Letter: Trojan condom ad in Minnesota Daily completely inappropriate

Bryan Schmidt

A half-page advertisement appeared on the back of the Oct. 2 Minnesota Daily paper that read: “Late-night tutoring sesh? Come prepared,” and pictured a packet of Trojan condoms. While I have no objection to the Daily advertising condoms in its paper, I found the content of this ad completely inappropriate. It plays on the idea that a tutoring session carries undercurrents of sexual energy, and hints that tutoring is just a means of foreplay.

The University of Minnesota frequently employs undergraduate, graduate and career tutors, and even though they typically interact with students in informal settings, tutors deserve to be treated with the respect afforded to other educators. I suspect that an advertisement joking about sex between a student and a professor would not be tolerated, and tutors should be seen as similarly professional. Furthermore, I suspect that there is a highly gendered dynamic to tutoring at the University, with more women serving as tutors than men — this would be an interesting subject for the Daily to report on.

When it comes down to it, this ad reinforces a male gaze that sees women in the education setting as objects of sexual desire before it sees them as intellectual beings. This reflects a larger gender dynamic in academia and, I would say, in the U.S. generally. For many women, it is a struggle to be seen as equal to men or even to be taken seriously at all. They are frequently forced to put up with “locker-room talk” and micro-aggressions that insert sex into the professional workplace — otherwise, they are seen as prudish or unwelcoming.

The Trojan ad reinforces this dynamic. As I’m sure University policy suggests, tutoring is a time for focusing on one’s studies, not for plotting a sexual encounter. Tutors deserve to do their work without wondering if their pupil is paying attention or thinking about taking them to bed.

I hope that the Daily will not run this ad again.

This letter has been lightly edited for grammar and style.

Bryan Schmidt is a Ph.D. Student in Theatre Historiography at the University of Minnesota.