Nimrod Reitman accused his former N.Y.U. graduate school adviser, Avital Ronell, of sexually harassing him, and the university found her responsible. But some leading feminist scholars have supported her in ways that echo the defenses of male harassers.
.. In the Title IX final report, excerpts of which were obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Reitman said that she had sexually harassed him for three years, and shared dozens of emails in which she referred to him as “my most adored one,” “Sweet cuddly Baby,” “cock-er spaniel,” and “my astounding and beautiful Nimrod.”
.. “We testify to the grace, the keen wit, and the intellectual commitment of Professor Ronell and ask that she be accorded the dignity rightly deserved by someone of her international standing and reputation,” the professors wrote.
.. Mr. Reitman, who is now 34 and is a visiting fellow at Harvard, says that Professor Ronell kissed and touched him repeatedly, slept in his bed with him, required him to lie in her bed, held his hand, texted, emailed and called him constantly, and refused to work with him if he did not reciprocate. Mr. Reitman is gay and is now married to a man; Professor Ronell is a lesbian.
.. “Our communications — which Reitman now claims constituted sexual harassment — were between two adults, a gay man and a queer woman, who share an Israeli heritage, as well as a penchant for florid and campy communications arising from our common academic backgrounds and sensibilities,”
.. “These communications were repeatedly invited, responded to and encouraged by him over a period of three years.”
.. In Mr. Reitman’s recollection, he was afraid of his professor and the power she wielded over him, and often went along with behavior that left him feeling violated. Professor Ronell said that Mr. Reitman desperately sought her attention and guidance
.. Professor Ronell invited him to stay with her in Paris for a few days. The day he arrived, she asked him to read poetry to her in her bedroom while she took an afternoon nap, he said.
“That was already a red flag to me,” said Mr. Reitman. “But I also thought, O.K., you’re here. Better not make a scene.”
Then, he said, she pulled him into her bed.
“She put my hands onto her breasts, and was pressing herself — her buttocks — onto my crotch,” he said. “She was kissing me, kissing my hands, kissing my torso.” That evening, a similar scene played out again
.. He confronted her the next morning, he said.
“I said, look, what happened yesterday was not O.K. You’re my adviser,”
.. The Title IX report concluded that there was not enough evidence to find Professor Ronell responsible for sexual assault, partly because no one else observed the interactions in his apartment or her room in Paris.
.. Professor Ronell said she had no idea Mr. Reitman was so uncomfortable until she read the investigators’ report.
.. Mr. Reitman also said that Professor Ronell retaliated against him for complaining to her about her behavior, in part by sending pro forma recommendations on his behalf, thwarting his job prospects. But the Title IX report found that her recommendation letters “were comparable to those for other former students” and he did secure two postgraduate fellowships.
.. Professor Ronell and some who are backing her have tried to discredit her accuser in familiar ways, asking why he took so long to report, and why he seemed so intimate with Professor Ronell if he was, in fact, miserable. Maybe, Professor Ronell suggested, he was frustrated because he just wasn’t smart enough.
His main dilemma was the incoherency in his writing, and lack of a recognizable argument,” Professor Ronell said in a January 2018 interview submitted to the Title IX office
.. Diane Davis, chair of the department of rhetoric at the University of Texas-Austin, who also signed the letter to the university supporting Professor Ronell, said she and her colleagues were particularly disturbed that, as they saw it, Mr. Reitman was using Title IX, a feminist tool, to take down a feminist.
“I am of course very supportive of what Title IX and the #MeToo movement are trying to do, of their efforts to confront and to prevent abuses, for which they also seek some sort of justice,” Professor Davis wrote in an email. “But it’s for that very reason that it’s so disappointing when this incredible energy for justice is twisted and turned against itself, which is what many of us believe is happening in this case.”