SOMETHING ABOUT TEACHER
Hi Jo-Anne and readers!
Did you have a crush on a teacher in high school? Or a scandal when a student became romantically involved with a teacher?
I’m of the vintage when relationships between young teachers and older high school students (I’m talking 17 – 18 years old), while not respectable, weren’t uncommon. My high school saw at least one teacher and student moving in together after the student graduated. And all the girls in my year level had enormous crushes on our very handsome Business Studies teacher (although as far as I know he never succumbed to our flirtatious come-ons).
Attitudes towards student teacher relationships have shifted in the last 30 years. Today these relationships are not tolerated, they are viewed as paedophilic, pure manipulation and abuse of power on the part of the adult participant. In many cases this is true, particularly where the student in question is under the age of consent.
Yet what an arbitrary line the age of consent is.
Sixteen is as tender as fifteen and not a whole lot less mature than seventeen. At sixteen many teenagers are discovering the incredible power of their burgeoning sexuality, not only in regards to their peers, but also in relation to the effect it can have on adults.
I feel for modern teenage girls. From primary school age they’re subjected to an undercurrent of sexual conditioning via first world culture - music videos, TV soaps, magazines, advertising, modelling from the young women in their lives. It doesn’t take long for them to get the idea that sexual allure is a highly valued quality. I’ve tried to protect my 9 year old daughter from explicit music videos and mature commercial content, yet she occasionally (and disturbingly) mimics the sexy poses and behaviour she observes in the world around her. Sexiness is so embedded in our culture we hardly notice it.
The unguarded nature of today’s communication means young people are exposed to complex sexual ideas long before they have the maturity to understand them. Sex education is delivered and helps to avert silly, misinformed mistakes, but no sex education program is going to prepare them for the lived experience and consequences of entering a sexual relationship, particularly with a mature adult.
As a young girl’s body blossoms and hormones rocket through her blood, it’s not surprising she decides to ruffle her sexual feathers and test out her allure. For some girls the most accessible man available to her is a teacher. There are many teachers in my life and all of them have a story about a teenager who targets the youngest, handsomest member of staff with her substantial charms.
The ramifications of this can be dire. No matter how responsibly he behaves, these days he is the one who is going to be held to account. If she manipulates him into an uncompromising position she will be the victim and he will be explaining himself, even though he may have done nothing to encourage her affections. One story I was told involved a fifteen year old girl who used tutoring as a ruse and showed up on her teacher’s doorstep dressed provocatively holding a bottle of wine.
Teenagers are susceptible to developing intense romantic attachments – real or imagined. First love is a teenage rite of passage and it’s only natural a percentage of teenagers choose a favoured teacher as their first love object. And if that teacher is vulnerable to the flattery of a young person’s attraction and attention, the situation can become psychological dynamite.
It was the romantic element of these relationships that interested me when writing The Yearning. We are not comfortable with the idea that there could be a real attraction between a teacher and student, so this aspect of the relationship is glossed over. It’s seen as an aberration, a delusion, but that’s not how a teenager experiences it.
Our first experience of love and sex stays with us, marks us out and shapes our expectations of future relationships. I believe we should be talking to teenagers, particularly teenage girls, about how to assert and experience their sexuality in a way that empowers them, not buys into the confusing double standards society lays out for them – be sexually alluring but don’t be a slut. They need to understand the consequences of entering a sexual relationship with a mature adult may affect the rest of their lives.
The Yearning speaks to this issue. It asks who seduces who and why? How do we realign our expectations in relationships, our trust, our love, after our first sexual experience? It asks what do we want from love versus what we can have?
The Yearning by Kate Belle
It’s 1978 in a country town and a dreamy fifteen year old girl’s world is turned upside down by the arrival of the substitute English teacher. Solomon Andrews is beautiful, inspiring and she wants him like nothing else she’s wanted in her short life.
Charismatic and unconventional, Solomon easily wins the hearts and minds of his third form English class. He notices the attention of one girl, his new neighbour, who has taken to watching him from her upstairs window. He assumes it a harmless teenage crush, until the erotic love notes begin to arrive.
Solomon knows he must resist, but her sensual words stir him. He has longings of his own, although they have nothing to do with love, or so he believes. One afternoon, as he stands reading her latest offering in his driveway, she turns up unannounced. And what happens next will torment them forever – in ways neither can imagine.
Read an extract here
Buy The Yearning:
Reading group questions here
Kate is a multi-published author who writes dark, sensual contemporary women’s fiction. She lives, writes and loves in Melbourne, juggling her strange, secret affairs with her male characters with her much loved partner and daughter and a menagerie of neurotic pets.
Kate holds a tertiary qualification in chemistry, half a diploma in naturopathy and a diploma in psychological astrology. Kate believes in living a passionate life and has ridden a camel through the Australian desert, fraternised with hippies in Nimbin, had a near birth experience and lived on nothing but porridge and a carrot for 3 days.
Twitter: @ecstasyfiles https://twitter.com/ecstasyfiles
The Reading Room: http://www.thereadingroom.com/kate-belle/ap/2394119
Every reader who comments on any Kate Belle blog post before December 23 2013 will go into the draw to win a digital copy of The Yearning (Open to Australia/New Zealand residents only. Selected winner must be contactable by email to claim their prize.)
I'll throw in an ebook of The Yearning to anyone who comments on this post. Just leave a comment telling me if you ever had a crush on a teacher, with your email address. Winner will be drawn December 23rd.