Sex and the Age of Consent: Part 2 – The Teacher
This is a continuation from Part 1 of my blog post about my story The Summer of Consent: A Novel where an eighteen-year-old high school graduate who ends in a sexual relationship with her former teacher. Here I want to talk more about what is at risk for a teacher.
Note how I didn’t say “adult.” Why? Because my story is about consenting adults over the age of eighteen. But does the age of consent equate to adulthood?
No it doesn’t. It refers to the legal age a person can engage in sex. But if having sex isn’t an adult thing to do, I don’t know what is.
Regardless, if you play a role in teaching minors, you better check yourself before you wreck yourself.
Student/Teacher Sex: It’s an ethical issue, not a criminal issue.
The February 2015 issue of Texas Monthly has an article entitled, “A Closer Look at the Texas High School Student-Teacher Sex Epidemic.” The article itself refers to the situation as an epidemic. I don’t know if “epidemic” is the right word or is being used hyperbolically to explain how more instances are coming to light thanks to social media. Nevertheless, I recommend reading it.
Is it any surprise that Texas has one of the strictest laws about “inappropriate behavior” between teachers and students? To make matters worse, the law is vague enough to be abused—which it has been. It boggles my mind at how reactionary society has become. Instead of trying to take a more common-sense approach to an issue, people prefer to adopt a one-size-fits-all method.
But I agree with something mentioned in the Texas Monthly article. When it comes down to consensual sex between teachers and students, it’s really an ethical issue rather than a criminal issue. Ethics are based on morals and laws are based or morals, but not every moral issue is a legal issue.
I’m not going to lie. Mary Kay LeTourneau was wrong. I don’t care that she and her boy/manchild eventually married and have children. You simply don’t have a sexual relationship with a child if you are an adult. This represents an ethical and legal failing on behalf of the adult.
One + One = #MeToo
I wrote the first part of The Summer of Consent before the #MeToo era blew up and there’s no going back now.
Sexual harassment or sexual power play? When someone has a position of power over another, you already have an imbalance, and as soon as sex becomes involved, unless you’re in a consenting (no pun intended) D/s relationship, chances are someone is gonna go through hell.
It is not my intent to go into all the issues #MeToo raises, but if I were Queen of the Universe, I’d say that when it came to intimate relationships between teachers/coaches and students, teachers could not have sex with any student under the age of eighteen who has not graduated high school, whether they are in the same school or not. An eighteen-year-old high school dropout would be exempt because they are eighteen in addition to not being in school. But an eighteen-year-old senior in high school would be under this umbrella.
If you thought the Salem Witch Trials were bad, when it comes to the court cases involving teachers who have affairs with their students, this kind of persecution still exists in the way laws and society handle intimate relationships between teacher and student.
Little Darlings: The Innocent Student
What about the student part of the equation? If the student is coerced to participate, then that is child abuse and rape and the adult needs to do some jail time. But what about the student who knowingly and willingly gets sexual with a teacher or coach? Shouldn’t they bear some of the responsibility and face consequences?
What if a student seduces a teacher—who then foolishly falls for it—and then said student can’t handle it or otherwise gets pissed off at the teacher?
What if a student flirts with a teacher—and the teacher doesn’t appreciate it? Remember the song “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”? Ironic that it’s a song by The Police.
For teachers, it’s a Catch-22. If a teacher reports the incident, they risk humiliation at not being able to ignore the “harmless” actions of a student or overreacting. Isn’t it still a form of sexual harassment? Like bullying, some things can be impossible to ignore.
If a teacher shoots down a student’s advances, what’s to stop the disgruntled, embarrassed student from reporting on the teacher? I’ll bet you that regardless of whether the teacher got it on record first, it’ll be the student’s word against the teacher’s. Adults are cynical. Who’s to say that the teacher isn’t the guilty party and they “reported” the incident to smear the student’s reputation?
It doesn’t really matter because, more than likely, the student’s word will prevail. Why? Precedent. The student is always presumed innocent no matter how the relationship started or ended. If you don’t believe this can happen and Little Johnny or Little Sue is too sweet and innocent to do such a thing, you are more gullible and naive than most kids today.
Too Hot For Teacher
What does a teacher do if they have a legitimate complaint against a student? Do they report it and get it put on record? What if the teacher just wants to report an incident that he/she was able to resolve? In either case, are the parents informed? Does the student face any kind of special handling whether it’s counselling or disciplinary action?
It’s hard to figure out, especially when you have all sorts of “zero-tolerance” policies on certain issues. It would be awful, and unfair, if a teacher were to report an incident that was resolved and have it go against the student by labelling and/or criminalizing them. I would guess that it would depend on the situation. Was the student innocently trying it on, or were they aggressive?
This is why you can’t have blanket laws in a situation that has more than fifty shades of gray.
How much support do teachers have from their administrators, school boards, or even concerned parents in this scenario?
I don’t have an answer to ANY of these questions. There’s not much known or discussed about this side of the issue. At least, not that I know of.
We need to ask ourselves, as a society, at what age does a “child” become an “adult?” It’s hard when you have kids committing crimes like adults and being tried as adults, so maybe a pat chronological age can’t be set. But it’s the best we can do because who doesn’t know a grown person who still acts like an immature child?
All in all, I recommend you doing your own research into the subject because you may be shocked at what you find, and not just with regard to other countries, but in the good ol’ U. S of A. You can start here:
There seems to be fewer and fewer rites of passage these days. So in closing, let me ask you the same question I put in my description for Summer of Consent.
Does graduating from high school turn a girl into a woman?