For the past few years, I’ve been privileged to teach several creative writing classes in the university where I have taught literature-and-composition since the twentieth century. I’m currently teaching an intense class in a six-week semester, and the students have to try their hands at various genres: fiction, drama, poetry, non-fiction.

I’m not sure if all the students know I write erotica. I never bring that up at the beginning of a course, partly because male students often have conceptions of sexiness that would have driven me out of the room if I were their age.

Let me offer an example. Fred, as I’ll call him, is slightly older than my other students (late thirties?). For his dialogue scene, he described two men in a truck, both employees of a construction company. The younger one is eighteen, and the older one is a supervisor in his fifties As the truck is stopped at an intersection, the younger man points out a woman crossing the street. He claims that she has her “headlights on” (her nipples are showing, and her breasts are described as large, even though she is slim). Then the observant young man also admires her “caboose.” The older man chuckles, apparently with approval.

The older man is reminded of “the ironing board game,” which he used to play with his best friend in high school. Both boys agreed that because there were a lot of girls in their school, they would have to learn to remove a girl’s bra with one hand, and with impressive speed. To develop their skills, the two boys borrowed the bras of a very indulgent mother and fastened them around her ironing board, then practiced undoing them as quickly as possible. The construction worker who remembers this game gives his friend credit for being a “ladies’ man,” presumably because he perfected his ability to remove a bra from the rigid object that represented a living girl.

There is no indication in the written scene that bras should only be removed with the consent of their owners, or that even casual sexual encounters require a minimum of civility on both sides. As I pointed out in class, there needs to be some negotiation before underwear comes off.

The student who wrote this piece said he hoped that no one else in a largely-female class would be offended. The temperature in the classroom  seemed to drop by at least ten degrees when we began discussing the dialogue between the older man and the younger man, and the older man’s fond memory of his own youth.

I’m not sure if the writer of this piece is aware that universities tend to be hotbeds of sexual abuse and sexual misunderstanding because they still attract students between the traditional post-secondary student ages of 18 and 22. Despite the general aging of the student population due to the increasing expense of a university education, many students are relatively young and single. Dating relationships are the norm for those who seek human companionship as a break from studying—and, in too many cases these days, working to stay out of debt. Female students have told me about the double danger of going to the campus bar with fellow-students, and working as servers in various watering-holes, where their youth and attractiveness (which got them hired in the first place) make them magnets for predatory male customers. And in general, women now outnumber men in post-secondary institutions.

Entry-level creative writing classes in this university have traditionally been run as workshops, so my students know that their works-in-progress will be critiqued by their peers. So far, the critiquing in this class has been reasonably polite and constructive. When the piece about the two men in the truck and the ironing-board game was up for discussion, I noticed that the rest of the class seemed to be speechless. I had a one-to-one conversation with the student who wrote it, and he indicated that he hoped his piece was funny. I explained as tactfully as I could that I thought it would need to be considerably revised before it could tickle the funny bones of anyone who knows that bras are generally worn by living people.

I couldn’t help wondering if members of the generation currently in high school really believe that an ability to take off a girl’s bra quickly is a primary requirement for a “ladies’ man.” As a woman who dated men in my own far-off youth, I remember taking off my own bra, as often as not, when the time seemed right. Once things had progressed to a certain point, my date had only to ask for access to my breasts, and I usually preferred to slip off my bra as efficiently as possible than to put up with his efforts to find the hooks or worm his fingers underneath a snug band of stretchy material or an underwire.

Of all the qualities I looked for in a date, an ability to take off my bra with panache was not even on my list. And the tendency of high school boys to snap or undo the bras of their classmates in public places encouraged me to sidle down the hallways like a crab, keeping my back to the wall. I was not amused or aroused, and I never met another girl who claimed to enjoy this “joke.”

I suspect that my older male student now believes that I have no sense of humour, and that too many of his classmates are like me in that sense. Sigh. At least my own education has paid off.