There's been a fair amount of publicity in the past year about teachers who've had sex with their teenage students. I'm often struck by how attractive the female teachers are.
I can't help but remember what I was like at fifteen. If some attractive twenty-five year old woman had tried to seduce me, well, it wouldn't have been all that traumatic. I've talked to other guys about this, and their reaction is almost universal: "Where was she when I was in high school?!"
I can't speak for girls, but I know that some are supposed to have crushes on their male teachers. Should teachers take advantage of that? Of course not. But sometimes, when I read about it, it seems more like forbidden love than a crime.
This does seem to be an area where there is a difference between the way the law might regard men and women. This goes against the spirit of the previous post which advocated equal rights (and responsibilities) for all, but my guess is that boys are generally less traumatized by this than girls.
A teacher should unquestionably lose his job over an affair with a student. And he should never work again as a teacher. But should he go to jail?
The most famous teacher involved in such a case, Mary Kay Letourneau, was obviously a little batty. She seduced a 13 year old, not a 17 year old. She gave up her family, including her four children, to continue to pursue this illicit love, even after being forbidden to do so by the authorities. (Parents who willingly give up their children are always at least a little bit off.) But how much harm did she do to her young lover (with whom she had two more children)? Generally, if someone hurts you in some way, you get away from them. But those two married, and are still together, which says something. (I don't think the Stockholm syndrome is in effect here.) She is now 47, he is 26. My guess is that by the time he is 39 and she is 60, he will have strayed. And that would be only fitting. But it would not be any indication that he was traumatized by that early experience.
In a sense, it's worse for a boss to take advantage of an underling. Your employer has far more power over you than any single teacher does: your entire livelihood depends on your boss, who usually has the power to fire you. A teacher has only the power only to give you one grade, in one class, in one year. That's not much power. (I've felt the need to kowtow to every boss I ever had, at least to some extent, but never to a teacher.) Yet while bosses occasionally get fired for such transgressions, there is no law against it.
The statutory rape law as it exists seems too arbitrary. There is a world of difference between an eighteen-year-old boy who has sex with his sixteen year old girlfriend, and a thirty five-year-old man who molests a prepubescent child. No self-respecting prosecutor will go after the former, while the latter will always be prosecuted. And this is as it should be. Yet the law doesn't distinguish between the two.
How does the law deal with, say, a twenty-four year old man who had sex with a willing fifteen year old girl who looked eighteen and lied about her age? There are many such cases colored in shades of gray, and a good judge will weigh the circumstances. But not all judges are good, and there is still far too much leeway for uneven enforcement.