Dr Tim Bradshaw on the University's long history of sex and seduction

Sex and universities have been interweaving in fascinating ways for centuries.

Abelard, the new kid on the block 12th Century medieval theologian, moved from academic tuition of the young and beautiful Heloise into more participatory mode, only for her relative to wreak dreadful surgical vengeance and deterrence on him.

Ouch! That put a stop to that, and she was forced to become a resentful nun.

Malcolm Bradbury’s History Man tells of the sexually predatory sociologist lecturer Howard Kirk, working his way through the wives of his colleagues and his female students in ruthless fashion, causing misery as he climbs to power.

The film of Iris Murdoch’s life was described by on Cupitt as "Iris bonking and Iris bonkers", although I have heard some who knew her say that she was manipulated into some of her earlier activity by male colleagues when she was younger.

The aged, wrinkly Bertrand Russell famously seduced the pretty young wife of a maths don and many others.

As a callow law student at Keble in the 70s, I recall a tutorial by a law don in Lincoln College who told us admiringly of one of his undergraduates spotted in the Law Library stack "at it" with one of the young librarians. In those days there were still separate colleges for women, but young love and lust will always find ways through such dividing walls.

Sex and universities, the mind and the passions, will always intermingle in all sorts of forms, as above, some with dark tinges as when people in power can manipulate and exploit others, and scandals between predatory lecturers and vulnerable students do happen.

The particular dimension of university sex in the news at the moment is that of ‘laddish’ behaviour by male students towards females, fringing into bullying and abuse.

The womens’ liberation movement was supposed to confer on women greater freedoms in this realm of social relations, and the sexual revolution is apparently affecting school girls judging by the social media developments. But there are clearly pressures being felt by females towards sexual activity which amounts to exploitation and not simply freedom to be enjoyed.

Ladette behaviour, aping that of the lads, can be women taking control and giving as good as they get, or it can lapse into a self-vulnerability through the wiles of Bacchus.

Whatever the psychology, universities now find that they do have this problem of anti-political correctness falling into manipulative bullying and even criminal abuse. Student unions are themselves laying on courses for male students on how to behave in such social contexts with women to avoid this fall from fun into the abyss of real nastiness.

At institutional level here in Oxford, Professor Sally Mapstone is opening a day conference later this month dedicated to raise levels of knowledge and expertise in supporting victims of sexual violence. It is chilling to realise that the problem is of this scale.

Perhaps however it reflects aspects of confusion about the sexualisation of young people in the West, and the pressures on girls in particular to use their ‘freedom’ to conform to the normativity of promiscuity.

Ultimately this goes to consent, and protecting genuine choice and true freedom of the person, against forces seeking to condition and manipulate.