He Was So Well-Respected


Michele Kerr

Michele Kerr lives in California, for her sins.

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190 Responses

  1. Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

    My high school music teacher was very popular with his students. He was just out of college, and so only a few years older than us. This can lead to the students running roughshod over the new teacher, but we respected his music chops and liked him personally. Some of us would hang out at his house after school, and the day I graduated he went from being “Mr. K–” to “Pat.”

    I haven’t been back there is decades, so I lost touch. Some years back I looked him up. It was nearly a black hole. His not being at the same job wasn’t surprising. Turnover is normal. But a bit more digging turned up the revocation of his teaching license. I never found out the details, but can guess. I didn’t realize it at the time, but in my extremely advanced youth I understand why it is important for teachers to maintain some social distance from their students.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      It wasn’t necessarily abuse of a student. One of the music teachers at my high school was caught embezzling money.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      “…some social distance”? No. Not some. Total. You are not peers or friends. A teacher should never have students unsupervised in their home. There is space to have a relationship beyond the classroom… attend a ball game or dance performance or art showing… but a hangout at the house? Nope.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      My daughter’s male volleyball coach always struck me as ultra-creepy, and he was a coach at a small private school where parents’ watch their kids (tho maybe not the teaching staff) like vultures. In so many words I conveyed to her to never be alone with that guy and to watch out for her friends. She heard me, even tho she thought I was being an uncool helicopter dad. (I think my exact words were “hey, he may be a great coach, but don’t ever be alone with that guy and watch out for your friends”.) Two years later when he was coach of a traveling team she was on but was no longer her HS coach we went to his house for a traveling team party. His live-in “girlfriend” was a nineteen year old girl he had recently coached in his current traveling team gig. Creepy!Report

  2. fillyjonk fillyjonk says:

    I remember some years back, being back home visiting my parents over some holiday (Thanksgiving, I think). I was already well-into adulthood (already working at the job I have now). Anyway, it came up that one of the teachers I had had in 7th grade had been sent to prison, because he had had sex with at least one, and probably more than one, of the 13-14 year old girls in his classes.

    He had been my seventh grade science teacher. Nothing happened with me, and I was a pretty innocent teen (and bad at reading signals) but I will say I always got an uncomfortable vibe off him…like, “don’t let him get between you and the exit from the classroom.”

    I know not everyone gets those feelings, and probably in most cases the person being abused didn’t. But even though I always suspected there was something creepy about him, I still felt….weird and ooky learning that one of my teachers had done that. Even nearly 30 years later.

    I will say it would have been a *lot* worse had he been a teacher I liked and respected and didn’t feel “creepy” about – but with this guy, it was bad enough to learn of what happened.

    There have been *many* cases in the region where I live of teachers getting “involved” with their students and it’s kind of gross and awful to hear about even if you don’t know any of the parties involved. (In most cases, it’s a fairly young woman teacher with a high-school-aged student).

    As a college professor, I have to go through so many hours every year of “reporter training” and also “anti-sexual-harassment” training and I am well-aware that even if I had a student close to me in age, and there was a mutual attraction there, I could not (and would not) consider dating him. (At least not until after he was totally graduated and would never again be my student, but then again: there is something about that professional distance that quashes any attraction. And I don’t have that many male students close to me in age any more)Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain says:

      40 years ago when I was a graduate TA in the math department and was required to have office hours, you could tell which offices the TAs used because the doors had been removed. One time I encountered the classic cliche: the attractive freshman woman leaned over, pushed her chest at me, batted her eyelashes and said, “I’ll do… anything to pass calculus.” I tried to look bored and gave her the cliche answer. “Yeah? Study.” She left in a huff. I reported it using the appropriate channel, but still lived in some fear of being accused. Less so after she dropped the class.Report

      • fillyjonk fillyjonk says:

        Yeah, I have a policy of not closing my office door when a student is meeting with me. If it’s a “confidential” meeting I will check to be sure there’s no one else standing right outside and I will turn up the music that I stream in my office. But I tend to err on the side of caution.

        A TA colleague of mine – back when we all had unlocked offices, when I was first a TA – had someone leave a lab report on his desk along with a $100 bill and a note about “I really need to pass this class.” My colleague called the student up at his dorm (this was before cell phones) and said “You left something in my office. Come back before 3 pm today and get it and I won’t say anything; if you don’t, I’m going to the campus dishonesty council.” (He probably should have anyway, but the student did come back, shamefaced, to collect the money.)Report

        • Avatar Michael Cain says:

          I was always somewhat perplexed by attempts to bribe the TA. At that school and time, it was possible that I could rig their grade, but it would have been a lot of work. Trivial for the prof, who had the grade book, but I would have had to either fake some homework and/or tests in some fashion, or take the risk that the prof wouldn’t check my grading.Report

          • Avatar Aaron David says:

            I think that if they are resorting to bribing the TA, then maybe they weren’t the sharpest stick in the bunch.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        What’s the “appropriate channel” for reporting that? For some reason, it didn’t dawn on me that there are proper channels to report student behavior like that… but I just never really thought of it. I’m curious how far a school can go in responding to something like what you’ve described.Report

        • fillyjonk fillyjonk says:

          Academic dishonesty. It constitutes academic dishonesty as much as (probably more than) plagiarism does. That’s what I’d do if I had clear evidence of a student attempting to bribe me – go to the academic dishonesty panel and report it.

          We also have an online reporting system that keeps records if you report something like cheating on an exam. I admit I feel a bit uncomfortable with that (too “Permanent Record”) and I have a policy that first instances of cheating or plagiarism earn a 0, but do not get officially reported. (Second and further instances would, but I have never had anyone cheat more than once in my class. Well, that I was able to detect…)Report

  3. Avatar Aaron David says:

    My son was a mid-year freshmen transfer into his HS, and due to class needs and his musical skills, he was placed in orchestra. I met the teacher once or twice but didn’t really think of him any which way. My son didn’t take the class the next year, instead, going another direction. But a few months into that term he let me know that the music teacher had been let go, due to having consensual sex with a student. The student was a senior, and she finished out her term and graduated from that school. I have no idea if she was 18 or not.

    My mother-in-law had been a continuation HS teacher in Stockton and one thing she always said was that after too long a period, some teachers become too close with the students, and also become emotionally stunted. They gravitate to that mindset that they are indeed one of the gang. Obviously, it doesn’t happen to every teacher, but it does seem often enough.Report

  4. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    So they give you hours and hours of mandated you-must-watch click-acknowledge-on-every-page training for how to report sex stuff, what to do if you see sex stuff, exactly how much and how far your life gets wrecked if sex stuff happens.

    Do they ever actually bother to tell you what to do if you are tempted to get involved in sex stuff? How to recognize situations that can make sex stuff seem reasonable? What to do if sex stuff starts happening and you didn’t expect it?

    Like, everyone laughs at Mike Pence saying that he never has dinner with a woman alone, everyone talks about how Just Don’t Rape People, but here’s some guy who, it seemed, honestly wanted to help kids live better lives and was genuinely good at it, but even he couldn’t keep his shit together long enough, and now all those kids are worse off than if he hadn’t even existed. Because none of them is ever going to look at a friendly helpful adult now and not think “yeah but maybe he wants to fuck me”.

    So…do they tell you what to do when the sex stuff seems like what ought to happen? How to know that sex stuff is imminent, how to not start sex stuff by accident–which, I think, is probably where a lot of these things happen, when someone doesn’t realize that they’re taking on a role of emotional intimacy rather than a mentoring relationship. But do they give any instruction in that, or is it just “uh, just, like, don’t bang the students, mmmkay?”Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      From what I can tell, its pretty much just your last sentence. People are supposed to have an intuitive knowledge of what to do when sex stuff occurs, from when it is proper to proceed and to when you need to master all your internal discipline to stop the sex stuff.The problem is that very few people really want to have a honest discussion about sex.

      Everybody has a particular story they want to tell about sex and ignore everything else. So the abstinence crowd just believes that if two people are feeling overwhelmingly horny for each other, can just summon an endless amount of will and not fish. Meanwhile, the sex is awesome crowd as nothing more people who are horny as hell but can’t seem to find anybody willing to sleep with them. For them its, “hey, remember that celibacy thing that we told you is completely unnatural and something humans aren’t good at, will you have to be very good at celibacy while enduring a bunch of people making fun of you for not getting laid.”

      Since humans seem to be very bad at considering things that go against the story they want to tell, we are going to have these problems in perpetuity.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

      This. I have fairly similar rules to Pence considering workplace interactions with women. It’s partially to avoid false accusations or creating rumors but also because why create potential temptation for myself? I travel a fair amount for work. A couple of weeks away from your spouse, a harmless dinner with a female coworker, a couple of drinks and people get flirty. That’s how affairs happen. I can tell myself that I would never do that, and mean it 100% when I say it, but I’m sure most people who have affairs used to say the same things.

      We would probably commend a teacher who went to great lengths to never find themselves in those situations, but in our current climate, if you take steps to avoid those situations in the workplace people think nefarious things about you.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

      It’s funny, because you do get that kind of training when it comes to corporate ethics. The whole, “There is no way that it is acceptable to give non-public company information to a Chinese national.” kind of training.

      And you get it for sexual harassment (“those kinds of jokes aren’t actually funny”).

      But sex, we are just supposed to know where the line is, even when it’s dark and foggy out.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        My company is incredibly inconsistent. I know numerous examples of people having affairs, dating and marrying people beneath them on the ladder, so long as they weren’t direct reports. The one instance I know of where it was a direct report, the senior person was fired. But the ones where they aren’t direct reports, it gets really murky.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck says:

        Yeah, that’s what I mean–like, not just “bribes are bad, mmmkay?” but “this is what it looks like when someone asks for a bribe, this is an example of a situation where you might think about bribing someone, this is what bribing someone actually does look like, this is what you can do when someone requests a bribe or suggests that you bring someone”.Report

      • Avatar CJColucci says:

        Ninety-some percent of the time it isn’t very hard, and I rarely have trouble getting clients to understand. Don’t f**k minors, especially those under your care. There’s a big difference between “nice dress” and “nice ass.”{1} if your company has a policy about sex with co-workers or subordinates, follow it. If not, don’t have sex with people in your reporting line without alerting someone in HR, or your own boss, to the situation. It’s probably a good idea to let someone in HR or your own boss know if you’re having sex with someone not a subordinate. That will cover most of it. If you want the definitive line that demarcates exactly how far you can go trying to get laid, well, you want too much out of life.

        {1} No guarantees. There are people who will raise a stink about “nice dress” and people who won’t mind “nice ass,” but the odds are heavily in your favor if you follow this rule.Report

        • Avatar bookdragon says:

          ” Don’t f**k minors, especially those under your care.”

          This seems like a pretty straightforward, easy to understand rule. Speaking as a parent, anyone who can’t understand it, or thinks there’s any grey area there at all, should not be in a position where minors will be under their care.Report

    • Avatar Michele Kerr says:

      If you’re a teacher, or want to be a teacher, and need to be told not to have sex with the kids, then you shouldn’t be a teacher.

      If you’re an elementary school teacher, then obviously you’re a pedophile, which is a lot worse than having sex with a 16 year old (which is bad enough).

      At the teenage level, there are two basic cases:

      1) Adult teacher becomes attracted to a student and acts on it, initiating activity. Every adult in this category is acting out of a sense of power and manipulation. That’s just flatly wrong. This is the case where the kids are seriously damaged. No adult should need to be told not to do this.

      2) In rare cases, the student knowingly initiates activity with adult teacher, who succumbs. This is also flatly wrong, but in this case, the student is already seriously damaged, and just pulling the teacher in. The teacher is usually being manipulated in a way that means they genuinely, rather pathetically, believe the student is interested. Now, there’s no excuse for this behavior, and I’m not excusing it. Legally and morally, it doesn’t matter who initiates. But the profile is quite different for these cases.

