No thanks to you, Mrs Robinson

I can’t think of a better title for a post about the case of a young female teacher found guilty yesterday of seducing an even younger pupil at her school, but I thought it warranted a post because it raises so many questions. It was one of the big topics on the Jon Gaunt show this morning, along with another story about children’s stationery being emblazoned with a porn magazine’s logo.

The stationery in question was produced by (or on behalf of) Playboy, and featured the Playboy name along with the “bunny” (rabbit) logo. A Catholic school in Croydon, Coloma, took a group of its girls to the WH Smith store (a chain of shops which sells stationery, books, music, newspapers and magazines) in Croydon to protest against the sale of this sort of garbage in the children’s section. I have to agree with Coloma’s stance - they presented it as empowering the children, given that the logo and name represents an industry which presents women as mere flesh, rather than acting as moralists and banning it (which they say would be unenforceable). I just asked my mother about this (she’s a headmistress herself) and she told me that a lot of kids now have got “bunny bags”. She doesn’t like it either, but seems to think it’s something you can’t do much about.

The “Mrs Robinson” story concerns a teacher who carried on an affair with a schoolboy, starting when he was 15. Now, he could have been just 15 when this started, in which case he would have been 16 when it ended, or else 15 and a few months, in which case he would have been 17 when it ended. It ended when the boy insisted that she dump her existing boyfriend so that he would not have to share her with anyone else. She refused, and then dumped him instead.

He, it seems, then went to the papers, and the police got involved, and she was charged with two counts of “abusing her position of trust by mutual touching and sexual intercourse”, for which she was found guilty yesterday. She got a 12-month suspended sentence (i.e., she is free to begin with, but will have to serve the time if she is convicted of anything else), and told to sign the Sex Offenders’ Register for ten years. She got the suspended sentence after the “victim” told the judge he didn’t want her to go to jail; it was also mentioned on the radio that the judge had told her that if a man of her age had sex with a female pupil of his, he would get a jail term.

The discussion of the case on the radio this morning centred mostly on whether she should have received “equal treatment” with a man who had done the same with a girl of that age. The issue of why the case came to court at all wasn’t. Let’s be straight about this - she was in a position of trust, and student-teacher sex is wrong because of the obvious potential for corruption and coercion. (Of course, sex outside marriage is wrong, but a teacher is highly unlikely to be marking his or her spouse’s work.) This in itself should have resulted in her being drummed out of the school and possibly being blocked from working in a school - I’m not convinced that a prosecution was necessary.

But this kid was no victim, and having been a teenager much more recently than many of those who pontificate about protecting “vulnerable teenagers” from themselves, I can say that most 15-year-olds are more or less adults, and capable of considerable cruelty. When we see this sort of cruelty, we call them teenage thugs, and we don’t hesitate to condemn them (unless the victims are other schoolchildren, in which case we may often blame the victim). I’ve never met a teenage boy who was naive about sex, although it’s true that there is pressure on boys in some schools to “admit” to fancying an older female (I experienced this myself), and shyness over talking about it may be assumed to be ignorance.

But if teenagers know what they’re doing when they rob an old granny or beat up younger children, they know what they’re doing when they are getting laid - and this applies to girls as well. One might ask whether, if this lad was so wet behind the ears that he was genuinely seduced by this teacher, the papers should have thought twice before broadcasting his sorry story to the whole country. Or is this just a case of a silly woman having her career ruined by a manipulative young man who kissed and told?

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