I think of all the education that I missed, but then my homework was never quite like this

Sadie at Jezebel wrote an interesting post about the apparent increase of female on male statutory rape cases.  The good news: despite extensive media coverage, there really hasn’t been an increase in the amount of female teachers engaging in sexual relationships with their underage male (and occasionally female) students.  The bad news: that’s mostly because it’s always been more common than most of us realize, it’s just that more people are speaking out about it, both in terms of personal experiences and the endless debate on how it’s somehow “different” than when a male teacher sleeps with a female student.

Read any article online about an adult woman arrested for statutory rape on an underage male, usually one in which she has a position of power over, and you’ll get approximately two comments down before the chorus of “Kid’s lucky, I wish I had had an older woman show me the ropes when I was his age!” begins, followed by the insistence that males never have sex against their will, and that it just isn’t the same as it would be were the genders reversed.  Men and women both willingly apply double standards that allow women who participate in such relationships to not take responsibility for their actions: after all, women don’t prey on people they perceive as less powerful than them like men do.  Despite as weird and inappropriate a situation as fucking your teacher might be, teenage boys are never coerced or manipulated into such a thing, because somehow they know exactly what they’re doing and what the possible outcomes of it might be.  However, suggest the same thing about young teenage girls, despite the fact that they do tend to be more emotionally mature than boys at that age, and you’d have the internet equivalent of angry villagers pounding at your door bearing torches and pitchforks.  Male teachers are always predators, while female teachers are simply fulfilling a Letters to Penthouse fantasy.

Even if the relationship is consensual, that doesn’t negate the fact that the older party is acting inappropriately.  Maybe jail time isn’t necessary, but they need to not be in a position of power over young people, as clearly they don’t recognize boundaries.  These stories, particularly the ones where the teacher is a woman, are dishearteningly similar: they befriend their students in a way that goes beyond normal standards, spending time with them outside of school, chatting online or on the phone, even inviting them to their homes.  That in itself is incredibly weird, and you can bet that if it was a male teacher inviting his students to his house “just to hang out” red flags would be flapping all over the place.  Yet with female teachers, they’re “reaching out” to their students, creating a bond, offering them support, especially if they’re having problems at home.  The line between “teacher” and “friend,” particularly if the teacher is barely out of college, even moreso if the teacher begins treating their students as confidantes, becomes blurred and complicated.  Now you picture yourself at age 15 or so getting involved in a situation like that with one of your teachers.  Do you think you’d be going into a sexual relationship with them absolutely knowing what you were doing?

While male teachers who engage in sex with their students are inaccurately blasted as pedophiles, women are excused for such behavior.  They’re “lonely,” they’re trapped in unhappy marriages, they thought they were in love.  I’ve even seen the occasional suggestion that teenage boys are simply impossible to resist, with their wispy mustaches and their jeans drooping below their asses.  It is clear that many of these women are emotionally stunted, perhaps to a pathological level, given how many of them are caught by being stupid enough to leave a trail of sexually explicit e-mails and text messages written in the abbreviated “OMG u r so hot bb!!!1!” fashion of the people they’re supposed to be teaching.  Are they really thinking and acting with the judgment of a 16 year-old, dumbing themselves down to either appeal to their young friends and lovers, or are they subconsciously aware that what they’re doing is wrong and are trying to get caught? Whatever the case, again, they should probably rethink teaching high school as a career, at least until they’re capable of controlling themselves.

We live in odd times.  A man chasing after women, girls, who are far too young for him, whether he’s in a position of power over them or not, is considered gross and a little pathetic.  Yet women chasing after young men, sometimes men young enough to be their sons, are given a “you go, girl!” round of applause.  It’s empowering for women of a certain age to still be able to draw attention from younger suitors, while for men it’s a desperate, futile attempt to recapture their youth.  Girls who have sexual relationships with older men are victimized, while boys in the same situation with women are lucky bastards.  What it comes down to is the most deeply ingrained gender stereotype of all, as far as sexuality is concerned: women have sex for the emotional attachment, while men have sex just to get their dicks wet.  So there lies the problem, because of the messy emotional aspects a young girl is always going to be damaged by a relationship with someone in authority, while boys will simply bounce back unscathed.  When we get to the point where we as a society can admit that sometimes women do sleep with people just for the sex, and that men occasionally get attached to the people they have sex with, maybe then we can treat this issue equally, expecting both male and female aggressors to answer for their actions accordingly.

