Just in time for Valentine's Day, a history professor gives a lecture to his college students about the unexpectedly liberal attitude of the Victorians toward sex without realizing that a visitor to his classroom is about to make him an offer he can't refuse.
This story was contributed by RS Kovach
"Victorian morality wasn't actually the prude, stiff upper lip type of sensibility that most people today mistakenly think it to have been," Professor Andrew Pace said, shrugging out of his tweed jacket. Its leather elbow patches couldn't have screamed 'I'm English' any louder even if his accent hadn't betrayed him. After having lived in America for almost a decade, his lilt— typical of a BBC presenter just like his grandfatherly business attire—still hadn't diminished.
As he rolled up his shirtsleeves, Pace's students quietly looked on. He had a habit of starting all of his classes, not just the undergraduate History of Sexuality seminar he was currently holding, by partially disrobing while introducing the day's topic of discussion.
Maybe room 103 in McCarthy Hall where the late-thirties academic usually taught got hotter than other locations on campus. Or maybe he needed the extra freedom of movement for his arms, which—like the rest of his upper body—was more muscular than what one would have expected from a man in studious tortoiseshell glasses, a neatly trimmed blonde beard, and polished, brown Oxford shoes. Or—and this was the theory a majority of his students who had an attraction to men believed—maybe Pace was simply a tease.
The act of ritualistically peeling off his outer layers of protection (even if made of fabric instead of a more sturdy material like armor metal) could have easily been a symbolic display of power in the face of creating vulnerability. That even when left exposed without the protection of the traditional robes of the patriarchy (in this case, the suit jacket), the subject could maintain a level of control by drawing attention to his most pleasing features.
Why wouldn't he?
Pace presented more like an anti-hero from a Guy Ritchie film than a world-renowned researcher with twenty published papers in peer-reviewed journals whose nose could be found in a stuffy book on most weekends. And that was even without revealing the skull tattooed over his heart from the time of his adolescent fascination with memento mori.
"We had started this semester a few weeks ago with the boring stuff," the professor continued as he walked around the desk at the front of the classroom. "Foucault, Freud, Kinsey. Come on, admit it. None of you signed up for this course specifically for those dead, white guys."
An uncomfortable laugh came from those in attendance, but that didn't mean that Pace was any less correct. He knew these students had been drawn to his syllabus because of its rumored deep dive into the taboo rather than the philosophical or even scientific basis for analysis of the subject. In fact, the liveliest discussions every semester usually involved gender norms and feminist ideology supported by the extraordinary evidence that he enthusiastically presented.
One thing, however, was clear. Pace's popularity wasn't due to his courses being cakewalks. He had no qualms in failing anyone who deserved it, and the lop-sided bell curve of his students' grades showed as much.
Leaning back against the desk and crossing his arms, Pace continued. "So in honor of Valentine's Day tomorrow, I thought that today we would talk about one of my favorite subjects. It was certainly anathema in contemporaneous times, and even now many people don't believe the proof in spite of their eyes because it contradicts their preconceptions."
The students began to rustle their notebooks, open their laptops, and pull out their pens, knowing that the actual lecture was about to begin. Professor Pace taught mostly through his classroom presentations, and failing to note down key pieces of information or juicy anecdotes that he had found in his own research meant they'd have to recall the details from memory. Because no academic textbook would publish the things he was about to talk about.
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Lucky In Love? A Valentine AnthologyGeneral Fiction
Love comes in all forms, and the short story collection from some of our Paid Stories writers covers the full range of what love means. There are new starts, love gone wrong, love lost and everything in between. We'll have new stories added daily...