Feature

United Kingdom: When it’s okay to sleep with a student

Do you believe that a female teacher sleeping with a male student is as bad as a male teacher sleeping with a girl? asked Barbara Ellen in <em>The Observer.</em>

Barbara Ellen
The Observer

Do you believe that a female teacher sleeping with a male student is as bad as a male teacher sleeping with a girl? asked Barbara Ellen. “I don’t—and neither, I’d wager, would most 15-year-old boys.” Yet British law treats the two infractions exactly the same.

High school teacher Madeleine Martin, 39, was recently sentenced to 32 months in jail for sleeping with a 15-year-old male student. The punishment is excessive. Surely a boy who beds an older woman is not victimized in the same way as a girl preyed upon by a man. After all, teenage boys “mainly want sex”—it brings them “excitement, experience, bragging rights, kudos.” Teenage girls “mainly want attention” and validation.

So a tryst with a teacher is different for the two sexes. “For most boys, it would be the score of all scores, for girls, the ultimate exploitation.” So why can’t we acknowledge the difference? Besides, Martin, who professes to have been in love with her student, “seems more pathetic than predatory.” For a male teacher, such an act is obviously wrong. For a female, it’s “a far grayer moral area.”

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