Fact Check

Shortage of Prostitutes

Professor makes snappy comeback to female students who protest his chauvinism.

Published March 4, 1999


Claim:   Professor makes snappy comeback to female students who protest his chauvinism.



[Elgart, 1951]

Mrs. Abigail Sludge, secretary-treasurer of the ladies' bridge and Frank Sinatra club, has a passion for telling "off-colour" stories, which were resented by fellow members. One day just before the meeting convened the girls made a pact in which they agreed to leave the room when, and if Mrs. Sludge began her stories. Shortly after the meeting convened Mrs. Sludge settled herself at the bridge table and began, "Girls, did you know that there's a boatload of a thousand prostitutes leaving for Alaska in the morning?"

Then, as one, the members of the club rose and headed for the door.

"What's the rush, girls? The boat doesn't leave 'til 10 a.m.," retorted Mrs. S.

[Playboy, 1964]

Annoyed by the professor of anatomy who told racy stories during class, a group of coeds decided that the next time he started to tell one they would all rise and leave the room in protest. The professor, however, got wind of their scheme just before class the following day, so he bided his time: then, halfway through the lecture, he began. "They say there is quite a shortage of prostitutes in France . . ."

The girls looked at one another, arose, and started for the door. "Young ladies," said the professor, "the next plane doesn't leave until tomorrow afternoon."

[Bronner, 1990]

[A] professor describes a tribe in Asia, South America, or Africa that is known to have a penis fifteen inches or longer when in the state of excitation. At this point two or three coeds get up and start to leave the room, either because they are offended or need to go to another class. He shouts at them, "It's no use being in a hurry to get there, girls. The boat probably won't leave for another week."


Origins:  This tale began as an anecdote told about English anthropologist A.C. Haddon (1855-1940), one that supposedly took place in a Cambridge classroom. Haddon was lecturing on the Torres Straits Islanders and ran over the time allotted for the class. Just as he was describing how in some islands it is the women, rather than the men, who tender proposals of marriage, some female students attempted to slip out of the classroom and down to their waiting cab. He called after them, "No hurry, there won't be a boat for some


Between 1947 and 1956, folklore classes at Michigan State University collected seventeen versions of this tale, many of them passed along as true and recent events that had taken place locally. One of the versions brought the "coeds leaving as a protest against professor's crudity" motif into it, but the others stayed faithful to the Haddon form in which the timing of the female students' departure was merely coincidental.

Despite its age, this tale of an off-color professor turning the tables on those who would teach him a lesson still circulates on college campuses today. Perhaps its current popularity can be explained as a backlash against the women's movement: in this bit of lore, outraged female students who attempt to take a stand against an offensive professor end up as the butts of a joke. Those who believe feminist militancy has gone too far — that women are now taking offense at every real or imagined slight and demanding redress — might take comfort in this legend.

Barbara "ladies choice cut" Mikkelson

Last updated:   16 June 2011


    Bronner, Simon J.  
Piled Higher and Deeper

    Little Rock: August House, 1990.   ISBN 0-87483-154-7   (pp. 57-58).

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   "Sex in the Classroom."

    Journal of American Folklore.   Vol. 73; 1960   (pp. 250-251).

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   "Further Notes on Sex in the Classroom."

    Journal of American Folklore.   Vol. 75; 1962   (p. 62).

    Elgart, J.M.   Over Sexteen.
    New York: Grayson Publishing, 1951   (p. 171).

    Tillson, William.   "Purdue Classroom Recollection."

    New York Folklore Quarterly.   Vol. 18; 1962   (p. 55).

    Playboy.   "Party Jokes."

June 1964.