      These things don’t ever happen by accident. They’re also relatively rare. But there’s no training for it, other than “if you feel attracted to a student quit your job and go find another line of work.”Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck says:

        so, “uh, just, like, don’t bang the students, mmmkay?”

        “No adult should need to be told not to do this.”

        You’re right, but it’s also the fact that people can get to a point where it’s hard to hear common sense over an unaccustomed rush of hormones, and it’s important to understand when things are going to that point and how you avoid it and de-escalate, and you can get training for that. Therapists and psychologists certainly do.

        “Now, there’s no excuse for this behavior, and I’m not excusing it.”

        A: If you don’t mean it to mean anything then why are you bringing it up? and B: training is useful for this, as well, because it helps the teacher recognize when a play is being made and how to deflect it.Report

        • Avatar George Turner says:

          I sometimes wonder whether the problem is a lack of adequate air circulation.

          Humans have a vomeronasal organ (VNO) that does seem to be wired up, at least according to electrical probes of nerve activity, although most scientists claim it’s vestigial in humans. VNO’s are what process mating hormones emitted into the air, and most species are wired to respond. If we are, which is a possibility science still hasn’t ruled out, then putting a teacher in a room full of puberty-stricken teens is a recipe for problems because the hormones wafting in the air will keep activating their reptilian mating brain.

          I would recommend picking some schools and making all the teachers there either clog up their noses or breath bottled oxygen through a face mask, and then monitor the schools for scandal rates compared to the schools in the control group.

          I’d also make sure the English teachers don’t make their class watch “Blue Velvet”.Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck says:

            That is the dumbest goddamn thing I have ever seen you post.Report

            • Avatar George Turner says:

              Congress once held hearings on the dangers of new research into human mating hormones. Scientists identified the hormones by monitoring electrical activity in the VNO’s attached nerves as they responded to various fractional extracts of human sweat. The concern was that perfume companies really good make a Potion Number Nine, somewhat akin to putting roofies in people’s drinks.

              Their stance was that an actual working love potion is not something that should be unleashed on society.

              But this raises a serious question. If VNO’s are active, given that people are emitting mating hormones, and if VNO’s can cause some kind of mating response, then what must already be going on right under our noses? Bars are one obvious place, but poorly ventilated rooms packed with hormonal teens would be another.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                I seem to recall a study, years ago, that involved having people wear a t-shirt to sleep in for a couple of nights, then had people of the opposite sex sniff at a collection of such shirts and rank them by attractiveness. (I’m not making this up; I may be misremembering, but I’m not making it up.)

                They took all the rankings and ran correlations against a bunch of variables. The strongest correlation was “how different are several of the major immune system genes?” The hypothesis they came up with was that making babies with someone with different immune system strengths, rather than similar strengths, made the babies more resistant to more sorts of infections.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                It’s derisively said that some ideas are so stupid only academics believe them.

                But only until evidence proves them right!Report

    • Avatar Michele Kerr says:

      ” here’s some guy who, it seemed, honestly wanted to help kids live better lives and was genuinely good at it, but even he couldn’t keep his shit together long enough”

      The terrible part is this: you could consider that the reason he reached out to help kids have better lives is because that’s how he got sexually involved with them, and that was what he needed.Report

      • Avatar bookdragon says:

        Exactly. Remember the case at Penn State? The guy ran a charity that helped that helped underprivileged boys – many of whom were then groomed to become his victims.Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

      I am optimistic that we as a society will (re)learn the values of widely shared norms of behavior, away from the ethos of individual liberation which have guided us for a while.

      Its easy of course to overcorrect. But I think your point is valid, that when we embrace such a broad diversity of norms, and place individual expression and freedom as highly as we do, inevitably it makes setting and following boundaries difficult.

      Mostly when bad behavior like this occurs, it isn’t open and premeditated, but the product of internal denial and self deception.
      The sort of rigid norms promulgated by zealous #metoo activists, of expressed consent and such strike me as a bit contrived and cumbersome but sometimes our natures need rigid inflexible codes to resist the power of our subconscious.Report

      • Avatar JoeSal says:

        “The thing about herds, is there is a lot of humping going on, all the time.”Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        And we should do what we can to strengthen (or merely perform maintenance against wear and tear on) these norms by meeting once a week with other people in the community. And we should dress up a little bit. Sing some songs, listen to a speech, maybe get a reading from a book that everybody has.Report

        • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

          My younger Catholic very much liked the notion of enforced norms.

          My divorced adult self experienced being on the wrong end of that equation.

          Which is to say, I really don’t claim a perfect insight as to where to draw that dividing line between individualism and communitarianism.

          But I also know there are differences and gradations which allow for both to exist in relative harmony.Report

        • Avatar CJColucci says:

          I’d be surprised if this helped. There were reasons I did not then understand that my parents discouraged my interest in becoming an altar boy. And that just implicated the people running the show. From what I knew of the audience, and how we turned out, I’m extremely skeptical.Report

    • Avatar veronica d says:

      So…do they tell you what to do when the sex stuff seems like what ought to happen? How to know that sex stuff is imminent, how to not start sex stuff by accident–which, I think, is probably where a lot of these things happen, when someone doesn’t realize that they’re taking on a role of emotional intimacy rather than a mentoring relationship. But do they give any instruction in that, or is it just “uh, just, like, don’t bang the students, mmmkay?”

      This is a pretty strange thing to say in context. After all, the original post is about a teacher having sex with a student, and that is indeed an area with a simple, bright-line rule. Teachers may not have sexual relationships with their students, none, zero, zilch. It’s clear as fucking day.

      Sex can be murky, but not in this context.

      Regarding the “accidentally” taking a role of emotional intimacy — yeah I don’t fucking buy it, not at all. I have no doubt these men will claim that. Sure. Obviously. But nope. It’s not an accident he acted that way with that girl.

      The final act will without doubt be the culmination of a series of excuses and bullshit justifications for behavior that he knew was not okay.

      The narcissist cannot feel guilt, only shame.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck says:

        “Regarding the “accidentally” taking a role of emotional intimacy — yeah I don’t fucking buy it, not at all.”


        you know, cancel culture makes a lot more sense when you realize that these people believe there’s no such thing as fucking up, that everything someone does is done with full knowledge and forethought

        “It’s not an accident he acted that way with that girl.”

        What if it was? That doesn’t make it right. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a problem. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t lose his job, go to jail, whatever. I know you have a script in your head for how this conversation goes, but I didn’t defend anybody here, there’s no ex post facto justification for why it was okay for a teacher to diddle a student. What I’m wondering is why we’re so scared of the idea that someone might experience sexual feelings for attractive young women that our sum total of discussion there is “don’t bang the students, mmmkay?” Like, they go into more detail about filling out your time sheet!Report

        • Avatar veronica d says:

          Of course I believe in “fucking up.” However, that does not mean I believe everyone’s excuses in every case, nor that I shut down my critical thinking skills.

          What else is there to say except, “Don’t bang your students”? Should we also say, “Don’t become too intimate with your students”?

          Okay, I said that. What now?

          The teachers in these scenarios are adults, often in their thirties, sometimes in their forties. They are not kids. They are teaching kids. They need to act like grown ups, which includes a basic understanding of professional boundaries.

          Yeah, people fuck up, but slipping your hand under a teenager’s blouse is not a random accident. There was other stuff that happened on the way, stuff the teacher justified to themselves.

          Regarding the need to “talk about it” — I feel like this post is (indirectly) relevant: https://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2010/12/infidelity_and_other_taboos_me.html

          If a teacher is attracted to a student? Okay, but they know it’s wrong. There is not much else to say. Maintain distance. Be precise and professional. Don’t make excuses. “Talking about it” is at best just making noise, at worst it is an attempt to “offload” one’s shame.Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck says:

            “What else is there to say except, “Don’t bang your students”? Should we also say, “Don’t become too intimate with your students”?

            Okay, I said that. What now?”

            ‘What now’ is how?

            See, I don’t think it’s too far of a stretch to say that you, veronica d, have been fucking for a long time. You’ve fucked a lot. You’re experienced at it, you know what circumstances are likely to lead to it, you know how to encourage (or discourage) it. You are, I imagine, desirable for fucking and have had a lot of invitations to do it. It’s not a unique or novel experience to find yourself in a situation where it might happen and someone suggests that you do it with them.

            Not everyone is you. Imagine if you married the first girl you kissed and spent the rest of your life in situations where there weren’t many persons who you could fuck, let alone people who might actually invite you to do it. Now suddenly here’s some hot girl who’s old enough to know what she’s asking for, and she’s asking you, and this has literally never happened to you in your entire life, and is it really surprising that not everyone can hold it together in that moment?

            And yes, everyone should. Everyone is expected to not bang the students. You are correct that the correct answer here is not a hard one to identify. But. It’s 2019 and people still buy into time-shares, people still send money orders to Nigeria, people still think the dude they met online is definitely their boyfriend and is going to visit them soon. Is it really that surprising that people will be foolish in other ways?

            And what I’m asking, here, is…do we prepare teachers for this moment? Do we make sure that they actually know what “professional boundaries” means? Teachers who might have spent their entire lives not being wanted, not being intimate, not having the experience of sexual desire? Do we say “okay, so, you’re gonna have these feelings, be ready for them, you don’t have to go around telling everyone about it, but here’s what you need to look out for and here’s what to do about it”? Do we say “here’s how to tell when you’re slipping from a professional mentoring relationship to a place of emotional intimacy, and that’s dangerous because it can lead to moments you aren’t ready for and get you in serious trouble”?

            Or do we fall back on “don’t bang the students, mmmkay” and assume that anything from then on is their own fault?

            What bugs me the most about this is that this isn’t just this guy, this is every student in his class–every student he taught, everyone he helped, and everyone who might have been there–who now figures “fuckit”. Everyone who got help through his AVID efforts is now thinking “well maybe I’m not that great, maybe he just wanted to screw me”. Everyone who was inspired by the example of a guy who worked hard and got to a good place and had a great life and is now giving something back, well, forget it, that’s all wrecked now, everything sucks, fuck hope. Next time someone says they want to help kids let’s just put ’em in jail right away and save time. (And this situation also seems depressingly common for African-American educators; they come in, they’re really popular, they do some good things, they’re on track to make a real difference, whoops they banged a student, suddenly they’re wished away to the cornfield and here’s a white lady to wreck everything.)

            And I’m wondering…did it have to go down like that? Was there really no other choice? That guy really spent forty-odd years of career and ten more of teaching gagging for the chance to bang a high-school student? All along he was trying and trying and trying?

            Dude did bang a student, and that’s not something you excuse or explain away. What I’m wondering is where we go from here. Are we really going to say “well some dudes are just predators who are gonna predate and there’s nothing we can do to stop it and there’s no way to tell who they are until they do something”?Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

              Honestly, it’s done that way because what you are asking for is difficult.

              Easier to just demand that everyone be well mannered adults without trying to think about and head off why adults screw it up.

              I mean, let’s be honest, there is no excuse for a woman to have an unwanted pregnancy, right? Once they are over the age of 18, they should know how to avoid it. There is no possible reaso…

              Oh, wait, there is a whole host of fecking reasons why perfectly intelligent and rational women have unwanted pregnancies, and even more reasons why not-so-smart and emotionally damaged women do.

              Not hard to imagine that teachers who seem rational and intelligent screw it up, especially if they are actually damaged and just really good at hiding it.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq says:

                Seconding this and what Density said. Density is bringing up some good points on why ordinary or good people can do some very bad things many times. At the same time, trying to come up with a practical answer for Density’s concerns might be impossible.Report

              • Avatar veronica d says:

                Oscar, man, maybe I’m misreading you, but are you really trying to draw parallels between teachers sexually assaulting their students and unwanted pregnancy? Because if so, can I suggest that you not do that? There are a number of important differences between those things.