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One Response to “I think of all the education that I missed, but then my homework was never quite like this”

  1. i just found your blog via Pandagon.

    to begin my comment, i want to say i absolutley agree with this entire post. ANY teacher having sex with a student is in the wrong, taking advantage of their position, power and authority.

    i keep trying to have this conversation, because parts of it confuse me. when it’s a female teacher seducing a student (younger male) there is always that sort of “you go, you!” vibe attached to both student and teacher. but in other situations… it’s an older woman “preying” on a hot young stud, al la Demi Moore and Ashton Whatshisface.

    this is a weird dynamic to me; i mean, in the dynamic where it is OBVIOUS that this woman is preying on a student, it’s not just mostly ignored but given the wink and nod, but when there ISN’T the illegal, corrupt authority dynamic, it’s always wrong?

    so… i would like your thoughts, but also your opinion on my thought (because you have obviously put some thought into the idea). The teacher is generally pitied – the bad marriage/depression/whatever thing AND was probably, at best, second-tier popular in high school so shagging her student, who is probably in THE popular clique is a validation she is receiving a decade late (or more). then, she is seen, at a minimum, as “gifting” the boy with sexual experience. so it’s kinda like many people sort of EXPECT teachers (at least the young, hot ones) to do this, teach them HOW to have sex, you are totally right about the Penthouse letters vibe. but also that it seems to make many parents (and peers) PROUD that their son got it on with the teacher. in many cases, it really looks to me like everyone just assumes that the male student was the instigator, and so OF COURSE she gave in to the Manly Male Student, it just proves how manly he is!
    wheras with the “cougar” situation (gods, how i hate that epithet, “COUGAR”, i mean seriously, why? but it’s the best shorthand for it, sigh). in the “cougar” situation, i think people really do see it as an older woman preying on a younger man, trying to semi-literally steal his youth (sorta succubus like) to restore her own. in this case, she is feeding on his youth and on TOP of that emasculating him, because she is generally the one with the money (or celeb-hood, or whatever). Teachers aren’t really viewed as having REAL power, not the way a billionair or movie star is, and so the “cougar” has her younger man and he is now a “gigilo” – HE isn’t proving anything, nor is he perceived to be, but SHE is, she is proving to the world that she is (or wants to be seen as) still hawt enough to capture a guy half her age.

    so, what i am thinking here is that in the teacher/student senario, the societal perception is that the student is proving his manhood by seducing this woman who theoretically has power over him but by his seduction he proves that she doesn’t really and that he’s a stud. so it’s “okay”, because that is still within gender norms, and there is also pretty much always the added bonus that the student is seen as having “rescued” his teacher – from lonliness or a bad marriage or depression or whatever – and everyone knows that the Knight In Shining Armor is the one with power.
    but in the cougar/gigilo scenario, the societal perception is that she is a witch/wicked/temptress who is stealing his youth, vitality, sperm and manhood by making him a “kept man” – she is the who is percieved as the seducer, the one with power, AND the rescuer. so it’s an exact flipped subvert of that assumed societal perception.

    i don’t know if this is correct, of course, just where my think about this has led me thus far. anything you can add, or correct, would be welcome (and if you don’t want, thats fine too :) i just think this is one of those really interesting areas where gender dynamics and power dynamics are so intertwinned that people are reacting more out of the assumed societal perception (the one that says the student is a manly man for having sex with a 30 year old but the actor or whatever has had his manhood stolen because he was forced to be a gigilo by the “evil cougar”. 3 or 4 centuries ago it would have been ASSUMED that the “cougar” was a witch actually using magic to accomplish this, whereas today i think everyone thinks that “cougars” are using mind control they learned in yoga…_). the fact that reality almost NEVER matches their assumed perception, at least on the student/teacher side, doesn’t matter. what matters in things like this is whether or not the boy has become a Man. the student, YES, the actor NO.

    does this make ANY sense?

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