Using Ladies Lingerie to make room in Academia for the next generation

“Is ‘Ladies Lingerie’ a Harmless Joke or Harassment?” (Atlantic):

Simona Sharoni, a professor of women’s and gender studies at Merrimack College, asked a crowded hotel elevator what floor everyone needed. Richard Ned Lebow, a professor of political theory at King’s College London, replied, “Ladies’ lingerie” (or, as Sharoni remembers it, “Women’s lingerie.”) Several people laughed. Was that sexual harassment?

Academics have been debating the question among themselves since last month, when Sharoni filed a formal complaint about the incident, triggering an investigation by the International Studies Association. The ISA would later conclude that Lebow must apologize in writing by May 15.

Professor/Victim Sharoni is a 57-year-old at an obscure college here in suburban Massachusetts (the Wikipedia page is almost empty). Her abuser is a 76-year-old professor at King’s College London, ranked among the world’s top 25 universities. Thanks to the miracle of tenure, ordinarily a younger scholar who wanted this guy’s job would have to wait for him to die. But perhaps she can get rid of him and free up his position for herself via this dispute? (or maybe she will take over a position at a 2nd-tier school when that person moves to the 1st-tier King’s College?)

Separately, this is a good illustration of how much free time tenured faculty have on their hands! (Consistent with the book Higher Education?, which calculates that a typical Yale professor earns $820 per hour of work that is actually required.)



  1. Tony Doe

    May 15, 2018 @ 2:15 pm


    Phil, headline of possible interest: Male student pays attention during math class:

  2. philg

    May 15, 2018 @ 2:37 pm


    Tony: Thanks for that link. It is like a litigation-heavy version of a 1960s French love triangle movie. I previously wondered why it made sense for professors to grade their own students (as opposed to having an impartial testing authority, or maybe professors at other schools, do it). Instead of the shift away from grade-your-students that I advocated, professors have taken up the challenge of grading their own students’ sexual encounters.

  3. Tony Doe

    May 15, 2018 @ 3:20 pm


    philg: You stumbled on an idea that would ruin the academy! In order to have a 70% chance of a 2.7 GPA in the first year of college, a student needs to be in the 90th percentile on the SAT. In 2015, 1.7 million graduating students took the SAT at least once, which means there are 170,000ish people that have a realistic chance of getting a college degree in a given year. Perhaps this estimate is off, but its not off orders of magnitude. Needless to say, honest grading would put a lot of people out of business.

  4. jerry

    May 15, 2018 @ 3:22 pm


    Ms. Sharoni has a Ph.D in Conflict Analysis and Resolution, and while most people would think that would have taught her how to resolve a joke in poor taste in a simpler fashion, maybe it really does mean how to profit from turning molehills into mountains.

  5. Lord Palmerston

    May 15, 2018 @ 3:25 pm


    In an arena of competitive victimhood (i.e. anywhere in the Western world), the only defence against such an accusation is to out-victimhood the accuser. Prof. Lebow might have responded with:

    “While in the midst of an anguished personal struggle to come to terms with my new gender identity as a woman, this incident triggered a long overdue expression of what my new identity needs and means. [Starts sobbing] Please don’t punish me for trying to be my new, female self!” [Everyone hugs and sheds tears, case dismissed]

  6. Raleigh

    May 15, 2018 @ 9:07 pm


    Funniest thing I’ve heard this week.

  7. Bill

    May 15, 2018 @ 9:20 pm


    This suit is nuts. That old guy just wanted to go and buy his wife some stuff and did not know what floor those garments were sold on. So he ask for the appropriate floor, “lingerie”. Who knows, he may not have known if lingerie was sold in the hotel. Or at the worst case he was joking and this prudish old broad cannot enjoy life and a good laugh. So she sues everyone…..

    I say this women should pay his court costs and maybe a big penalty for bringing nonsense suits.

    Just my two cents.

  8. anon

    May 16, 2018 @ 12:21 am


    Ms Sharona justifies her complaint because she is a “survivor of sexual harassment in the academy”. Does this mean others have not survived? Have other gender studies profs died because someone said the words “women’s lingerie” in their presence? Who are these martyrs?

  9. philg

    May 16, 2018 @ 12:56 am


    Now that I think about this a touch more, I wonder if there isn’t something interesting about the phrase “ladies lingerie”. Should we infer that a department store would have a “gentlemen’s lingerie” section as well? If so, what would the section contain? Borat-style swimwear?

  10. Steven

    May 16, 2018 @ 1:07 am


    Maybe the professor will in turn be able to sue Aerosmith for planting the lyric in his head

  11. Steven

    May 16, 2018 @ 1:14 am


    Or it could be
    – if he’s a very hip professor

  12. philg

    May 16, 2018 @ 1:29 am


    That’s awesome, Steven! I would love to hear these scholars debate the meaning of the Aerosmith lyric “Kiss your sassafrass”. (Would be almost as much fun as the lyrics discussion in )

    Also, thanks for introducing me to Ladytron. I’m not hip enough to know much that is newer than Stravinsky.

  13. Bruce

    May 16, 2018 @ 7:35 am


    Given the age and country of the professor I’d bet the line is from the BBC comedy Are You Being Served.

    I remember that being a common scene.

  14. DW

    May 16, 2018 @ 8:56 am


    This is just a reference to the “Are you being served BBC TV Show.” Those brits are just way oversexed.

  15. the other Donald

    May 16, 2018 @ 10:17 am


    Tony Doe,
    Grade inflation is just the start – try counting the $300k deans.

  16. George A.

    May 16, 2018 @ 10:37 am


    The cure for all this is to bring back some of the good-old classical shows, such as “The Benny Hill Show” [1], [2].

    If that’s too much, how about “Married… with Children” [3], or “Three’s Company” [4].


  17. Tom

    May 16, 2018 @ 5:33 pm


    she is a “survivor of sexual harassment in the academy”

    Poor old girl, she still throws a fit due to memories of someone once saying “hey, nice shoes” at the faculty dinner. (Due to budget limitations you will have to imagine the shaky cam and a distorted yet male voice.)

  18. GermanL

    May 16, 2018 @ 6:25 pm


    @George A
    yes, after this article I am ready to join Al Bundy’s No Ma’am club!

    “Back when men were men, and women were ribs!”

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