                For one, while certainly irresponsible behavior and a cavalier attitude toward sex can often lead to unwanted pregnancy, it can also happen to someone behaving quite responsibly. Furthermore, there is a difference between a “moment of weakness” between two consenting adults and a “moment of weakness” by a teacher toward a teenage student. That difference matters a lot. Trying to erase it would be — well, I admire you. I believe that if you think this through, you won’t want to make that comparison.

                It’s probably not too hard to find an example of a woman who makes excuses, and in turn “offloads” her narcissistic shame, about irresponsible sexual behavior. I have zero doubt that there is at least one Jezebel-style “thinkpiece” on the topic. Okay. Fine. It is still different from teachers shagging their students.


                Regarding the idea we should give support to such teachers before they offend, okay. That seems fine. Why not? But who should handle that? Moreover, should the conversation be public?

                Therapists exists. Likewise, one can have conversations with their pastor or rabbi, or perhaps even a trusted friend. Isn’t that a more sensible approach? Does Becky really need to hear about how her algebra teacher likes her ass?

                What should the therapist, pastor, rabbi, or friend say to such a person?

                “That sounds rough, but you must not act on these feelings. Keep some emotional distance from the student. Act professionally. Maintain boundaries.”

                What else is there to say? A good therapist will likely suggest some specific strategies. In the end: “Stop making excuses.”


                Regarding the “incel” thing, good grief. I guess if you all want to confirm every negative stereotype about such men — well, by all means. Echo what Jezebel says.

                We’re not talking about a lonely guy saying something dumb on a dating site or making an ass of himself when some woman joins his Dungeons and Dragons group. Those things happen. This is different. This is about professional conduct between adults and children in their care.

                Don’t shag your students. If you do so, you risk your career and your freedom. It’s black and white.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                While shagging a student is not on the same plane as having an unwanted pregnancy, the response towards those two incidents is parallel.

                I talk to anti-abortionists (men and women), and as far as they are concerned, women should just keep their legs closed if they don’t want to risk a baby.

                Pretty straight forward solution, right? Of course, it ignores oh so many things, but hey, let’s keep it simple.

                The attitude of “Don’t shag your students” is also a straight forward solution. And for 99%* of teachers, it’s all they need. But that 1% seems to cause us no end of grief, so perhaps, if it causes us such grief, we should be more proactive about it, and start thinking about how we can head it off, so it becomes 0.1%.

                As for the conversation itself, the training should be public, but any such conversation a teacher may have regarding how they are feeling about a student, that should certainly be private, and perhaps not career suicide.

                As for the why somebody might fail the ‘black and white’ test you lay out, as I said before, people can be severely emotionally damaged and hide it well. They could be very recently damaged, such that for 20 years it was never a problem, and then a death, or a divorce, or something else torpedoes their emotional state, and they are suddenly vulnerable to a temptation they weren’t before, without ever realizing it.

                That doesn’t excuse or justify, but it does explain.Report

              • Avatar veronica d says:

                @Oscar — You’re making the “people see things differently” argument, but I’m aware of that. I’m the sort who states her case and steps up.

                Honestly, I think the idea of “training” for this is utterly futile. Like honestly, what would that training look like?

                Those who need it would be exactly those who approach it with the worst attitude. Moreover, I assume teachers already receive some kind training on these topics, so they understand the boundaries. I can’t imagine they have less than “corporate diversity training.”

                I think your model of the poor, hapless incel teacher who accidentally grooms a student into a sexual relationship is utter nonsense. They know exactly what they are doing.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq says:

                I think the entire conservation becomes more salient if we expand this beyond the teacher-student dynamic. We all agree that (1) humans like sex and that (2) the opportunity to have sex is not evenly distributed. A lot of failure modes regarding sex seem to happen when a person without much opportunity really misreads a situation and has to summon a lot of willpower.Report

              • Avatar veronica d says:

                You’ll note that trying to pivot a conversation about sexual assault to becoming a conversation about “incels” is kind of — well, it isn’t great. The whole “The abuser couldn’t help it” narrative is hogwash. The abuser will try to sell you that narrative, because they need to. They are working to offload their shame.

                Honestly, I suggest you not try to connect sexual abuse and inceldom. I would suggest you try to conceptually distance the two ideas as much as you can.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Honestly, I suggest you not try to connect sexual abuse and inceldom. I would suggest you try to conceptually distance the two ideas as much as you can.

                Quite so. In addition to being a distraction on this thread, it’s not to the benefit of the relationship-frustrated and sexually frustrated to be linked to the sexually and psychologically abusive.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                I don’t know that I agree. A lot of people that are sexually frustrated make bad choices in pursuit of getting laid. I was there myself in my 20s. Nothing criminal, but plenty of bad decisions. I think it’s a legitimate dynamic to discuss. The point several of us have been making is that rather than focusing so much on the crime, wouldn’t it be more proactive to think about the dynamics that led to it?Report

              • While I agree about focusing on the dynamics that lead people into situations of temptation (like not having alcohol in the house cuts down the likelihood one will drink it) – practical solutions rather than relying on people to be angels…there is an ickiness underlying this argument that V and W are trying to point out (so much so that I, a person who didn’t want to even comment in this thread, am now commenting in this thread).

                Let me tell you something about the poor sexually frustrated men of the world. While I do have sympathy, after having seen with my own two eyes ~some~ men define unacceptible levels of sexual frustration that justify bad behavior as being things like “sex 3 times a week instead of daily”, “she doesn’t let me do this, that or the other thing”, “She’s really let herself go” and “I don’t want to settle for some unattractive woman, I deserve better” there are at least ~some~ men who are claiming sexual frustration when really they have standards that are perhaps not entirely reasonable and then blaming women for that.

                So when it comes down to a seeming justification of a teacher sexing up a child and “poor men’s sexual frustration” is mentioned that seems to cross a line between advocating reasonable practical solutions to reduce temptation and defending the indefensible.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Kristin – I think what we’re suggesting is that a certain level of frustration/loneliness can cloud a teacher’s judgement during the early stages of an inappropriate relationship with a student.Report

              • Avatar veronica d says:

                +100 to what Kristin said.

                Certainly there are ways to talk about child abuse prevention that don’t center the interests of sexually frustrated adults. And note this is in a context of the sexual abuse of children by teachers.

                It’s that context!

                This conversation is happening in that context. There are many useful things we might say about those who are romantically and sexually frustrated, but in the context of a conversation about teachers abusing students, it really comes across as — I mean holy fucknuggets! You guys have no idea how you sound.

                If I showed you a picture of a lynching and your response was, “You know, it must have been really hard to be a white person in the south during civil rights” —

                Dammit if you said that, if that’s where your mind went —

                Sorry for the sentence fragments — but holy fucknuggets.

                Context. Implication.

                “But I’m not saying…”

                Of course, of course, you’re “not saying.”

                But you kind of are saying.

                “But actually…”

                Too late. I’ve already learned how your mind works when thinking about these kinds of things. You’ve revealed something about yourself, in subtext, by showing where your sympathies lie, but revealing your chain of thought.

                “Allow me to clarify.”

                Please do, but what happens if your clarification just makes you sound worse?

                We live in a sick culture.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Personally, I think all of you are overly focused on the whole ‘adult* is sexually frustrated/deprived’ and have largely decided that that singular possible explanation is somehow being presented as a justification for abuse.

                Maybe somebody else offered that up, but I never did. It is, at BEST, an possible explanation, from an array of possible explanations, for why an adult crosses that line.

                The adult could be a predator, someone who specifically got into teaching for the access to teenagers. I am sure such people exist. I have a hard time believing that every such case of a teacher being intimate with a student is that kind of predator.

                I could be wrong, but I’d like to see some data on that first. And to be frank, I don’t think such data exists, because I don’t think anyone has seriously looked at the problem from that angle (so if anyone knows otherwise, please link to it).

                Anyway, the whole point I’m trying to make is that an intimate relationship does not to be born out of some kind of incel adult. If I look back on cases where teachers are caught with their students, I don’t recall incel being a common characteristic. Many of these people were married, or otherwise in adult relationships.

                Which means the genesis of the relationship, if we set aside the default of “Larry Nassar Wannabe”, is emotional. A severely screwed up and inappropriate emotional relationship, with an emotionally damaged/stunted adult and a teenager, but emotional all the same.

                And the thing about emotional relationships is that they don’t generally start out as ‘Me So Horny’, they start out as just talking. As connection. As screwed up as it is, because we know the adult is screwed up somehow.

                So that is what I want to get at. When does an adult go from being a good listener/mentor, to crossing the line. What are the warning signs they could look out for, or their co-workers, or parents**? Are there additional reporting standards we could institute that would allow the administration to intervene before lines were crossed and damage done?

                And again, perhaps this is all already in place, but it sounds like it’s more of a ‘Don’t sleep with your students.
                Don’t even think about it, don’t fantasize about it, because if you do you are a dirty, evil, bad person. End of training.’

                *Also, the tone throughout this whole thread strikes me as male-centric. Female teachers abuse kids too.

                **Sometimes parents are so desperate for what they view as positive role models in their child’s life that they readily overlook warning signs, or just don’t know what the warning signs are.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “that seems to cross a line between advocating reasonable practical solutions to reduce temptation and defending the indefensible.”

                So, like, when I said “That doesn’t make it right. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a problem. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t lose his job, go to jail, whatever”, you missed that part? “Everyone is expected to not bang the students. You are correct that the correct answer here is not a hard one to identify”, you skipped over that bit?

                I brought up the idea of unfamiliarity with intimate situations to discuss unfamiliarity with intimate situations, not some kind of “men have MEL URDJEZ that NID SATISFIDE” garbage. Where I’m going with this is training, not some wack-ass sociopolitical commentary. This is not some zany attempt to excuse kid-diddling, this is a plea for organizations to take responsibility for all the people in their charge–students and teachers. To tell teachers how to recognize when they’re getting into a “whoa, let’s back off” situation (and how to steer things away from that situation in the first place). To give teachers a fallback script if they get into an Oh Shit What Now kind of place.

                I mean, why is “let’s admit that this can happen and give people the skills to deal with it” seen as Pedophile Apologia?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                On what basis should we assume that’s the underlying dynamic? On what basis do we assume that this circles back to male pain and male frustration and that this is what needs to be addressed? That it is even the cause or even a precipitating factor?

                We really don’t have any. At all.

                Though even if we did, it would be like those who brought up the plight of incels when an incel goes and starts killing people. Which, when that happened, reminded me of those who thought that the Charlie Hebdo bombing was the time to talk about blasphemy and anti-Muslim bigotry.

                Except at least in those cases, the relationship was more observable whereas here a lot of it seems projected. Not from a desire to commit the crime, or to defend or excuse those who do. But in a way that isn’t really justified with what we do know and is an off-kilter and unnerving leap.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                I’m not linking anything to inceldom, doesn’t even enter into my head (because I honestly don’t think about it).

                I’m saying that people who have inappropriate relationships with minors fall into two groups; predators, and the emotionally damaged.

                We should take care to try to differentiate the two and treat them accordingly.

                Much like we would treat a cold blooded killer as opposed to a person suffering a severe psychotic break.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Oscar, I understand what you’re getting at. I think – as is often the case – there are some points getting mixed in with other points and it’s less than clear where one point ends and the next begins. You’re not linking to inceldom, but other people are. Or, if not inceldom, then sexual and relationship frustration of both the run-of-the-mill and more pronounced varieties.Report

              • Avatar bookdragon says:

                Speaking as the mother of two high schoolers, NO.

