing the complaint procedure into disrepute through incompetence help a single harassment victim? Note also that no one’s ever going to want to work with either of these professors again. They should both sue the University for wrecking their careers.

  32. Having read the complaint, the bat sex stuff seems inconsequential compared to allegations of “… unwanted patting, hugging, kissing on the cheeks and touching behaviour…” This stuff wasn’t found to be grounds for sexual harassment, and joking about a journal article on bat fellatio was?

    I don’t see this as any great blow against academic freedom, either. The issue is whether the punishment fits the crime. Given the evidence as its presented, it sure doesn’t seem to.

    And anyone that’s been living outside a cave for the past twenty years should know better than to joke about any topic relating to sex in the workplace, especially with a female coworker. I mean, DUH!

  33. Interesting. If a straight man makes a sexual joke to another straight man, can the second man sue the first for sexual harassment? If yes, why? If not, how does this play with gender equality? What if the sexual orientation of the harasser is not known at the time of the incident?

    1. @ mitechka: In California, at least, the gender of the complainer/complainant doesn’t matter. It could be a woman offended by a man, or a straight man offended by another straight man. If someone is talking about sex or telling sexual jokes to anyone who doesn’t welcome the conversation, it’s called ‘contributing to a hostile work environment’. As a manager, I’ve had many, many training sessions on this. I’m surpised the folks in the current case we’re discussing didn’t have similar training, but maybe that’s a California thing.

  34. I worked on a hospital floor that included both urology and gynecology patients. Rich fodder for jokes. I was one of maybe six men out of more than a hundred staff. Some people were saying rosaries on their lunch breaks. Some of us had a monthly outing to the bondage club. It’s not rocket science to figure out who wants to hear dirty jokes and who doesn’t.

  35. I’ve always had a problem with censorship for any reason. If someone is actually “harassing” someone, following them around and showing them things they’ve expressed over and over that they don’t want to see, then a charge of sexual harassment might be appropriate. However, it doesn’t sound like that’s the case here.

    I don’t think that people have a right to cry every time they’re offended. Some people seem to make a point of being offended by just about everything, and at some point adults need to be able to discuss things rationally without another person throwing up fake obstacles every time they don’t agree or see something they don’t like.

    Our society may roll their eyes these days when someone offends someone else and gets in trouble for it, saying “well they should have known better in this day and age”, but that doesn’t make it right.

    Individual liberties get worn down further and further every year. Sexual harassment used to be about actual harassment, repeated offenses or unwanted touching. These are things that people SHOULD complain about. Someone linking somebody else to a scientific document, even done for “jokey” purposes rather than work purposes, makes them just misunderstood at the least, to a jackass at the worst.

    Humans have emotions for a good reason, in the most part. Anger, lust, affection, exultation, these all have their roots in our past struggle to rise to the top of the food chain. I’ve always wondered what exactly the purpose of “being offended” is. From what I can tell it’s more a matter of wanting someone else to stop saying what they’re saying. Religious people have made great use of “being offended” to freak out every time people disagree with them. Ringing cries of “but what about the children” every time an adult concept is discussed, as if childrens’ thoughts don’t often roam more freely than our own.

    I just have no use for the whole concept of offense. If I see Hello.jpg or lemonparty.jpg or I hear people repeat the silly crap they heard on Fox News last night, I can avert my eyes or chuckle at the comedy of otherwise sensible people sounding ridiculous. If someone speaks to me in anger or seeks to hurt me, then it becomes an issue to be addressed by either reasonable conflict resolution or intervention by peers or authorities. If someone is forcing somebody else to hear things like that repeatedly, then regulations against harassment should be used.

    Granted I don’t know everything that happened, but only what was reported, but from that yeah I gather that this woman was the villain, and also a big whiner. I disagree entirely with this article.

    I am not, however, “offended”.

  36. After writing that overlong book I just posted I re-read the comments above, and realized that there had been a history of unwanted touching as well. Unless it was just silly stuff like a pat on the shoulder, I completely retract what I said. This seems like a genuine pattern of harassment, and scrutiny (and denial of tenure until they had made sure it was just an anomaly and not a pattern that would repeat) seems appropriate.

    Tenure once granted can make it difficult to remove people even for the best of reasons, and therefore should only be granted with great care.

    I am still (sounding huffy) not offended. gawd that sounds much hautier than I intended *sigh*

    1. The morning ceremonial unfurling of outrage, followed by RTFA, and then the shorter neatly folding of the earlier professed outrage. We all feel a delete function would be nice some days.

  37. I’ve been reading about fruitbatgate with interest for a while now. There’s no evidence in the documents linked supporting the idea that the male professor presented the paper to his colleague in a “jokey” way (or at least, that’s not mentioned in the complaint, or in his letters of response). Stating that as a matter of fact makes the guy look like just an insensitive heel who’s just too stupid to realize he’s being offensive and not funny. It may be true, but it’s not apparent.

    And I don’t agree at all that this is a story about misunderstanding other peoples’ motives — one of them is clearly misrepresenting the situation.

    And the arguments re. academic freedom have less to do with what either party did (we’ll really never know) than how the university handled the situation. The male professor was formally punished for the act of giving the colleague the journal article, not for giving the colleague the journal article in the context of being weird or pervy in the past. If the latter case were established it would be a different situation.

    I agree that some of the reaction by academics seems overblown. I think for many (including myself), it just seems like flimsy evidence on which to base a formal disciplinary measure that could wreck someone’s career.

  38. leave it to science professors to try getting blowjobs by talking about fruit bat oral sex.

  39. It seems that to discuss bat fellatio without trouble, one must be squeaky-clean.

  40. Just a tidbit to add to the discussion: they’re in the behavioral sciences building. Behavioral Science talks about sex directly or indirectly about 99% of the time.

    I’m not jumping into sides here, as I think the “The evidence is shite, punishing him on evidence that doesn’t hold water for either side is shite,” pretty much took the cake. I just want to point out that the paper in question was germain to the research environment. Context may alter perception, but if a behavioral scientist can’t talk sex they’re not capable of doing their job.

  41. Celeb8’s comments seem to me to be the most sensible, though I admit to going back and forth as I read the comments. What comes to mind is my favorite quote, which I dearly wish I could attribute: “The lower the stakes, the more vicious the ionfighting.” It was originally applied to a college English department, but I use it all the time in situations involving visual art, museums, galleries. It should be carved over the door of every academic establishment. Profs can’t really go around punching each other, but it might occasionally be the most satisfactory soluition. As it is, a day spent in the groves of academe often necessitates a long shower with liberal applications of gunk remover.

  42. As you seem truly at a loss about what to do, here is how it works for issues of work unfairness, agressive environment, and general inter-personal issues at work – i see no reason why it should not work for the case at hand.
    Get a second person, demand a meeting (already dropping the hint that the discussion might warrant a secondary on his side, too), then let her tell him on that meeting how she feels about his behaviour, let him tell her how he interprets the going-ons, establish some ground rules, and see how that goes. If there is still problems, escalate, if not, enjoy.

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