My freshman American literature course presented me with many revelations, but one of the most indelible happened not inside the auditorium classroom where, twice a week, our professor stood onstage in front of more than a hundred 18-year-olds.
Instead, it came as I stepped into the women’s restroom afterward, just in time to overhear two of my fellow classmates rhapsodizing over how cute the professor was, with particular attention lavished on his long, slightly bowed, denim-clad legs.
I was terrified that I would be kicked out of my graduate program because a professor wanted a sexual relationship with me and I turned him down. It felt like she was an unknown assassin and I was her unknown target. When I should have been working on my thesis, I was worrying about whether I needed to protect myself legally. One sexual relationship had ended right before he took aim at me, and one began right after me.
Besides, for purposes of their relationships with teachers, high school seniors, even if they are 18, are still kids, as the legislature clearly concluded, and prosecutors are not free to second guess them. Because there I was, all by myself, in arguing that Mc Elhenney should be subject to felony charges.
Would it have been different if it were a male teacher and an 18-year-old girl? There is no question that there is a double standard in sex abuse cases, and nowhere is it more apparent than in what seems to be the growing number of teacher sex cases.
Students sometimes nurse crushes on their teachers, and teachers sometimes lust after their pupils; these are facts of life so commonplace as to have become the ultimate cliché: a porn motif.
Like many vaguely parental relationships, the pedagogic one can have a strong and unsettling erotic undertow.