In my erotic trilogy Summer of Consent, Gloria is an eighteen-year-old high school graduate who ends up having a sexual relationship with her former teacher. I wrote the story because it’s a fantasy fulfilment. Who hasn’t had a mad crush on a schoolteacher at some point?
I label Summer of Consent (aka SOC) as erotica and not erotic romance because it’s about the sexual relationship that develops between the characters and its ramifications. It’s not PC enough to be considered romance or erotic romance—at least not in my opinion—because I’m not following the conventions required for romance.
I don’t want or expect my story to appeal to everyone. I want it to appeal to readers who don’t mind indulging in (former) schoolgirl fantasy.
The age of consent in my story world, is eighteen, but the school where the story takes place is fictional, of course. The setting where the story takes place is vague, too, because I’m not trying to pinpoint any one state or city. If anything, my setting is a composite of several locations.
Eighteen is “Adult Lite”
Like the song says, “Age ain’t nuthin’ but a number,” which, ironically enough, was sung by Aaliyah who married R. Kelly when she was fifteen and he was twenty-seven. Scandal ensued, the marriage annulled, and people debate whether it was real or just a publicity stunt. Regardless, it brought up issues about the age of consent.
I discovered several things while writing SOC that I really didn’t know before. For example, I assumed the age of consent was the same throughout the US and that age was eighteen. It’s not. It varies from state to state and runs between sixteen and eighteen. But I had made my assumption based on things that people can do legally when they turn eighteen years old.
In the US, when you turn eighteen years old, you can drive, you can vote, you can fight (and die) for your country, you may even be able to buy a gun legally. You can enter legal contracts and be tried as an adult. I’m sure there’s other things, but these are the big ones I can think of. However, you can’t buy or drink alcohol.
Yet, apparently that despite all of this, there are rules about whom eighteen year olds can and can’t have sex with? Don’t you think that’s odd? I do. Statutory rape is no joke, so you better make sure you know where you stand on the legal scales lest they tilt against you.
Being eighteen might as well be called “Adult Lite” because other things aren’t legal for eighteen year olds until they are twenty-one.
So, for the rest of my post, I’m limiting the scope with regard to relationships between teachers and grade school kids. The word “student” will mean a child under the age of eighteen who is still in school. I’m not talking about college/university students because that’s another kettle of fish for another post…not necessarily one written by me.
Age of Consent
What does “age of consent” mean? It means the legal minimum age, as set by state statute, in which people can engage in sex without getting in trouble with the law for statutory rape. There are other considerations such as the age of parties involved and their marital status.
Whether we like it or not, kids have sex—mostly with other kids—at ages younger than many of us would condone. Therefore, laws have been established and have evolved over the decades to provide some kind of barrier of protection for everyone involved.
The variance between state laws hardly help the matter. Some states set the age of consent below eighteen, which in my opinion is scary. But if you put it into a historical context and remember how cultures around the world have married off children at some point or another, modern guidelines are quite conservative. Want to read something really scary? Read the Wikipedia article on the subject.
I’m all for protecting children from sexual predators—of any age—but there needs to be a level of common sense applied when it comes to sexual relationships where minors are involved.
“Barely Legal” and “Lolitas”
These two terms are quite evocative and for some, you may as well be writing about pedophilia. Well, let’s face it. When it comes to Lolita, Humbert Humbert would be busted regardless. But it is the term “Lolita” that has become synonymous with “jail bait” and also associated with sexually aware girls who have barely passed the legal age of consent.
To be honest, with the exception of the story potential it presents, I’m not physically attracted to barely legals. Thinking about prepubescent children, tweens, and young teens having sex is as appealing to me as thinking about (or seeing) my parents having sex. And if you can’t tell—it squicks me out.
But I’m not blind. I can see how boys and girls of a certain age with their growth spurts and raging hormones can appeal to some adults. There’s always going to be that boy or girl who looks—and possibly acts—with a maturity that belies their chronological age. Some will be honest about their age, but there will be those who won’t be, and an adult risks finding themselves on the wrong end of some embarrassing questions and in need of a lawyer. Best for adults to write off the entire age range from their list of sexual partners, in my opinion. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen.
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, much like laws, 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 are still together and have children. You simply don’t have a sexual relationship with a child if you are an adult. This represents an ethical failing on behalf of the adult.
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.
American political parties like to jab each other about the “Nanny State,” but they’re both to blame. They bleat on about protecting the innocence of youth by banning “filth” while making everything childproof and family friendly—regardless of whether something should be child/family-friendly or not. It’s practically impossible to assert any kind of adult authority or discipline without facing accusations of being a beast.
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? Because 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.
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:
By the way, you can look for the next two instalments of Summer of Consent to come out in the very near future. If you want to know exactly when that will be, subscribe to my announcement-only newsletter and get a free story in the process.
In closing, let me ask you the same question I put in my promotion for Summer of Consent.
Does graduating from high school turn a girl into a woman?