                NO, the conversation does NOT become more salient by conflating adult sexual relationships with teachers banging their students.

                If some teacher rapes or molests my son or daughter I do not give a flying F**K how little opportunity that teacher had to get laid.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                What I would suggest is that just about any un-advisable sexual relationship starts at A and ends at Z. A-K might be pretty innocent exchanges or one side doesn’t even realize what is happening. L-W are probably inappropriate but even that maybe could be forgiven. It’s X, Y and Z that finds someone committing a crime or violating their marriage vows or whatever.

                I suspect oftentimes during the A-K phase one or both parties don’t even realize things are heading in the direction of A-K . To Oscar’s point, when it comes to teachers, more training might help them see that.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Mike has the right of it.

                And Veronica, just because you can’t envision what such training would look like doesn’t mean it can’t be fashioned. Also, you should never assume such training is being given to all teachers.

                Yes, some of those teachers out there are sexual predators. But you seem to be of the opinion that all of them, or probably the vast majority of them, are sexual predators, and so far the only evidence you have for that is that you appear unable to fathom how they can’t be.Report

              • Avatar veronica d says:

                Okay, as a challenge, come up with something concrete. What should this training look like?

                My point is, I think if you start thinking about particulars, I suspect it will start to sound kind of banal and silly.

                Mike is talking about “A – K”. Okay. What exactly are the A’s and the K’s?

                Regarding the “emotionally damaged” — training probably won’t fix that. Therapy might, but should that happen inside the school? What does that look like? And if the school finds that Bob or Janet shows signs of being “emotionally damaged” in such a way that makes them “high risk”, well what next?

                They get fired, of course. What else could happen?

                Perhaps Bob and Janet should seek therapy (or spiritual guidance) outside of school. Maybe.

                And indeed, I think that teachers sleeping with their students are sexual predators. The “hapless romantic” is a story that abusers tell.

                It might even be half true. In fact, I’m sure they convince themselves.Report

              • Avatar veronica d says:

                Also note, you guys have again succeeded in turning a conversation about abuse into a conversation about the poor hapless abuser, instead of a conversation about the victims. Good work (by which I mean, not good work).Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “you guys have again succeeded in turning a conversation about abuse into a conversation about the poor hapless abuser, ”

                yeah, it’s like how everyone wants to talk about how Eric Garner and nobody wants to talk about the legitimate law-abiding shopowners who actually did pay their taxes and actually did comply with the laws about selling intoxicant drugs and get screwed over by criminalsReport

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                Others have mentioned the various forms of Scout training, which does specifically address A through K.

                One example, Do Not Have Special Relationships With Children.

                And they mean even in the most platonic and innocent sense. No one on one counseling, no special confidences, no secret in-jokes.

                Because it is stressed that hurtful outcomes don’t require hurtful intent. Even when someone isn’t what we might term a predator, they can still wreak horrific damage on a child.

                Its useful to focus on the damaged adult, because they are the ones most likely to appear respectable and slip through the cracks in the system, because oftentimes even they themselves have no idea what is guiding their actions.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “One example, Do Not Have Special Relationships With Children.

                And they mean even in the most platonic and innocent sense. No one on one counseling, no special confidences, no secret in-jokes.

                Because it is stressed that hurtful outcomes don’t require hurtful intent. Even when someone isn’t what we might term a predator, they can still wreak horrific damage on a child.”

                This is what I’m talking about.

                Is this kind of thing talked about with teachers? If it is then fine, it’s covered, people who fuck up are genuinely fucking up. But I really feel like it isn’t, that some of these fuckups are so obvious and so sudden that it seems less like the end result of years of trying and more like someone who genuinely didn’t understand what they were getting themselves into.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Turn it back to you, how do you identify the predators? Before they do damage. The guy in the OP was a teacher for years and still didn’t get convicted. Fired, sure, but no one could prove he did what he was accused of. So assuming he’s a predator (and the rumors suggest that may be the case), he’s still free to prey, he just had to change his hunting grounds.

                Anyway, training isn’t meant to ‘fix’ the emotionally damaged, it’s meant to give them (hopefully) some tools to recognize that they are damaged, and should seriously take a leave of absence to get help, BEFORE they cross that line. It’s like a person with bad eyesight being able to recognize that there is a line they are about to cross, even if it’s really blurry right now.

                Will it help? I don’t know, maybe you are right and they are all predators, and no one will ever self report that they are having trouble seeing the line. Hell, it makes it easier to differentiate then. You can say that every year, everyone got the training, and Dave never self-reported and tried to get help, ergo he’s a predator. Done and done.

                As for the whole victims/abusers dynamic, it’s not about excusing the abuser or minimizing the victim, it’s about keeping the CJ system we have in mind, and recognizing that it will devour people who perhaps could be rehabilitated, so I’d really like to keep as many of those who can be rehabbed out of the deepest parts of that system as much as possible. That means NOT looking at every perpetrator as the most depraved possible example.Report

              • Avatar bookdragon says:

                One question: Would you feel this way if the teacher in question had molested Bug? Even several years from now when Bug is a teen, would you look at that situation and say “well, maybe the teacher just didn’t understand he was crossing a line? Maybe he can be rehabilitated?”Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:


                To reiterate, we ARE NOT saying that the Dave in the OP should get off easy because maybe he’s an incel or some shit. We are saying that maybe we can do more to PREVENT this kind of abuse. The first step in PREVENTING abuse is UNDERSTANDING it.

                Is Dave truly a monster, like Larry Nassar, or are they someone who lost sight of the line? Look at the other teachers who have crossed that line, How many are monsters, and how many allowed themselves to believe that the kids were consenting adults? What was going on in that persons life?

                Compile data, look for commonalities across the variables. Are there things that could be seen as warning signs (troubled marriages, divorce, death, etc.)? Do the abusers have common paths to failure? Are those pathways something that could form the basis of a training, such that people susceptible to the failure could gain some self-awareness and maybe self-report and remove themselves before damage is done. Or perhaps co-workers could raise red flags before damage is done. Get the administration to take action, maybe put the teacher on a leave of absence until they get help, or fire them if they refuse to do so.

                But the whole point is, prevent the damage from being done, NOT give the abuser an excuse.

                Hell, if there is a training, it robs the abuser of their excuses (this is one of the reasons corporations have such training, so should the bad thing occur, they can just fire the person and cover their ass*).

                Now maybe Michelle or Kazzy will pipe up and explain that there is some variant of such training already, and it’s a federal requirement, and the Administrations and Unions are really good about pushing it every year, and it’s top notch training, complete with Role-playing, etc. In which case, I would withdraw my concern and toss my hat into the “They are all predators, every one, and we should toss them into a deep dark hole”.

                But if there isn’t, or if the extent of the training is, “don’t sleep with your students”, then this is but yet one more way we are failing our teachers, and our kids.

                Or we could simply institute a rule that no student may ever be alone with a teacher, and it’s a firing offense if they are. That would help take care of the problem as well, but we’d need to pay to double staffing at schools, and deal with kids falsely reporting that teachers got them alone, because they were pissed at the teacher over something, and all the headaches and stress that entails, etc.

                tl;dr- I’m not excusing bad behavior, I’m trying to see if we are taking adequate steps to prevent it. I suspect that we are not, but I could be wrong.

                *The fact that companies are inconsistent about this, especially among the upper echelons, is besides the point.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                We are saying that maybe we can do more to PREVENT this kind of abuse.

                This all started with DD saying there are teachers who REALLY DIDN’T WANT TO MOLEST THEIR STUDENTS, but who did so anyway because the temptations were greater than they could bear. And-what-about-those-people-you-fucking-leftists?

                I could make a comment about DD’s views as an expression of incoherent reflexive rejectionism of whatever he views as leftism, but I wont. Cuz I already did. And he already did too.

                Nevertheless, I think your appeal to what DD said as, you know, SUPPORT, isn’t gonna work out for you very well.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “This all started with DD saying there are teachers who REALLY DIDN’T WANT TO MOLEST THEIR STUDENTS, but who did so anyway because the temptations were greater than they could bear.”

                it’s interesting how you’re taking the attitude that we cannot possibly do anything to prevent sexual assault except clean up after it happens

                “I could make a comment about DD’s views as an expression of incoherent reflexive rejectionism of whatever he views as leftism”

                what I’m “reflexively rejecting” is the idea that having bad thoughts means you’re a bad person and that if you ever tell anyone about the bad thoughts then you deserve to be punished as hard as the one who actually did the bad thing; that some bad thoughts are so bad that we can’t even suggest that they happen, let alone tell people how to deal with them; that being Against Sin is more important than helping people not commit harm.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                it’s interesting how you’re taking the attitude that we cannot possibly do anything to prevent sexual assault except clean up after it happens

                Right. Cuz having sex with kids is like booze during prohibition. People just want what they want?

                The idea that “training” otherwise good-doing people about how to stave off the impulses they already know are bad is preposterous to me.

                “Look, be on the lookout for a dick twitch when you’re alone with a young girl in your office. It’ll show up as a discernible stretch in your pants. Or a bulge which will incline you to stay seated.”

                “Wait. A dick twitch?”Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                The idea that “training” otherwise good-doing people about how to stave off the impulses they already know are bad is preposterous to me.

                It might help at the margins. If “don’t be stupid, the administration is watching and people care” is workable advice, then maybe. So teachers who leave themselves open to false allegations, maybe even the 22 year old teacher who thinks the 17 year old student is date-able.

                But the teacher who spends months or years grooming a student? Yeah, that’s beyond the scope of good advice… and that might be the majority of the problem.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Dark, I agree. The resolution of these issues won’t be found in a law (we already have em), or more training (got that too). It’s a long story about what’s acceptable in our society and what isn’t, which either manifests over time or it doesn’t.

                All the folks who say that that story is unsympathetic to the dudes who really didn’t wanna boink the 14 year old are excusing that behavior and preventing the perpetuation of the wrong story.

                It’s apologetics for abuse.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Here is the comment DD originally made, and from which all my comments follow:

                So they give you hours and hours of mandated you-must-watch click-acknowledge-on-every-page training for how to report sex stuff, what to do if you see sex stuff, exactly how much and how far your life gets wrecked if sex stuff happens.

                Do they ever actually bother to tell you what to do if you are tempted to get involved in sex stuff? How to recognize situations that can make sex stuff seem reasonable? What to do if sex stuff starts happening and you didn’t expect it?

                Nothing in that suggests that teachers didn’t want to molest their students. He’s saying that those teachers lost sight of the fact that they were about to molest their students.

                People screw this kind of stuff up constantly.

                Sexual harassment, drunk driving, drug usage, etc… People are usually really bad when it comes to assessing how far down some various rabbit hole they’ve gone, how badly they’ve deluded themselves, especially when it comes to sex and relationships.

                The idea that every teacher who ever had sex with a student is a self-conscious sexual predator who is carefully grooming students is a nice, pat explanation of what I perceive as a complex issue. And as I tried to explain with the abortion example, nice, pat explanations for complex behaviors are almost always wrong.

                But they sure are easier.

                If you want to make it a right or left issue, that’s between you and DD.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                I’m sure it varies by state but every where I’ve worked requires training with regards to recognizing the signs of various forms of child abuse and reminding us of what our role as mandated reporters means. In NY, this must be re-done every two years (that most of us just take an online course). At different stops along the way, I’ve worked in schools that had policies in place to help us avoid ever being put in a potentially compromised position such as when it comes to helping young children with toileting, diapering, or changing clothes. I think these are particularly important for male teachers not necessarily because of any unique or specific threat we pose, but because of increased suspicion on us. Things like always make sure that bathroom door is wide open if you are in there with a child.

