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Aunt Pythia’s advice

April 6, 2013

Aunt Pythia is excited to discuss the following topics today: sex with students, how to get men to stop trivializing women near you, and how to feel attractive.

Did you expect and hope for something less titillating? Then please unsubscribe from my RSS feed immediately (speaking of which, can someone help me give advice to people getting bumped off of Google Reader? How do you get your daily dose of mathbabe? Please comment below).

If you don’t know what you’re in for, go here for past advice columns and here for an explanation of the name Pythia. Most importantly,

Please submit your smutty sex questions at the bottom of this column!


Dear Aunt Pythia,

I teach online using a chat-based tutoring system, which creates some interesting situations. I get a lot of comments from students like, “hey, you’re hot, let’s hookup tonite.” I don’t take them up on those requests for many reasons, including

  • I don’t want to get fired,
  • I don’t want to go to jail,
  • I’m in a happily committed relationship,
  • I don’t get paid enough to make last minute cross-country flights,
  • I already have enough people and activities vying for my spare time.

I usually just write boring stuff like “please focus on your lesson” or “sorry, I’m not allowed to do that.” But, just for fun, and assuming the students were of legal age, etc, what does a math-babe say when a student asks to hook up or hang out, whether virtually or face-to-face?

Might Actually Teach Humans

Dear MATH,

From your concerns about going to jail, which seem to be alleviated in the scenario where the student is old enough, I’m going to assume you tutor high school students as well as older students. If this is the case, then let me congratulate you on making the wise decision to avoid such opportunities. High school students are best left to each other, with a bunch of well-meaning advice, a few copies of “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” and boxes and boxes of condoms.

For that matter, the same could be said about college-age students. Leave those guys alone too, they’re still developing.

With that, I’ll assume that you and the student in question are both grownups, i.e. about 23 or older. And for the sake of this question I’ll assume that you’re not a college professor teaching grad students, since I don’t want to become an expert on the nationwide norms of professorial conduct this morning.

Even so, if you are formally teaching a student in any capacity, and thus responsible for their grade and/or feedback, then I’d certainly expect you to avoid expressing romantic or sexual interest in your student until after the grades are turned in, lest it be construed as creepy pressure for a good grade. But even then it might not be ok – what if you might someday write them a letter of recommendation? In that case a romantic relationship would make that extremely difficult. I’d say that the formal relationship of teacher-student pretty much rules out sex for quite a while. I’m not saying it never happens, obviously, but it’s best to avoid.

Now, to your situation: you’re a tutor. You’re a grownup. The students you teach are grownups. There’s presumably no grade given by a tutor, and considering it’s chat-based and online, there might be an army of tutors that the student can turn to if they decide you’re bad in bad (true? about the army, not about you being bad in bed). I really don’t see a problem here.

That’s not a green flag to start flirting with all of your students, that would be creepy and weird and could easily get you fired. Don’t be creepy.

I hope that helps!

Aunt Pythia


Dear Aunt Pythia,

I have a history of my male friends talking to me about women they are dating in a way that makes me feel unattractive. I can think of (at least) two things that contribute to my feeling unattractive:

  1. I assume if they thought I was attractive, they wouldn’t talk to me about other women.
  2. They talk about other women in simplifying terms that seems to reduce women down to a few dimensions of attractiveness (skinny, high heels, dumb, girly and deferential), and I don’t fit into the space they’ve defined.

What do I do to make this stop?

Feeling Unattractive, Chasing Knowledge

Dear FUCK,

Sounds like you hang out with a bunch of dudes who have forgotten the golden rule of PUA’s (Pick-Up Artists), namely don’t share the secrets!!

Just kidding – PUA’s love sharing their secrets, because it gives them yet another chance to brag about their conquests.

I’m really glad you wrote. It pisses me off when the nasty way a given man thinks about women and sex leaks onto other people. Especially because this trivializing posture towards women is actually an silly act of self-defense and insecurity on the part of the man you’re hanging out with. It’s not enough that they feel insecure, they’ve got to make everyone around them that way too. Lame.

