Professor Fired for Performing Burlesque


Do you think that what you do in your private life should be grounds for losing your job? You might not, but a lot of employers do.

JFK University has fired Sheila Addison because she’s a burlesque performer. Although she never publicized her performances on campus, talked about it with students, or mentioned her employment with JFK when performing, school officials decided that her actions bring “public disrespect, contempt and ridicule to the university.” [In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I’ve taught human sexuality courses at in the somatic psychology department at JFKU.]

I’m not precisely sure how she could have brought disrespect, contempt, and ridicule to the school if she never linked the school with her performance. Not to mention that the very notion assumes that there’s something wrong with being a burlesque performer. Since Addision was a professor in the counseling psychology department, do they expect her to teach her students that being a burlesque performer is contemptible or ridiculous? What do they suggest that therapists do when a performer comes into their offices?

One might assume that the school has problems with professors engaging in semi-nude performance. But a male professor in a different department publicized his one-man show (in which he appears partially nude) on campus without repercussions. And given that Addison had a contract that specified that she could only be fired for just cause and she never received any negative performance reviews, she can clearly do her job. And in any case, according to the complaint she filed, the only reason mentioned in the termination letter was her burlesque performance, not her job performance.

This is especially ironic, since the school specifically highlights these excerpts from their mission statement on the webpage devoted to their diversity statement.

“We are a vibrant and humane learning community that embraces all forms of diversity.” “Our culture is welcoming, respectful, and ethical.”

“We are committed to a culture that respects and values all forms of diversity and sparks creativity, collaboration, and leadership.”

“We respect individual and cultural differences while forging bonds of common understanding essential to our global interdependence.”

Sound like they need to check themselves.

Do we really need to slut-shame women for doing or having done something that has no impact on their job performance? Can we please stop?

Dr. Charlie Glickman

Charlie Glickman is the Education Program Manager at Good Vibrations. He also writes, blogs, teaches workshops and university courses, presents at conferences, and trains sexuality educators. He’s certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, and loves geeking out about sex, relationships, sex-positivity, love and shame, communities of erotic affiliation, and sexual practices and techniques of all varieties. Follow him online, on Twitter at @charlieglickman, or on Facebook.

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