                You could make the argument that training us in how to recognize the signs of abuse and mandating that we must report suspected abuse assumes that it goes without saying if we are the ones causing the abuse, well, no… don’t. Or report yourself. But it isn’t ever explicitly said.

                What I’d prefer to see added is providing teachers with helpful avenues should they ever even suspect they’re heading down a dangerous path. As I said elsewhere, I imagine most if not all sexual assault of minors begins with someone somewhere having an inappropriate sexual thought or feeling regarding a minor and wondering, “What the hell do I do with that?” And if there is no where for them to turn, I imagine it increases the likelihood that they’ll one day act on that.

                I imagine a younger teacher connecting with a teenage student in a way he assumes is just how the gig goes but then wondering if something else is afoot, for either of them. I’d rather that person have someone to goto that won’t immediately lead to his firing and stigmatization than leave them alone to figure it out. Now, it may ultimately be prudent that the person is removed from the profession but we’d be doing that before they harmed someone and with an eye towards getting them whatever help they need.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                That last part about teenage students and young teachers is probably the most salient point. I have no facts to back this up, but it does seem like in a good number of the situations where it is a female teacher and a student, the teacher is often pretty young themselves. And regardless of age, for the 30% of these situations (Michelle’s number) where the teacher was NOT a predator, I believe better training would help them recognize the early signs of a relationship developing so they could (hopefully) put the brakes on. As I said, how many affairs started out as two people connecting innocently and then it progressed from there?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                I’m reminded of the operations guys I deal with that want to put all of the focus on their employees who are making mistakes, talk about stronger disciplinary measures, etc.Meanwhile there are institutional issues, poorly-designed processes, etc that they never want to talk about. Anyone that wants to keep circling back to tut-tutting about the crime instead of discussing proactive ideas…seems more interested in outrage than problem solving.Report

              • Avatar bookdragon says:

                So, teachers raping students isn’t something to get outraged about in your book?

                “Obviously, your honor, no one should hold my client to blame. It was really all the system’s fault…”

                When did you become the worst conservative caricature of a liberal?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                It’s *literally* one step away from:

                “If the defendant wasn’t wearing clothes which showed her womanly figure my client wouldn’t have…..”


              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                @bookdragon @stillwater

                I’m going to break my own rule and respond to you dingbats this one time (for all of the good it will do)…

                Both of you are focused on the crime and the perpetrator because (I assume) you get off on being outraged. You can speculate about how terrible some adults are and talk about what you believe is an obvious line of ‘don’t fuck your students’ and then you act even more outraged when people suggest a different approach to the problem. At the end of the day it’s just a circle jerk.

                Sure, there are probably some % of pure predators teaching in schools, but there are also people who probably never did anything deviant in their lives and then find themselves charged with a crime. What the rest of us are talking about are the myriad factors that might lead those people to make the Very Bad Decision to sleep with a student. We’re talking about a long series of decisions that start with something like, “That kid in my class laughs at all my bad teacher jokes and that makes me feel good about myself,” to “I’m starting to think about that student in an inappropriate way,” and end with someone in handcuffs. We’re suggesting exploring those factors might help administrators design better training programs which might, y’know, actually reduce the problem.

                But then what will you have to be outraged about? You want to talk about repulsive? Let’s talk about people so short-sighted and addicted to smugness that they can’t actually have a grown-up conversation about the complexities of human emotions, sexual urges and behaviors without getting squeamish and insisting we all just join them in their circle jerk. THAT is repulsive.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I’m going to break my own rule and respond to you dingbats this one time

                Lulz. You have a rule about responding to us.

                You’re like a comic book character.Report

              • Avatar Pinky says:

                That’s a horribly unfair reading of what he said. It’s not even a reading. It’s too unfair to be called an unfair interpretation. You might as well have accused him of advocating for poisoning.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:


                What “institutional issues”, “poorly designed processors” do you think he’s referring to in this context?

                I’ll note that last night you offered a non-solution to the problem, by only advocating the idea that (eg) hetero people should be somehow screened prior to working in environments with opposite sex kids to make sure they aren’t predators.Report

              • Avatar Pinky says:

                ‘How did you go bankrupt?’ Bill asked. ‘Two ways,’ Mike said. ‘Gradually and then suddenly.’
                – Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also RisesReport

              • Avatar bookdragon says:

                Oh, wait, there is a whole host of fecking reasons why perfectly intelligent and rational women have unwanted pregnancies…

                Yes, and one of them is rape. You know, the thing we’re talking about wrt to adult teachers preying on their minor students.

                Do you have any idea how hideously disturbing this comparison is to anyone who has ever been, or even known, a minor who was sexually assaulted by an adult?Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

              Agree on 100% of this.

              I am reminded of an analysis I heard when the priest abuse scandal first started. They were discussing how the old seminary system would have young boys starting as young as 14 and the kids were really cloistered away from society. This would have been in the mid-1950s. And Catholic families were expected to nudge a kid towards the priesthood if they had sons to spare. They didn’t send the captain of the football team or the good-looking president of the student council. They sent their bookish, shy kid.

              And so these kids spent most of puberty in a seminary, some being molested by older priests while there, but all being unable to really make a choice about their forced celibacy or the taboos against masturbation, etc. And then were turned loose into society in the late 60s when the sexual revolution was taking place and yeah, some of them did very bad things. What has been lost in the whole focus on the Church’s complicity is a root cause look at just why so many of those situations happened. Priests themselves talk about how seminary failed to prepare them for a lifetime of celibacy.

              And that goes back to the OP. We focus so much on the punitive aspect of these crimes that we never consider the causes in the first place and it becomes very easy to just chalk it up to human failings and not other things. To piggyback off DD’s comment, what if there was a way that the teacher could have sought help as soon as they felt temptation and not have it nuke their careers?Report

              • Avatar CJColucci says:

                what if there was a way that the teacher could have sought help as soon as they felt temptation and not have it nuke their careers?

                Who says there isn’t? There are lots of places such people can go now. Could there be more and better places? Assuredly. Does anyone dispute this? No. Any concrete ideas?Report

  5. Avatar JoeSal says:

    “Self-Driving Teachers, just 20 years away.”Report

  6. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    In our dojo, we follow a policy promoted by our national organization, which is that we avoid any situations where just one adult is alone with a child. We always have two teachers for any kids class, and if one of them is late, there is usually a friendly adult that can linger for a few minutes until they show up.

    I was initially a little irritated with this policy and the lack of trust in me it seemed to show, but I have come to love and endorse it. It avoids so many issues. It protects me as well as the children, even though I am at much lower risk, there is not zero risk. We’ve had one student over the years that I thought was capable of telling her father made-up stories just to get out of coming to class. (We’re talking about a 10-year-old here).

    Does this work in a school with high-school students? Probably not. There isn’t enough personnel. Maybe the policy should be to maintain more than one student in class? Does that work? I don’t know.

    Humans have both sexual feelings and pysiological responses without any intentions or really consent. Our bodies, in some sense, betray and violate us. I am assured that this happens to women, and it is an especial cause of pain in rape cases.

    I am very on board with reducing rape and reducing sexual harassment. And I know that when a man has these feelings and has to cope with them, he is profoundly alone. Any confession of even feelings is going to arouse at least suspicion, and perhaps sanction and/or withdrawal, perhaps from dear friends.

    As an example, I offer the song Don’t Stand So Close To Me, by The Police. These days you can often see women commenting on how “creepy” that song is. As best I can tell, the teacher who is the point of view character doesn’t take any action with overt sexual content. And yet his attempt to talk about it, and his wish to lessen the impact on him, is held as something ghastly and offensive.

    We can, and should, control ourselves. It would just be nice to not have to do it alone.Report

    • fillyjonk fillyjonk says:

      “Never be the only adult with a child/teen” was also my policy when I was a Youth Group leader. We were all background-checked beforehand, and people trusted me, but I still wanted to be sure everything even LOOKED 100% above-board, much more WAS 100% above-board.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      I agree very much with your points about “when a man has these feelings and has to cope with them, he is profoundly alone.” As people on this blog know, my love life isn’t that great. It is practically non-existent. Yet, I have sexual and romantic feelings and society just doesn’t seem to give men in my position a healthy outlet for them. We don’t even have many places where we can talk about this. When you complain even a little, you get slapped with the Incel label. The ability to attack a man for being romantically and sexually unsuccessful is so primal that people do not want to give it up. So you have to listen and watch about how awesome love and sex are but nobody wants to deal with your pain if you are man. They tell you don’t complain, you are being entitled and that your pain doesn’t matter.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        I just finished binge-watching the Deadwood series and movie. One of the things that really struck home for me was how matter-of-fact prostitution was. I don’t have a ton of historical knowledge about Old West brothels, and while obviously we can talk for days about life for those women, you also get a sense that the brothels would fill a necessary function when mining towns were nearly all-male.

        I know many men who will honestly admit that if they had a regular outlet for their sex drive they would probably not choose relationships with women and put their energies into their careers or some other pursuit. I have myself gone through periods in my single days when the quest for a romantic partner dominated my thoughts. No longer having that focus since I have the security of a happy marriage, significantly reduces my anxiety on a day-to-day basis.

        Lee – I’m pretty interested in your experience in 2019 with so many online options for meeting people. I met my wife on match.com in 2003 and we have attended a fair number of marriages over the years where the couple met in similar ways.Report

        • Avatar InMD says:

          I also met my wife on a dating site. Big challenge I found about post college working life was that you just stop meeting new people. My situation was compounded by being in a serious relationship through my mid 20s that ultimately failed.

          Even prior to the current sex panic trying to get anything going with women at work seemed like shitting where I ate so online I went. Still took a few years to find the one I wanted and I still nearly screwed that up anyway but just meeting all these women was educational and worthwhile. Pay attention and you learn what work you need to do on yourself to get the relationship you want and how to dodge the ones you don’t.

          Or you can also just slay like crazy if thats what you want and your standards aren’t too high. It seems like it gets easier and more casual all the time with Tinder and similar apps but maybe it’s more complicated than I realize.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            I used to heavily date coworkers when I was in my 20s and the jobs were not serious. As soon as I settled into a career I stopped that habit. I agree it just felt like a really bad idea.

            I have a couple of friends that found themselves divorced in the early 40s because their wives left them for other men. In both cases they had good jobs, had their shit together and we’re reasonably handsome dudes. They did indeed slay for a couple of years. Both remarked it was almost too easy. They both said that when they were ready for something serious again they turned to eHarmony or Match.Report

            • Avatar InMD says:

              Same deal for me on the work relationships. The long term I was in during my 20s was with a woman I’d met at work but we were both bottom rung in a huge organization both of us knew we’d leave. Once my career got going it seemed too high risk to mess with.

              I met my wife on OkCupid in early 2013, so everything hadn’t quite been Tinder-ized yet. All of my divorced friends have followed the same path as yours. I sincerely hope it’s never a position I’m in but if it is the blueprint looks clear and easier than ever.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          you also get a sense that the brothels would fill a necessary function when mining towns were nearly all-male.

          “necessary”. I don’t think that word means what you think it does. 🙂Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq says:

          My experience with online dating was that while, for a time, it was easy to get dates, kind of, these dates tended to be one-offs because the woman didn’t feel much in the way of chemistry. Now meeting people online seems harder because they don’t respond or you text for awhile but they go blank. Meeting people in real life has not been easier even though I get out a lot.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            Ugh. That sucks. Is this an age thing?Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

              What I mean by that, is it a generational thing or just a 2019 online dating thing?Report

              • Avatar Brent F says:

                It accords with my experience, and from what I hear, its a very much 2010s era online dating thing. I’ve lived what LeeEsq is describing, and it sucks mightily..

