Marquette Wire

MURPHY: Crossing the line at La Crosse

Ryan Murphy

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As if the typical stresses of college life weren’t enough, the residents of UW-La Crosse’s Drake Hall were also made to feel that their sex lives weren’t up to par.

On Sept. 30, Jude Legiste, Drake’s hall director, sent an email to his 264 residents titled, “You Gone Learn Today,” and the only thing more shocking than the colossally poor grammar in the subject line was the subject itself.

In the email, Legiste copied and pasted a blog post from “The Adequate Man” lamenting the female “orgasm deficit.” Who knew there was a quota? In about 1,200 words, the post described in great detail how to solve the problem.

UW-La Crosse Chancellor Joseph Gow acknowledged to the Journal Sentinel that the email was “clearly unacceptable behavior for a person in this position,” but he said that he didn’t consider it a “fireable offense.”

After the university found out about the email, Legiste formally apologized. Even so, he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that “he still believes the conversation about female orgasm is important for students.”

And this very well may be. I’d even be so bold as to suggest that many males might report an orgasm “deficit” on their part, too.  But what Legiste doesn’t seem to realize is that the topic of sexual intimacy is just that: intimate.  It is a deeply personal subject that one discusses with a significant other or trusted friends – not over email with a hall director.  There is also something to be said for respecting personal boundaries. Not everyone has the same comfort level when it comes to discussing private life.

Legiste suffers from a desire to be a friend instead of a professional, and that has its consequences.  It would be a better student than I who could take Legiste seriously in a conduct hearing. As a hall director, Legiste has a role to play in responding to sexual assault. One can only imagine how uncomfortable a victim might feel confiding in a person who shows such an obvious lack of tact.

It is noble enough to want to break the ice around taboo subjects, but there is a time and a place for such endeavors, and they are not in mass emails from hall directors. Legiste is responsible for maintaining an inclusive environment for his residents, but all he managed to do was make 264 people uncomfortable.  Imagine this action in another context: A manager sending a similar message to employees would likely be charged with sexual harassment.

This isn’t the first time Legiste has shown such blatant disregard for personal boundaries.  In 2013, he posed the question, “who are we to prevent the manifestation of love?” in a blog post titled, “Dating Students? Why Not?”  With this in mind, his motives for sending the email seem even more suspect.

There are other issues with Legiste’s email. For one thing, he assumes that women can’t speak for themselves.  Instead of encouraging individual women to have a voice in their relationships, he sent a message to his entire hall chiding their boyfriends for being selfish in sex.  It seems chauvinistic, really, that he feels the need to become the spokesman for this issue.

The email reveals a heteronormative assumption as well. One cannot assume every female resident in Drake Hall seeks a male to help her achieve this quota. And not every male is uninterested in reducing the female “deficit” because of selfishness. He may well be doing his part to reduce the male “deficit.”

Most people I have talked to about this story have the same questions: Why would he even think about sending this?  In what universe could he find this appropriate?  Does he have a girlfriend who brought this issue to his attention, and what was that conversation like?

I think most of us have observed that in offices of residence life, there are many people who are eager (for better or for worse) to pick up causes.  Compared to Legiste’s, our own sexual assault prevention training and bystander intervention training programs seem pretty tame.

There is also a more general trend in our culture to overshare, and that is surely at play here. We might have seen this sort of thing coming when people started taking and sharing pictures of their food. In all this attention-seeking, there is a desire to remain interesting, and the quickest way is to use shock. It is distasteful when one falls prey to this trend on a private site, and irresponsible when it happens in the work place.

I won’t be surprised if in the next 10 years Legiste ends up jobless for answering “not I” to the question, “who are we to prevent the manifestation of love?”  If that happens, he might consider a career at Cosmopolitan.

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