It’s in the headlines again. A Texas dad caught his 13-year-old son having sex with a 44-year-old teacher in the back seat of a car in a nearby parking lot and called the police.
After receiving the call, investigators found evidence of an ongoing relationship between the two on the victim’s phone, and the teacher was booked in county jail on charges on online solicitation of a minor and improper relationship between an educator and student.
It happens all the time. But why do some teachers — with families and careers of their own — risk everything, even their freedom, for sex with their students?
Most of it is due to emotional immaturity, reports Oprah magazine, and the teachers aren’t typical pedophiles who prey on kids. Most don’t even go into a teaching career with plans to seduce a student, they end up loving the attention from the kids, and become in a way, the most popular kid themselves.
The problem is, she may relate too well, says the report. "I've had cases where a teacher starts out seeing a kid simply to tutor him, but soon they begin talking about their personal lives and what music they like, then they're listening to iPods together and texting each other, and suddenly it's like a dating relationship," says Robert J. Shoop, PhD, director of the Cargill Center for Ethical Leadership at Kansas State University and author of Sexual Exploitation in Schools.
Many don’t understand boundaries and honestly don’t fully grasp that they are actually committing a crime, either.
Debra Lafave, the 23-year-old Florida teacher who had sex with a 14-year-old student, said upon her arrest: ”I was thinking of [myself] as a young girl who just got caught with her boyfriend."
Some teachers actually believe they are in love. Take then 34-year-old wife and mother Mary Kay Letourneau, who had sex with and then married her 13-year old student, Vili Fualaau. They now share two children together. Mary Kay couldn’t stay away from Vili, even when it meant jail.
Troubling times may contribute to going past a previous limit. A teacher who is lonely or having relationship problems in their personal lives may be more willing to cross the line because they are so vulnerable. It’s a temporary “fix” that turns bad, and once in their right mind again, some teachers may wonder what they were ever thinking. But that is rare.
In many cases, plain old lust is to blame. A mature student can easily be seen as sexually capable and attractive, while the teacher may feel young and attractive themselves. Seeing the student as more mature than they actually are is dangerous.
Sadly, some teachers who commit these crimes have been sexually abused themselves. They never learned the skills to deal with healthy sexual boundaries, and seek love anywhere they can find it.
Reddit is filled with anonymous teachers confessing to hookups with students, with many describing having feelings and wondering what to do following the illegal sexual encounter.
One, a 24-year-old teacher, who spent one night with a student, said that the 22-year-old student initiated the flirting. They hooked up, then he told classmates about it. Now, she feels like she is “doing a really long, extended walk of shame,” and is on edge from hiding her secret.
Quora also has a thread dedicated to teacher/student hookups, with one commenter explaining that “mutual interest, affection, desire for intimacy, and desire for excitement” all lead down a bad road.
Another wrote: “My personal take on it is that many teachers get caught up in the flirting that students do with them. Or maybe they think a student is attractive and they say something flirty to see if the student responds. Why flirt with students? Probably because they think it's harmless fun, they're stuck in a building for eight-to-nine hours, five days a week and it breaks up the monotony. I also saw some teachers who wanted to be the cool, fun teacher, maybe because they still felt like they were in high school themselves. I think these were the teachers who high school was some of their best times, they then were probably commuters at college, and then went straight into teaching, so their whole lives had been in schools, so they didn't see the difference between themselves and their students as starkly as the rest of the world does.”
According to Lauren Eavarone, a New York-based relationship and couples therapist, it's hard to place all teachers who cross the line with students into one category, but she says it is a dilemma.
"Due to the negative stigma teacher student relations has in society, trying to find that why is pertinent as a means of trying to 'fix' it or the possibility of it occurring in the future," Eavarone tells Personal Space. "If we were to examine some potential whys I would consider the frequency of sexual affairs between colleagues. With teachers, it just so happens that the people that they encounter the most are young adults or children."
Eavarone says there is also a weird power play at hand — dominant versus submissive.
"The teacher role is reinforcing such power play as they are in control in the classroom and also due to the age dynamic. Teacher-student relations have been endorsed in pornography and in Halloween costumes for many years. This only heightens the fantasy aspect of it but also highlights the fact that their is an audience for such. I would also consider the desirability aspect of it. Passion and desire is something that drives humans in mating and is a common complaint of something that has dissipated in long term relationships and with age."
And the student likely not having the same responsibilities of an adult, all their energy would be consistently feeding the passion/desire drive," Eavarone says.
"This would be seemingly and misleadingly attractive for the adult, who is riding the wave of endorphins that such desire elicits. Luckily for humans, our ability to be conscious and use reason in our decisions is what differentiates us from animals mating in the wild."
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