                One thing I think that is an underrated facet is that local dating markets will vary. When I was a graduate level student in a coastal metropolis I was pretty much always put into a one and done situation. It was incredibly frustrating. But to be fair to these women, they had a ton of options in terms of relatively fit, attractive and educated young men and could afford to be choosy.

                Since moving to an inland, smaller city where much of my age cohort brushed off school for oil boom wages, I was a much rarer and more in demand dating prospect for the local women and could successfully date serially.

                I don’t think there’s any deep wisdom to this beyond that how good a catch you are has little to do with intrinsic as opposed to circumstantial worth.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I don’t think there’s any deep wisdom to this beyond that how good a catch you are has little to do with intrinsic as opposed to circumstantial worth.

                This is a great sentence. I’m struggling to figure out what wisdom could be deeper than what you wrote…Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq says:

                I moved from coastal metropolis to coastal metropolis and suffer from the short man penalty.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq says:

                From my understanding very few people like online dating because it simply requires a chemistry that most people aren’t capable of. If you are an acquired taste in age an age of instant gratification, you are even worse off.Report

          • Avatar InMD says:

            I know this sounds cheesy but have you worked on your material at all?

            I had a few interesting questions and funny anecdotes I’d regularly use and improve upon to get conversation going. Obviously none worked all the time but I got where I could consistently break the ice and maybe get some of that chemistry going.Report

    • Avatar Michele Kerr says:

      “don’t be alone behind a closed door with a student” is standard procedure in high school.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain says:

      …we avoid any situations where just one adult is alone with a child.

      I’m involved with sport fencing, and while that’s a nice goal, there are situations where it’s simply not possible (at least without making the sport even more expensive). At club youth tournaments, if I’m being a one-person bout committee, there will be times when I’m alone with a fencer for a few minutes. If I’m acting as the armorer, there will be times when I’m alone with a fencer for a few minutes. It’s particularly tough on coaches — private lessons are where much of the money is, but if the lesson’s at 7:30 in the evening, it may be just the coach and the 16-year-old fencer.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      Lee as always has my sympathy, as do others who have struggled on the matter. But… it seems odd to be having this particular discussion on a post about sexual abuse. Let’s me mindful of that and focus a bit more on inappropriate rather than generally desirable connections.Report

  7. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    I may have mentioned this before, but growing up in the 70’s one of the main themes of the Sexual Revolution was the notion that sex was just a trivial thing, easily tamed by right thinking mature people, who were then free to indulge in it as they wished.

    It was of a piece with the attitude towards drugs and alcohol and well, pretty much anything. Even as a teenager (or maybe because I was a teenager) I could see how absurd it was, but I imagined that maybe that’s what happened as you became an adult, that the physical desires of the body would somehow just become easier to control.

    I think what made such a way of thinking dangerous is that it encourages us to let down our guard and stop engaging in self-reflection and criticism, since sexuality is always working its power on us even more so when we imagine that it isn’t.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      I think the bigger danger (well, it’s past now, so…) is that Sexual Revolution folks sorta substituted sexuality for Capitalist Accumulation as a way of achieving happiness. Folks in the sixties picked a few conservative, constraining bogeymen to leverage against in their big breakout, but the whole thing was primarily (not entirely) reactive. That said, I think we’re all (as a society!) better for it , even though the deeper lesson – if there is one – is spiritual (as you sorta indicate) rather than practical or political.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        During the early years of the Sexual Revolution, which basically only ended when AIDS just ended the party, few people wanted to admit that maybe some or even a lot of constraint was needed because they feared that meant maybe the social conservatives had a point when it came to sexual freedom. That meant the only people speaking out against the excesses of the Sexual Revolution were either radical feminists or social conservatives. Neither group had much social cachet to do anything.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          I think this view suffers from the (false) idea that the cultural revolutions of the 60s and 70s were somehow led. I don’t think they were, except insofar as civil rights and feminist leaders championed breaking down some entrenched practices and beliefs.

          I think it was driven more by the Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead and Lou Reed etc than any leader of a 501c3.

          Add: I also don’t think people’s behavior has regressed back to the norms existing prior to those days. People like to get laid.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            Aaaand, people like to get high. 🙂Report

          • Avatar LeeEsq says:

            They weren’t lead. That was the problem. Its just that society had a lot of inbuilt sexual frustration and lot of bad shit happened as a result. Since the Supreme Court spent a little over the decade figuring out how much pornography should be protected and how much regulated things were even more messed up. Child porn was effectively legal in the United States until the Supreme Court issued New York v. Ferber in 1982 and told the federal and state governments to go nuts prosecuted it.Report

          • Avatar veronica d says:

            We certainly didn’t “go back” to the stilted nonsense of pre-sexual-revolution conservatism. Instead, I think we’ve moved forward into a “consent culture” approach.

            About which, I don’t endorse a pollyannaish view of consent culture. There are certainly controversies and contradictions. But still, it’s neither the prudish nonsense of a Pence, nor the (barely masked abuse) found in the “free love” movement. It’s something else.Report

            • Avatar LeeEsq says:

              While most people openly state they believe in consent culture, I think there is a lot of work to be done in defining what is consent culture and how does it work. For one thing, I think that the consent culture imagined by the very online is very different from the consent culture imagined by nearly everybody else. Most ordinary people seem to want something less formal and formulaic than the very online people for a variety of reasons, which range from not finding the online version that fun to believing that ordinary people can’t master the skills necessary for the online version.Report

              • Avatar veronica d says:

                Consent culture is a framework, but indeed, in real life, things are less formal, because of course they are. Life is messier than what you hear when people pontificate online. That said, the framework is good. It’s about a self understanding of one’s desires, needs, and boundaries. It’s also about communicating those things with your partner, and in turn listening when your partner communicates with you.

                It’s actually not hard. It really isn’t. Instead, it’s awkward, but it stops being awkward when you get used to it.

                Learn to have awkward conversations about sex with your partner(s).

                “But how do I do that?”

                Ask your partner(s).Report

              • Avatar CJColucci says:

                I was as horny as anyone back in the day, and I don’t think I was, or am, unusually virtuous, but it simply never occurred to me that I could or should have sex with someone who didn’t want to have sex with me. Looking back, I acted like a jerk at times when trying to get laid, but the worst any woman from those days could truthfully say is that she had to say “No” twice. How hard is this?Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq says:

                I disagree. First, you need to have a partner and that isn’t easy for many people. Second, you define it as learning to have awkward conversations but for a lot of people these awkward conservations are a turn off in and of themselves. They want suave. If you can’t provide suave, you do not get.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                If you don’t have a partner how do you know that the conversations had between partners are a turn off?

                Or is this one of those “some people” sort of things?Report

              • Avatar veronica d says:

                It’s true that if you’re not in a relationship, then you won’t be able to fully use the tools consent culture offers, except in the most banal sense, such as not harassing the girl at Starbucks. It is also true that if you don’t know how to handle awkward conversations, and either can not or will not learn, then any consent culture approaches your try will be rather stilted. The results are poor communication, which means your partner won’t know your specific needs, desires, and boundaries, and you won’t know theirs. This means you’ll fumble around during sex.Report

    • Avatar Dark Matter says:

      Very well put.

      When I was 25 I tried skydiving. I wanted it, I’d paid money for it, my friends were already through the door… and I hovered on the door and ultimately had to be pushed.

      We are WAY more creatures of instinct than we admit. We have less control than we want to admit. We do stuff and the guy in our head doing the running monolog makes up stuff to justify it after the fact.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        For me, the term “instinct” in conversations like this is short hand for “reflexivity”, and there’s nothing fundamentally biological about which way reflexivity will go. It can be the product of conditioning just as much as, even more than, biological “programming”.

        Your instinct was to not jump out of the plane. Did other people on the plane *not* have that same instinct? I bet they did. They just overcame it.Report

        • Avatar Dark Matter says:

          I expect different people have different instincts, or at a minimum different intensities of those instincts. I also expect these vary over time.

          For me, the term “instinct” in conversations like this is short hand for “reflexivity”, and there’s nothing fundamentally biological about which way reflexivity will go

          I’m not sure what “fundamentally biological” means here. If it means we can counter it then I agree. If it means it “instincts” wouldn’t have existed at all without conditioning then I disagree.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            I think in general an instinct, as its used in the nature v nurture debate, is something that exists pre-conditioning and as part of the biological substrate which determines human behavior. One example is the fight or flight reflex. Most people use those terms to refer to behavioral predispositions that exist prior to human social conditioning as a response to certain external stimuli. That’s their explanatory power, as I understand it anyway.

            But you know who probably knows a *lot* more about this than I do? Maribou. 🙂Report

  8. Avatar Kazzy says:

    My principal of 6 (or was it 8?) year was accused my sophomore year of molesting his foster son. The details were fishy and the generally believed story at the time was that this upstanding educator who spoke like Kermit the Frog and was more squarish than square and didn’t seem like he could hurt a fly was gettin falsely accused by a bitter teenager who resented the man who took him in. Another story was that it was all a misunderstanding… the principal had gone to wake the boy and threw his blanket of him which the confused and tired and troubled teenager. He was found not guilty and eventually returned to work.

    A year or two after I graduated he was caught on tape soliciting/engaging/pressuring a student into sexual acts in his office. He plead guilty and served one year.

    I remember largely believing the narrative when the first accusations broke. The worst thing you could have said about Mr. White was he was a total nerd and maybe a bit of a pushover. But he seemed like a good guy. I remember when I earned some award in high school, he shook my hand on stage and commented on how proud he was to see me as the third member of my family to receive it… even though his tenure at the school didn’t overlap with my older sister’s. He just knew stuff like that. Because he cared, I figure. Or because I was of the class that moved with him from MS to HS so he knew us longer. Or something.

    Then the second round of accusations emerged. With the tapes. Fool me once…


    Sadly, Google shows he wasn’t the only teacher from my town in that town period to stand accused. Another guy got 8.5 years for an ongoing sexual relationship with a middle schooler. It’s even on the school district’s Wikipedia page!Report

  9. Avatar Pinky says:

    OK, let’s go back to the conversation about the Boy Scouts. I have zero attraction to males. I can 100% guarantee that if I’m around young men, nothing improper will happen. I’m not bragging in saying that. I’m definitely not bragging when I say that I couldn’t make that same guarantee if I’m around young women. Has anything like that ever happened? No. Could I guarantee it? Of course not.

    The Boy Scouts should not unconditionally take my word. Precautions make sense, to avoid both misdeed and the appearance of misdeed. But on top of all that, isn’t it reasonable to keep adults out of positions of oversight over young people of their preferred sex?Report

  10. Avatar Michele Kerr says:

    Thank you, everyone who is sharing relevant stories.

    I’m not sure if I’m more weirded out by the people whining they aren’t getting any, or the people who acknowledge they’re attracted to young girls so by golly, don’t let me be Troop Leaders. And then assuming that all adults must be attracted to young people of their sexual preference. And then those who deny it well, they’re just not honestly talking about sex. Yeah, it’s a tossup.Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

      And to think, we all were so respected!Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      Yes, defending pedophilia and minor-attracted-persons is definitely what I was doing there, good job on you for spotting it.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      The question of “how much risk are we willing to accept” can only be meaningfully addressed if we know what the risks are.

      (I can certainly appreciate resenting how much risk there is, though.)Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Evopsych remains Wrongthink, yes?Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          Evo psych remains stupid think. It gives the answer anyone wants it to give.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Well, we definitely want to avoid stupidthink.

            Do we want to take turns raising various stakes?

            I mean, if people don’t agree that (male) teachers who molested children should be chemically castrated, do you think that that indicates that they’re not taking the problem seriously?Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              So, you criticize me as raising the stakes by implying the my view requires chemical castration.

              I wish there was a term for this type of intellectual dishonesty.* There isn’t. We’re worse off for it.

