The Kinky Law Professor Principle: “It’s No Shame To Be Kinky, But It Still Might Be Newsworthy”

We haven’t had a “Naked Teacher Principle” story to mull over for a while, and this isn’t one. It raises some parallel issues, though.

I saw the story about the Drexel Law professor who who accidentally sent her students a link to a pornographic video about anal beads. I didn’t find it worthy of a post, though I thought it was funny. It is funny. But we had covered a similar issue here, in the ethics quiz about the hapless teaching assistant at the University of Iowa who somehow managed to send her class not merely sexually provocative photos of herself, not merely nude photos of herself, but something much more kinky. Attached to a message that read “Hi Class, I attach the solutions for number 76 and 78 in this email” were a series of images showing the young woman sans clothes and sans inhibitions having a lively cyber-sexting chat with a partner in which the two were pleasuring themselves in front of video equipment while streaming to each other.

That was funnier. She was “reassigned”—a not unreasonable result of presumed reduced respect from the class.  The Naked Teacher Principle doesn’t strictly apply when the students are adults, and Lisa McElroy, the professor at Drexel University’s Thomas R. Kline School of Law who is apparently an anal bead fan–the video she sent by accident was called called “She Loves Her Anal Beads”—wasn’t naked. There is no “Kinky Law Professor Principle.”

However, Prof. McElroy was mightily offended that her cyber-goof was picked up by the professional publications and websites, and that she was embarrassed as a result. She even posted a Streisand Principle-defying op-ed in the Washington Post, blaming everybody—students, bloggers, and Drexel, which briefly suspended the professor pending an investigation on the basis of possible sexual harassment—but herself. She argued that she should not have been publicly shamed, because, she wrote,

“…there was nothing newsworthy about it. What happened was, in the grand scheme, pretty trivial. My students are adults. The link was quickly removed. There was nothing illegal in the video. The post occurred in the same two-month period when the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” grossed almost $570 million worldwide. Yet, because it was porn and I’m a law professor, news organizations spread the story around the world.”

Yup. Because it was funny. I understand that the Professor doesn’t see the humor of a law professor—especially her—inadvertently sending her private porn film about anal beads, which themselves are kind of amusing, to a staid law school class. It’s still funny. Trivial? Of course. But trivial can still be funny. Would it be kind for all of us to scrupulously refuse to communicate the hilarious tales of when we do dumb things or embarrass ourselves? Yes. But society as a whole benefits from being reminded that we are all equally fallible human beings—especially the elite and privileged. A lot of people think laughing at slapstick is cruel too.

I pity them.

Above you will see the scene in “The Naked Gun” where Leslie Nielson forgets he’s wearing a live mike and uses the rest room as a room of assembled dignitaries listens in. I  nearly did that last  month before a room full of 300 lawyers in a D.C. Bar function. If I had, I wouldn’t have been shocked to find the story turning up somewhere like Above the Law, and yes, it would be an embarrassment. But I would have to admit it was funny—it was funny in the movie—and blame nobody but myself.

The professor continues her long whine…

Seemingly, private citizens do not have the right to that one simple thing: privacy. In a moment, through no desire of their own, they can become public figures, shamed in headlines for conduct that is unintentional and harmful to no one — except themselves, as the news media exploit them for sport and profit.

This is the danger of merging private and public e-mail activity, Hillary, er, Professor McElroy. It is also the danger of being alive in the 21st Century—15 minutes of fame or infamy are just a keystroke, a cell phone camera, or an ill-considered tweet away. The internet magnifies mistakes, changes their nature, and makes what was once both trivial, undetectable and relatively risk-free a potential item in Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue. Be careful out there, and if you can’t or won’t, what happens is your own fault.

As a law professor should know, the ABA has taken a hard line against lawyers who use technology and carelessly send communications including client confidences to opposing counsel. She wasn’t practicing law, but the error is the same. She could have used her own gaffe to teach something professionally useful: lawyers are not supposed to make mistakes online. Her mistake didn’t harm anything but her dignity. A similar one could lose a case.

___________________________

Source and Facts: Washington Post, Above the Law

2 thoughts on “The Kinky Law Professor Principle: “It’s No Shame To Be Kinky, But It Still Might Be Newsworthy”

  1. She should consider herself lucky to be rich and powerful enough to have a platform to publicly complain about her life being ruined. Unlike, say, the Star Wars Kid.

  2. Haven’t you heard? Ever since Clinton was elected, “It’s not my fault!” Doesn’t matter what “IT” is.

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