Although few graduate students are aware, the illusive draw is not romance, or even sex. The draw is power.
Occasionally, sexual relationships between faculty members and graduate students involve woman faculty members and male students. Some include same-sex faculty members and graduate students. However, most relationships occur between male faculty members (frequently older and married) and female students. In a significant number of these relationships, the woman students suffer by various degrees (1).
What graduate students may feel is a “romance” between themselves and a professor is often rooted in power and control. Despite the professor’s intentions or motivations, the unavoidable power difference between teacher and student makes it impossible for even a graduate student to act as a fully consenting adult in a consensual relationship: this “consent” is secured before they have the experience and knowledge to understand the situation they are in (1).
What many graduate students do not fully comprehend during this power seduction is that trying to fit a romantic relationship on top of the previously existing mentor relationship creates role confusion. A professor’s role, to provide intellectual guidance, support, and advice, is mutually exclusive to that of a romantic lover, and therefore can only result in the betrayal of trust (1).
Due to this power differential, most Universities have sexual misconduct policies in place to prohibit “romantic relationships” between professors and graduate students, as well as any other relationships which constitute an abuse of power.
1). The Chronicle of Higher Eduction: The Chronicle Review (May 5th, 2006). Gender, Power, and Sexuality: First, Do No Harm. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/weekly/v52/i35/35b01001.htm on May 8, 2007.