              *The term I’m most inclined to give is “Trumpian”, since it’s devoid of factual basis, motivates an emotional response, and is entirely partisan in purpose.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                It’s going back to discussing prevention using sticks rather than by assessing risks or getting into a deep dive of the psychology like DD or Oscar suggested.

                If we’re not going to do that, we should just get back to talking about the various sticks we’re willing to use. Do you think that mere imprisonment for, say, a decade is sufficient punishment?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Not everything everyone says is a policy prescription, Jaybird. You (and DD, heh) reflexively view it that way, which is of course very exciting.

                As my wife – the owner of her own 24 person business (all women) has taught me – all dude’s can think about is their … policy.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I’m wondering how it could be prevented.

                And it appears that we, as a society, have decided that it’s appropriate to shame people who want to talk about before-the-fact policies and accuse them of otherwise having nefarious motives.

                So I am suggesting chemical castration after-the-fact, in addition to imprisonment.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I’m wondering how it could be prevented.

                What, exactly? People in power abusing their privilege to groom kids for sexual exploitation, or adult men who aren’t getting any with their peers so they get their rocks off with kids, OOORRRRR men who just find themselves only attracted to teenage or younger girls (they couldn’t help themselves…)?

                I’m sure I missed another category or two….

                But yeah. Let’s prevent THAT.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Which of those do you propose wouldn’t be appropriate to be punished after-the-fact?

                My proposal is that all of them should be.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Recovered libertarians sure are quick to PASS A LAW.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Passing laws is about doing stuff before the fact.

                We’ve already agreed that we shouldn’t (or can’t) change the culture.

                This leaves what to do after the fact.

                I’m suggesting imprisonment and chemical castration.

                Recovered libertarians sure are quick to PASS A LAW.

                You’re not even disagreeing, really. Just communicating that you want to.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “So, you criticize me as raising the stakes by implying the my view requires chemical castration.”

                It’s so funny to watch you get all huffy when someone turns your shitposter attitude back on you.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                ** cosigned **Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Lol. You’re not smart enough to understand what you’re cosigning too.Report

    • Avatar InMD says:

      Not to pile on but your reaction here seems like the one that doesn’t make sense. I don’t think it’s strange at all that people are bringing up the fact that human biology/sexuality doesn’t always completely overlap with the broad social consensus re: sexual relationships between adults and minors. Having that conversation seems to me to be less a criticism of the broad social consensus that its wrong and shouldn’t be allowed and more a raising of the question of whether the consensus could be implemented better than it is.

      Just say no to any number of immoral, criminal, or dangerous activities works for most people most of the time. Asking why it doesn’t in some cases and with some people and if there’s anything that can be done about it shouldn’t be off limits.Report

      • Avatar bookdragon says:

        Honestly, my response is exactly the same as hers. To me, it’s your response that not only doesn’t make sense. At all.

        But then, I’m

        a. A woman who had adults creep on her when she was way underage
        b. The mother of two teenagers who are in high school

        Imagine yourself as either of those, and then go back read through all of the “But what about the poor misunderstood sexually frustrated adult who just couldn’t help but rape a minor” comments here. Then me that that stuff isn’t disturbing and creepy AF.Report

        • Avatar InMD says:

          Who here is saying it’s ok? I don’t think it should be permitted and agree that adults who do it for whatever reason should suffer pretty severe consequences, of both a criminal and professional nature. They definitely shouldn’t be allowed to continue to teach minors.

          I’m a parent too you know. Just because I have a son and society doesn’t freak out quite the same way when the underage kid is male and the teacher a female doesn’t mean I’m less queasy about the concept. The difference is I see value in confronting the complexity of the problem. Maybe there’s something to be learned and if people can be channeled away from this conduct before they do it I think that’s a good thing. Once it’s done no amount of punishment can undo the damage and while punishment has to be part of the policy effective prevention is far superior.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          “read through all of the “But what about the poor misunderstood sexually frustrated adult who just couldn’t help but rape a minor” comments here. ”

          Where did I say that guy shouldn’t be punished for what he did?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        I don’t think it’s strange at all that people are bringing up the fact that human biology/sexuality doesn’t always completely overlap with the broad social consensus re: sexual relationships between adults and minors.

        I remember discussions with folks, and it wasn’t that long ago, who argued that domestic abuse was an area where the emerging social consensus didn’t map onto what people viewed (at the time, I guess) as human biology. People, especially men, just did that sort of thing.

        Re: this topic, on the one hand I think you’re right. Oftentimes a 15 year old girl will have all the body parts of a fully developed women. On the other, tho, is that all of us, including the predators, agree that she’s not a woman but a just girl.Report

        • Avatar InMD says:

          I started my legal career at a small firm that did a lot of defense work. Many of the clients I worked with made some really stupid and at times destructive decisions. Most of them also were in circumstances, not always entirely of their own making that made those stupid and destructive decisions more likely.

          I’m not some bleeding heart for criminals. Never have been. Everyone owns what they do regardless of why they do it. But personal responsibility and human frailty are not mutually exclusive concepts. Dealing with these problems rationally requires getting over some of the revulsion, natural as it may be to feel it.Report

          • Avatar Stillwaterw says:

            “A person’s liability in having sex with a child they’ve groomed is offset by their idiosyncratic frailty.” ???

            OK, let’s let it stand. Now, look at the kid who was the victim of non-overlapping norms regarding sex with minors in the eye and tell them “this is justice”. Can’t do it.

            Another thing: earlier you said there are differing views of sex between adults and minors. One reason, I’d suggest, is that only adults are voters on the policy. Kids don’t have a voice. Which is why we protect them to extremes, using our best judgment. Because they’re kids.Report

            • Avatar InMD says:

              Please quote specifically where I said that. I know the strawman question is in vogue here right now but it isn’t you. See also my response to bookdragon. Not sure how many times I need to reiterate my belief in the appropriateness of criminal sanction to get it across but I’m doing again. I hope that helps get us passed the Helen Lovejoy routine.

              Second I didn’t say there are ‘differing views.’ I said the social consensus doesn’t always perfectly align with human biology. If it did people wouldn’t physically mature until they were older. You even acknowledged the truth to this above.

              This observation is obvious. It’s the basic premise of age of consent, statutory rape, and other laws. Yet you try to have a nuanced conversation around the public policy and instead you get… well Helen Lovejoy. No one is well-served by that reaction, victims included.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck says:

              “look at the kid who was the victim of non-overlapping norms regarding sex with minors in the eye and tell them “this is justice”.”

              find the part in this entire comments section where anyone has said that if you have sex with a minor you should not be punished for it

              not “well it’s like you said”

              not “well it’s a similar attitude”

              not “well this is kinda showing that idea”

              find the actual wordsReport

    • Avatar Pinky says:

      I really liked this article Michele. Interesting subject, and thoughtfully written. Sorry if the thread got too weird.Report

    • Avatar Ozzy! says:

      Thank you for this. The middle section of the comments was getting crazy. Don’t fuck students is NOT asking for much, and no amount of diddling around will make it so.Report

    • Avatar bookdragon says:

      I agree with you completely. And thank you for writing an excellent piece. It made me think of the reactions I saw here in PA after the Penn State scandal – the pure punch-in-the-gut horror and disbelief as the news unfolded.

      (except that I don’t recall anyone, even the most hardcore PSU alums I know, suggesting that Jerry Sandusky was somehow driven to it because of lack of other sexual opportunities and/or would have been fine if someone had just offered training/advice beyond “don’t f**k minors”….)Report

  11. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    Has anyone ever seen a junkie and wondered, what sort of path leads to that moment when someone says “Why yes, I would certainly like to inject heroin into my veins!”

    It seems incomprehensible. After all, its not like alcohol, which gets pressed upon us at every turn. And its not like the dangers are unknown. How could anyone get to such a place?

    But its really not so mysterious. Its a series of steps, tiny and imperceptible that lead every astray and closer to that awful place. No one here is immune from it. We all have dark moments, when intoxication and euphoria would be a blessed relief.

    Which is why is so disconcerting about a man who is “so well respected!” is found in a motel room with some wildly inappropriate person. It seems incomprehensible, that path that ends there. But maybe we just tell ourselves it is incomprehensible, to avoid grappling with how much we really do comprehend it.Report

  12. Avatar Kazzy says:

    There is a line of thinking that the intense stigmatization of bad/wrong sexual urges/interests/attractions/desires is part of the problem.

    Imagine someone who just feels intense physical/sexual stimulation when they see a child. They know feeling that way is absolutely wrong and acting upon that feeling is absolutely-er wrong-er. What do they do? Will a therapist help them? Their friends? Family? Odds are overwhelmingly no. So they either stay nothing and try to manage the situation alone OR they do seek help, become ostracized, and have to manage the situation truly alone. So the line of thinking goes that rather than hold the person responsible and treat them like a monster for possessing what is likely a very faulty glitch in their wiring beyond their choice or control, we create places wherein they can seek and gain support to never ever ever ever act on those urges.

    I’m not sure that line of thinking is wrong. I’m also not sure we even offer much room to explore that line of thinking.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      In the old days folks that had sex with kids would be outcast or killed. It’s a sign of progress that people consider ways to accommodate them..Report

  13. Avatar Michele Kerr says:

    So let me start by saying this: if any of the people making the squicky comments were in ed school, or thinking about going to ed school, or going to some teacher prep program, and their comments were found out, they wouldn’t be allowed to become teachers. If they made those comments while in ed school, they’d be kicked out.

    Now, I haven’t seen much evidence that the people involved are even remotely aware of how repugnant their comments are–in fact, worse, I think they fondly delude themselves that they’re just that much more civilized than the peasants who think there are bright lines. But just fyi.

    Why, some ask, don’t ed schools train teachers not to get sexually involved with their students? Lawyers are told not to violate attorney client privilege. So how come teachers aren’t told not to have sex with their students, given tips and told what the warning signs are?

    Well, why not broaden the question? Why aren’t all adults told not to have sex with kids? Why aren’t there commercials showing a 60 year old guy smiling down at a cute teenager and a voice-over says “Stop. Before you act. Remember that even though it’s been six months since you’ve had sex, it’s a bad idea to hit on a minor. First, it’s against the law and you’ll go to jail. Second, she’ll probably laugh at you and you’ll feel humiliated as well as sex-starved. No matter how much you want it, an orgasm isn’t worth the jail, humiliation, and ostracism you’ll face. Just Say No To Underage Sex Relationships.”

    See, teachers aren’t told not to have sex with kids because it’s ALREADY ILLEGAL. It’s not like attorney client privilege, or mandated reporting, where professionals have different obligations. It’s not even like doctors sleeping with their patients, or professors sleeping with their students–in these cases there often are explicit lessons given, precisely because, if their patients/students are over 18, this is OTHERWISE LEGAL BEHAVIOR. Which is not true with K-12 teachers again, because IT’S ILLEGAL TO HAVE SEX WITH CHILDREN.

    And since all adults know this, most adults don’t want to have sex with children.

    When you read about teachers who have sexual relations with their students, understand it has NOTHING to do with their not getting laid. They did it because it filled a need. The odds are very high that the need was a desire for psychological power, of feeling powerful and needed. Sex is only the method. Research shows that something like 70% of all sexual abuse cases involving teachers also involved grooming–first making the student feel valued, trusted, and then moving in.

    So when Density Duck talks about how fucked up kids were who had Dave for a teacher, he’s totally missing the point. Fucking up the kids was how Dave got his kicks. That’s why everyone in the school was so shocked and horrified. We weren’t thinking “oh, man, poor Dave, he fell off the pedestal that’s so hard to maintain!” we were thinking “Jesus, how did we miss that he was a monster?”

