Minor spoilers for the Mar. 2 episode of Jane The Virgin (executive producer: Jennie Snyder Urman). For decades many women have felt obligated to keep quiet about being sexually harassed — and even assaulted — at work. But with the rise the #MeToo campaign, more stories are publicly being told. Some women are even coming to view past experiences with from a new perspective. And Jane's run in with an old college professor in "Chapter Seventy-Five" of Jane The Virgin sheds light on just how power dynamics at work and school can blur the lines of consent.
Jane is eager to quit her job at the Marbella and become a writer full-time. And ghostwriting Petra's forthcoming lifestyle book gives her the perfect opportunity to do so. Unfortunately after Petra is arrested and officially charged with the murder of her twin sister Anezka, the lifestyle book is shelved indefinitely. This leaves Jane both jobless and with no writing project to work on.
To make ends meet for now, Jane decides to revisit teaching and learns of a adjunct professor job opening from a friend. Unfortunately, this would put her in close proximity to Jonathan Chavez (guest star Adam Rodriguez), who fans will remember she had a relationship with in her graduate school days.
Despite feeling a little awkward about reaching out to the guy she "almost lost her virginity to," Jane decides to email Jonathan about the job. Rafael, isn't too excited about this exchange and makes it clear that he thinks the guy is a creep. Jane reassures Rafael that nothing was wrong with her relationship with Jonathan because it was consensual, despite the fact that he was her professor at the time. This is where matters get a little dicey.
Student-teacher relationships at the collegiate level are generally frowned upon due to issues of conflict of interest, abuse of authority, and favoritism. Though, few schools actually have policies in place that forbid these relationships. In fact, research conducted in 2014 sampled policies of 55 colleges and universities around the country and only one, Yale, specifically banned faculty-undergraduate relationships.
While many schools have tried to create policies banning teacher-student relationships in recent years, other research published in the Journal Of Ethics And Education examines whether or not schools should even be allowed to do so — noting that these sorts of bans infringe on an adults' rights to "engage in intimate relationships without interference." This seems reasonable, especially when the relationships are between graduate students and their professors.
Sure, in these cases both parties are adults, but as writer Rebecca Schuman wrote in an essay for Slate these grad student-professor relationships harm the department and the dynamics of mentorship. And she also noteed that the student will suffer the most professionally at the end of the relationship, if things were to go haywire. Shuman wrote:
"When a student and faculty member start sleeping together, rarely is it a well-kept secret; often, the student becomes a departmental pariah," she wrote. "Without support from fellow students (and, often, dismissed by the other professors in the department), many of these once-promising grad students wind up out of the discipline entirely."
And, as Jane eventually comes to realize, just because she appeared to be a willing participant, doesn't mean that Jonathan didn't use his position of power as leverage in order to get her consent. And after spotting him making out with another one of his grad students, Jane realizes that she wasn't the first — or the last — student to fall into his trap.
This leads to Jane speaking up about what happened with Jonathan and warning Marissa, the other student. But first, she gives Jonathan himself a piece of her mind. "Even if a student says she wants something, she might really regret it when she's older and smarter and has more information about how it was a pretty gross abuse of power, especially if it's a pattern," Jane confidently states.
There are still so many layers to consent that the #metoo conversation needs to pull back and examine. But with time being up on sexual harassment and abuse, kudos to Jane The Virgin (set decoration: Kimberly Leonard) for tackling one of the grey areas.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.