September 3, 2013

It certainly is ooky to talk about teachers and students having sexual relationships, Betsy Karasik writes in her oped, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it a little more. There are instances in which such relationships aren’t damaging to the student, she asserts — and there are times when criminal prosecution of the teacher and sensationalized coverage is more damaging to the young person than the actual illegal relationship.

Bo (left) and Sunny
Bo (left) and Sunny are the picture PostScript would like to look at, rather than any illustration of this discussion. Thank you. (Pete Souza/The White House)

Yuck, may PostScript dare to say — a sentiment broadly echoed in the 3,000 comments the piece has received. Yuck, and gross, and please stay away from us, people who want to have sex with a 14-year-old (who are not 14 themselves).

All of this sort of proves Karasik’s point, that our yuck response makes for irrational reactions and unfair policy. For example, some commenters want to say yuck so badly they make up an entirely bogus argument and pretend Karasik said it, in order to disagree vociferously.

j856979

50 yr old teachers should be encouraged to have sex with their 14 yr old mentally ill students. By Betsy Karasik, Esq. Why don’t you move your firm to Billings and offer Judge Baugh a partnership? I hear he’s looking for work and so is Stacey Rambold. You could hire him as your child abuse expert when you defend sex offenders!

So, there’s that. There’s also hysteria:

FlaxenMane

Something strange but predictable is happening. More and more we’re hearing pro-pedophilia comments. Recently the Los Angeles Times wrote about research stating that pedophilia was simply another “sexual orientation.” If this is true, schools will not be allowed to discriminate against hiring pedophiles. Bakeries will have to cater to pedophiles if requested. Photographers will have to agree to provide services to avowed pedophiles. The implications for student-teacher relationships is staggering. My suggestion would be chemical castration for male teachers who abuse students. Women would be more difficult.

Okay. These phantom arguments are much easier to argue against without getting ick all over you. But PostScript also thinks the part of the piece where Karasik claims knowledge of teacher-student affairs that did not do much psychological damage might give the impression Karasik thinks it’s okay for teachers and students to have sex. She does not. She says it’s wrong and bad and the teacher should be barred from teaching until having completed rehabilitation. But if the age difference doesn’t already make the relationship statutory rape, it shouldn’t necessarily be a criminal matter, she says.

Yuck.

Well anyway, what other yuck got expressed?

Djones121 says letting institutions police these matters themselves outside the legal system has a really bad precedent:

Unmentioned is the widespread sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests. There are thousands of cases both here and in other countries. The Church, following Karasik’s philosophy, did not report it to the police and tried to cover it up in order to protect the priests and its own reputation. The children were considered expendable by the Church and in some cases held responsible for what happened. The real problem is that sexual abuse of children has not been punished enough, not too much.

insightinc

I might agree with the premise that putting the child through the legal system along with the offender is harmful, but I am deeply offended by the premise that student/teacher sex is so common that it is normal and should not be criminal. I would also be horrified if a teacher who had sex with an underage student was “rehabilitated” and allowed to return to the profession. The author seems more interested normalizing this crime than in protecting children.

Tenmile1

I get the impression from most of the comments that people are so anxious to express their views against adults having sex with minors that they missed one of the main points of the article: that overreaction can cause more damage than the original crime.

SeaTigr says the ick factor/normalizing factor clouds our judgment about statutory cases in general:

I don’t understand. You’re either old enough to consent to sex, or you’re not. While I, personally, have no desire to bed a teenage girl, if the age of consent is, say, 17, and she is 17, then it shouldn’t matter whether I’m 18 or 80. You’re either old enough to consent, or you’re not – my personal ‘ick’ factor being irrelevant.

And mirrorgazer says that the potential for psychological damage here is so great that it’s worth some unfair prosecutions. Making teachers very, very afraid of having adult relationships with their students, or even seeming to, and there’ll be less line-crossing:

Ms. Karasik appears to be reacting to the tragedy of the 14-year-old and her teacher. That situation only underscores a need for stronger policies – not just guidelines – about teachers’ relationships with their students. This should apply without question for middle and high school educators, and there should also be consequences for bad-behaving college professors. If there are ever cases for jerking knees, it involves protection of our children in places where they should feel safe – like their homes, schools and churches.

PostScript just wants to say yuck one more time. Thank you. Yuck.