    The system’s not perfect. But the way to fix the system is *not* tell prospective teachers the tips and tricks to avoid banging their students. The way to fix the system (which doesn’t exist) is to identify sexual predators who manipulate kids and make sure they aren’t teachers. That way they’ll have to work harder to find victims.

    The idea of someone sitting down and telling teachers “look, inevitably you’re going to want to have sex a student. Here’s some warning signs” is repellent because if you are at the point of wanting to have sex with a student, you need to stop teaching and never go back. In fact, go find a desert island because eventually, you’re going to ruin a child’s life and no bullshit tips session in ed school is a fix.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      “Here’s some warning signs” is repellent because if you are at the point of wanting to have sex with a student, you need to stop teaching and never go back. In fact, go find a desert island because eventually, you’re going to ruin a child’s life and no bullshit tips session in ed school is a fix.”

      So anyone who feels sexual arousal/attraction to a teenager should be banished from society?Report

      • Avatar Michele Kerr says:

        Not what I said. There are plenty of people who want to have sex with teens because they love the power differential. They’re not capable of having relationships with other adults, or they can but aren’t fullfilled. And so long as they wait until the kid is legally able to consent, they’re creepy, but totally legal.

        But if you’re a teacher who wants to have sex with a student, and find the idea tempting, you’re eventually going to act on it, and you should leave the profession and any profession where you will interact with kids. And learn how to wait until teens you aren’t responsible for reach the age of consent and then be one of the aforementioned creepy adults.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


          There is a gulf between what Kazzy said:

          “So anyone who feels sexual arousal/attraction to a teenager should be banished from society?”

          and this:

          “…if you’re a teacher who wants to have sex with a student, and find the idea tempting, you’re eventually going to act on it…”

          Do you seriously not see that? And just to add some context,the video for “Hit Me Baby One More Time” came out in 1998. Britney Spears was 17. Do you think every adult male that enjoyed the video for more than the music was a would-be predator?Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


      Again, you are so focused on X,Y,Z here that you miss everything that came before. What we’re all suggesting is that there is a long series of bad decisions between A-X and sometimes the people doing A-K have no idea they are heading in that direction. You keep saying kids. What happens when it’s a student that turned 18 last fall and the teacher has allowed friendliness to go too far because he/she wasn’t trained to recognize it was problematic earlier? Now the student is legally an adult and graduation is only a couple of months away and it doesn’t feel so bad anymore? Is that a relationship you would give a pass or is it just as problematic as though the student was 17? I would say it is.

      You talk about the bright line of not having sex with your students. That seems like installing traffic lights with no yellow. Those of us that are looking for a more proactive policy are suggesting that the yellow needs to be better explained. I can’t for the life of me understand why you wouldn’t want to do that unless you believe that every teacher who crosses that line was some kind of monster in waiting, which your comment above seems to sort of suggest is the case. And to arrive at that conclusion I can only assume that you have never made a a big mistake that you never saw coming or you are maybe too close to the issue to want to see anything other than scorched earth.Report

      • Avatar Michele Kerr says:

        As I said, their self-love allows them to delude themselves.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


          Maybe it would be easier to just ask you this: Can you conceive of a scenario where a good person makes a series of bad decisions that simply show poor judgement at the beginning and eventually cross the line to criminal behavior…or do simply believe that every teacher that sleeps with a student was a predator from the beginning?Report

          • Avatar Michele Kerr says:

            That’s hilarious.

            “Your honor, I only had sex with a fourteen year old due to my temporary bad judgment and my lack of sexual congress.”

            Do I think all people who have sex with teens are predators? No. About 70% of them are. The other 30 are people who willfully ignored the law and can spend 10 years in jail.

            I don’t care how interested you are, once you’re an adult. I don’t care how stressed you are, how lonely, or how vulnerable. If you can’t wait until the kid is beyond the age of consent and legal sexual activity, you’re a criminal. Full stop.

            If you’re a teacher, all that holds *and* you can”t be the teacher. It ain’t that complicated. It’s positively insulting, not to say worrisome, that some of you feel that you’d benefit from instruction to avoid such situations.Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

              Michelle – If 30% of the teachers who end up sleeping with their students are NOT predators then I’m going to assume that the sex was the culmination of a long period of increasingly bad decisions. Again, Decision 1 was probably innocent. A shared joke. An encouraging word after class. The student making a seemingly innocent remark about the teacher’s appearance and the teacher not filing it away mentally under ‘keep an eye on that’. Etc.

              As someone that does quality for a living and spends my days trying to prevent mistakes from happening, I find your intense focus on the final crime and unwillingness to consider more backstops upstream (we would call them ‘control points’ in my profession) to be either incredibly naive or more likely you are so disgusted by the final crime that you can’t fathom that the momentum of the relationship couldn’t have been diffused much earlier with better training and/or interventions.Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

              It ain’t that complicated. It’s positively insulting, not to say worrisome, that some of you feel that you’d benefit from instruction to avoid such situations.

              And yet we have to have training and conversations about sexual harassment, sex with co-workers in the reporting chain, consent, all sorts of things that I know for a fact some people see as so blindingly obvious the training is an insult and waste of time, yet others still mess it up.

              You know why companies do annual training on such topics, rather than just doing it as part of new employee orientation? Because it serves as a wake up call, a reminder to ‘check yourself before you wreck yourself’.

              The fact that such reminders strike you as insulting tells me you are not serious about prevention, and just want to be able to complain and scold.

              It’s basically using abstinence education as the solution to teen pregnancy and/or abortion reduction.

              It’s simple, it’s pat…Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                “The fact that such reminders strike you as insulting tells me you are not serious about prevention, and just want to be able to complain and scold.

                It’s basically using abstinence education as the solution to teen pregnancy and/or abortion reduction.”


              • Avatar InMD says:

                This reminds me of so many conversations I’ve had about HIPAA, various FWA laws, and similar issues. It’s amazing how many smart, sophisticated people with lots of experience in their fields can manage to get these things wrong, totally fail to appreciate the consequences of getting it wrong, etc. And then there are the ones that aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed to begin with…

                One thing I always try to emphasize when crafting training is NOT ONLY CAN YOU BE FIRED YOU CAN GO TO JAIL! There are good eggs out there who behave impeccably. My guess is Michelle is one such person. But anyone who operates in any kind of compliance environment knows how rare those people are.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                And yet we have to have training and conversations about sexual harassment, sex with co-workers in the reporting chain, consent, all sorts of things that I know for a fact some people see as so blindingly obvious the training is an insult and waste of time, yet others still mess it up.

                The issue isn’t that we’re all equally likely to screw up, the issue is management wants one set of rules for everyone and has no clue who is more at risk to offend. Worse, it’s unclear if people who are at a higher risk to offend have the self awareness to know that they are.

                My assumption is most of the more extreme incidents we get trained on come from the sale’s department in combo with alcohol, however that’s just an assumption.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      “The idea of someone sitting down and telling teachers “look, inevitably you’re going to want to have sex a student. Here’s some warning signs” is repellent because if you are at the point of wanting to have sex with a student, you need to stop teaching and never go back. ”


      • Avatar DensityDuck says:

        and see, here’s me thinking that the tone of your posts suggests wondering, but no, you’re ride-or-die for him having been a diddler all along, day one he was bangin’ em and kept on doing it every day until he was caught, a groomer from the get-go. So, maybe I misread this post as wanting to have a conversation about the issue and talk about what might be done to prevent it; maybe this was actually just a story about how a man broke your heart.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

          I am similarly confused. I thought Michelle was trying to work through her confusion over what happened, could it have been prevented, was this a good man that made a terrible mistake, etc. Clearly I misunderstood.Report

          • Avatar InMD says:

            I think a lot of people may have misread. I know I did.Report

          • Avatar Pinky says:

            I think this thread has demonstrated that even decent people who discuss heated political issues all the time can’t cope with the tensions around this topic. This subject invites the most visceral reactions. I once tried to carry on a level-headed conversation with a co-worker about an incident where a policeman killed a suspect’s dog. It was impossible. This is an infinitely tougher topic, and it should be. Wherever the line is for subjects we can’t handle, this is over it. Lesson learned.Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

              To me, what it demonstrates is that there should be some clarity on what is the purpose of the post. Is it simply to generate outrage? Is it to generate sympathy for the author that experience the events? Is it a human interest piece that is simply meant to make us think about how terrible the world can be? Or is it meant to generate a conversation that might head in the direction of possible corrective actions?

              Whenever Sam puts up one of his police shootings posts I get cranked up because they feel like outrage generators, not actually aimed at policy prescriptions. I think several of us prefer to look at policy and corrective actions which is the direction we went on this thread as well. I know I don’t have much interest in simply joining an outrage mob.Report

              • Avatar Pinky says:

                I’ve been asked not to speculate on Sam’s motives, and I won’t speculate on Michele’s.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Typically a call to action makes the last possible goal more obvious. In lieu of that and given Michelle’s reactions to the suggestion of proactive measures, I think it’s safe to say that was not her intent.Report

        • Avatar Michele Kerr says:

          Then you guys skipped over the last conversation, where I make it clear that my opinion of Dave as a teacher is forever altered, where I sympathize with a student who *used* to respect him and now blames her judgment.

          You also miss the point of the aftermath, where my only uncertainty is *not* about why, but if. That is, I leave open the possibility that he did nothing and was wrongly charged, but in no way imply that the circumstances would change my mind, that someone I thought was a good teacher was in fact manipulative scum.Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

      “Identify sexual predators…”?

      Easy. Pick up a phone book, if you can still find one.

      It isn’t that bright lines shouldn’t be drawn, quite the opposite.

      The bright lines need to be drawn way before, even at the seemingly innocent steps which history has shown to be the grooming slopes for worse.

      And more importantly, the bright lines are openly applied to every single person, because history also tells us that every single person has the capacity for doing even the most awful things.

      To be blunt, there is no such thing as a teacher who is not capable of harming a child given the proper set of triggers. Every teacher, every Scout leader, every priest or coach or counselor is a predator waiting to be triggered.Report

      • Avatar JoeSal says:

        If there is always going to be this problem, then what is the acceptable level of it occurring? Whatever the filters placed on entry into a social construct there will always be people who make it through those filters. Maybe if only being normal one minute, and not the next, by metrics of normal.

        (This somewhat makes the case against authority even existing in social constructs, but I’ll save that discussion for another time, and just limit it to a failure rate of the filters. )

        At some point the social engineers have to answer what the acceptable levels of failure are for a human driven social construct.

        If that answer is zero, then what costs are associated with that? If it is some big chunk of the prosperity of the social construct for many millennia then that is what needs to be agreed upon before entering into the venture. If both positive and negative reinforcement need to be applied, then those need to be agreed upon before entering into the venture.

        Also if the answer is zero, people need to be allowed to opt out of those types of social constructs. Also those social constructs need to be isolated, that in their repeated attempts to reach zero, they don’t pillage other social constructs for resources on their failing.Report

  14. Michelle, I thought this was a great piece. Thanks so much for writing it.Report

  15. Avatar Jaybird says:

    The people running the Matrix are showing their hand…

    Alabama lawmakers have passed legislation that would require convicted child sex offenders to undergo “chemical castration treatment” before they are released from prison.


  16. Avatar Will Truman says:

    Okay, having read through I think it’s time to go ahead and shut comments down on this post. I don’t think everyone looking at the “deeper issues” was looking to justify or excuse, nor do I think those who objected all object to any discussion of broader contexts. But the some issues are difficult to co-mingle with even the most delicacy – loneliness, predation, and age differentials – and they started off on the wrong foot here for those conversations and kept going from there. Which happens.

    Sorry that I was kind of slow to move on this (My parents were in town and so my participation was somewhat limited). Thanks to Michele for the great post! Hopefully next time we can avoid some of the sandtraps.Report