UPDATE: Upon consultation and reflection, and with trepidation, I am opening up comments on this thread. I will be moderating them *heavily*.
FURTHER UPDATE: I will not publish any pseudonymous/anonymous comments unless there is an obvious and compelling reason to do so.
UPDATE TO THE FURTHER UPDATE: Opening up comments has turned out to be all-in a mistake for what were probably predictable reasons if I had half a brain. Some productive comments have made it through and I am now closing comments back down again.
Jennifer Saul has recently discussed sexual harassment in the profession on Salon and with Slate. Although Colin McGinn and his hand-themed brand of humor have been the catalyst for the recent round of attention to this issue, Saul rightly focuses on the broader systematic culture problem that the discipline of philosophy seems to have.
In one sense, it is gratifying to see this issue get attention in the wake of McGinn's resignation. At the same time, I have found it frustrating watching people gleefully vilify and demonize him. Not because he wasn't creepy and way out of bounds, but because the kind of remarkably inappropriate 'banter' he engaged in and his complete tone-deafness to the power dynamics that structure the performative force of that banter happen ALL THE TIME in philosophy, as far as I can tell. Through his pompous and narcissistic attempts at self-defense, McGinn made himself an easy target for ridicule. I worry that this has allowed us to write him off as a moral monster, rather than reflecting on just how pervasive this kind of behavior is. In fact, I think that McGinn's clear belief that his inappropriate sexualized communication made him somehow a bold, hip, unconventional intellectual is implicitly shared by many men in the profession.
That this kind of 'banter' is common doesn't make it harmless, by any means. It's easy to be insouciant about boundary-busting when you do so from a position of power. But in fact, this idea that we philosophers are somehow above such trivialities as social boundaries comes at the cost of the discipline's most vulnerable members (and potential members).
Here is one articulate and moving first-person account of the impact of sexual harassment on a graduate student that has been making the rounds.