Friday, February 20, 2009
It seems to me that there are more and more reports in the news of female teachers having sexual relationships with their male students. We're all very aware of male teachers taking advantage of their female students. When that happens most of us are not surprised; older men and younger women are a dyad familiar throughout the ages. The man is attracted to the girl's youth and adoration; she is attracted to his power and the prestige of being the chosen one.
Male teachers and their students are a ubiquitous story. One of my good friends in high school married our physics teacher twenty years her senior, one week after graduation. We were all fascinated, jealous, and grossed out. My English teacher once asked me to sit on his lap; I declined. My Spanish teacher got down on his knees after class and told me I was beautiful. I was 15. He must have been 40. I laughed and quickly walked out of the room. But were I more vulnerable or insecure or confused, maybe I would have pursued a special relationship with him. I'm sure I'm not the only ones with stories.
In those days we didn't consider these men sex offenders, though we should have. We just considered them weird teachers to stay away from. I made sure to never be alone in the room with either teacher again. Today male teachers taking sexual advantage of their young students are tried and punished. It is not tolerated.
But I don't remember stories of any female teachers taking advantage of male students. Was it going on and we just didn't know about it? Were the guys too proud or too ashamed to tell? And a 35-year-old female teacher marrying an 18-year-old kid was taboo. Okay for men, but no way for women.
The times have changed. Either more women are taking advantage of their male students or we are more aware that any teacher sexually engaged with any student is a sexual assault, whether consensual or not. Mary Kay Letourneau (pictured above with student Vili Fualaau) opened the door into the world of female teachers having relationships with their male students. She was sentenced twice for having a sexual relationship with Fualaau, starting when he was twelve.
Our very our Women In Crime Ink contributor Kathryn Scardino recently defended a Spring teacher who was accused of giving oral sex t0 two football players. According to the Houston Chronicle, Shannon Hrozek (pictured right) was given ten years of deferred adjudication, and agreed to surrender her teacher's license. Reading the comments of the public in response to this case was enlightening. Many applauded the two young men for getting serviced. Others pointed out that were this a male teacher with a female student the sentence would have been much more grave. We would be looking at a registered sex offender as opposed to a teacher who might have done two young men a "favor."
It is assumed that males are not harmed by having sex with an older woman, whereas young girls must be forced and taken advantage of. It is hard for many to imagine that a young boy could have sex unwillingly. But let me be perfectly clear: Any time there is a differential in power between two people, potential coercion exists. This is true for a doctor and patient, lawyer and client, pastor and parishioner, reporter and source, and teacher and student. Any time there is an inequality in a relationship the relationship cannot, by definition, be consensual.
It is the responsibility of the doctor, lawyer, pastor, reporter, and teacher to err on the side of restraint—even if the other party is "asking for it," professing love, or seems to not be harmed. It doesn't matter if the student, or patient, or client walks in to the room naked, begging to be taken. It is ethically and often legally required for the person in power to say no. Teachers need to be reminded of the power they hold in a child's eye and what a privilege it is to be given this power. A young boy assaulted by his teacher has been abused, even if others think him lucky.Tweet