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'Bad Romance' Explores Love, Sex, and Consent Through Academic Perspectives

The Barker Center houses a host of departments, including History and Literature, African and African American Studies, and English.
The Barker Center houses a host of departments, including History and Literature, African and African American Studies, and English. By Delano R. Franklin
By Cassandra Luca, Crimson Staff Writer

Graduate students and professors alike will soon crowd the Barker Center for a conference titled “Bad Romance: The Ethics of Love, Sex, and Desire,” which will explore academic perspectives on sexual questions and issues in the context of the #MeToo movement. The conference will feature panels on consent, global sexualities, sex in history, and sex’s relationship to the Internet.

Rebecca D. Rothfeld — a third-year philosophy Ph.D student who co-organized the conference with Tess McNulty, a fourth-year Ph.D English student — said the idea for the conference stemmed from their mutual interest in the conversations around the #MeToo movement.

“I think because we have analytical philosophical backgrounds, we found a lot of the discourse around #MeToo unsatisfying because there were a lot of quick hot takes, and we wanted to see more thoughtful consideration,” Rothfeld said.

“Bad Romance” is an interdisciplinary conference, featuring visiting panelists and speakers from fields including English, sociology, philosophy, comparative literature, the history of art and architecture, and African and African American studies. Friday evening will feature the keynote address, “Let’s Talk About Sex: Ethical Intercourse in the Age of #MeToo,” from Nancy Bauer.

“I’m really excited to see academic discussion of issues related to sexual ethics, because there isn’t much, at least in philosophy historically,” Rothfeld said.

Jillian Luke, a visiting fellow from the University of Edinburgh, will present a paper on the role of blushing in traditionally male interpretations of the female body in Shakespeare’s time.

“When it comes to blushing, men assume that what their body is saying is more meaningful than what their words are saying. My paper is asking whether we can recover the reading of silence from the misogynist way in which it is used by men in shakespeare as an act of empathetic feminist criticism,” she said.

Luke also said that such an interdisciplinary conference has the potential to be “fruitful” for present and future research.

“Getting to participate in graduate level conferences is really exciting because that is often the place where you get exposed to new ideas,” she said. “It’s quite easy to get siloed into just thinking about the period in which you work or even the discipline in which you work.”

University of Pennsylvania graduate student Sarah I. Adeyinka-Skold, whose paper focuses on the sociology of women and dating in the digital age, also said she looks forward to hearing researchers from other disciplines.

“For me this conference serves as a place to talk about finding love in the digital age, and sometimes in people's desperation to have this, they manipulate or create relations that are uncomfortable for women,” she said.

“Bad Romance: The Ethics of Love, Sex, and Desire” begins on Friday at 2:30 p.m. and will run through Saturday at 5:45 p.m. in the Barker Center.

—Staff writer Cassandra Luca can be reached at

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