By the way, I’m not at all sure that, if a man starts talking about sex with other women around you, that’s he’s not also interested in you. It might be his awkward, awful way of expressing interest. But that doesn’t mean it’s meant to make you feel attractive. It sounds like one of his ways of getting laid is by making women feel unattractive and trivial. It might even be a script he wishes you to follow. Not cool.

Here are some options you have:

  1. Next time you’re in the conversation with him, you might anticipate his modus operandi and start talking about sexual attraction before he does. You could, for example, talk about attributes you honestly like in men like, say, the strength of ego not to trivialize women.
  2. Another possibility is you could talk to him directly about this issue (assuming he’s an important enough friend of yours that you’re willing to go there). Tell him that, when he trivializes women around you, it makes you feel unattractive, and you’re pretty sure that it’s unintentional but in any case you’re wondering why he does it. You might want to ask him how he’d feel if you did the same thing in terms of men.
  3. Another possibility is you could just up and tell him you don’t want to hear about his conquests.
  4. Finally, you could just find other men to hang out with who have figured out honest and direct ways to deal with women. Maybe because they’re not from an English-speaking country.

Good luck!

Auntie P


Dear Aunt Pythia,

I walk around society feeling unattractive and I don’t know what signals to look for in my interactions with other people that they think I am attractive. I’m not looking for Glamour Magazine kind of advice. But Aunt Pythia kind of advice. How do I know if other people find me attractive? I assume for the most part they don’t.

Feeling Unattractive, Chasing Knowledge, I Need Guidance


Good questions this week! I’ve come up with an idea which I hope will help.

Namely, I think one of the main ways women get feedback about their attractiveness is through other women. For whatever reasons (some of them no doubt reasonable, some of them not), our culture deems it inappropriate for men to go up to women with direct feedback on their attractiveness. But girlfriends can play this role, especially if you ask them to.

So my first piece of advice is, if you’re looking for feedback and advice on your attractiveness, go ask your girlfriends.

That’s not to say all girlfriends are created equal. There are some girlfriends that are competitive and jealous of their friends, and  will give you weird advice that makes you think you need to be skinny, high heeled, dumb, girly and deferential to be attractive, kinda like the douchey man you talked to above. These bad girlfriends, by the way, are also the women who write the advice tips for Glamour Magazine. It’s a bad sign if they tell you about a great diet they heard of.

The kind of girlfriend you’re looking for is the kind that, when you express ambivalence about your attractiveness, instantly proclaims you hot as hell and offers to take you out shopping for clothes that show off your boobs (or some other body part of which you’re particularly proud). Or better yet, whips out the nearest catalog and goes through it page-by-page with you, showing you what to look for that will flatter your incredible body.

Good luck finding yourself some awesome girlfriends!


Aunt Pythia


Please please please submit questions!

Categories: Aunt Pythia
  1. April 6, 2013 at 9:03 am

    WordPress has a reader that I started using when booted from Google. But it quit feeding mathbabe a week or so ago – the Cyprus post was the last. WordPress still feeds another blog though. Guess it’s back to manually typing in the URL.


  2. April 6, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    My Google Reader replacement is NewsBlur. It’s cross platform so I can follow and sync on my desktop, android phone, or tablet.

    I tried Feedly but hated the interface.


  3. thomas
    April 7, 2013 at 8:12 am

    i am using feedbin.me as a google reader replacement. its 2 bucks a month. worthy.


  4. Michelle
    April 8, 2013 at 8:04 am

    I thought everyone moved from google reader to feedly. I moved to feedly and am very happy.


  5. Becky Jaffe
    April 8, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    My anthropological observations of men thus far have led me to conclude that there are two traits men find attractive in women: 1) a pulse, and 2) willingness to mate. No need to overthink this one. You can reserve your brainpower for more complicated fare.


    • April 8, 2013 at 2:11 pm

      Not true! Think about friends of yours who are unable to find willing men. Of course, they have standards too, to be sure, but it’s just not that easy for women. I’m developing my own theory about this, and I’m considering writing a book called “Wingwomen” to help women help their girlfriends get some action. Not sure how big the market is, but I know it’s out there.


  6. antbeckman
    April 10, 2013 at 10:49 am

    I’ve switched to Feedly and crossing my fingers that they are able to magically keep me plugged in to all my blogs.


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