The Mrs. Robinson Syndrome

I was watching Good Morning America before leaving for work yesterday, and they had yet another report of a female teachers having sex with their students. I have to admit I was only half listening to it, so I might have missed a few points they touched on.

But what is the media’s obsession with it? I call it an obsession because when one incident happens they seem to scour the country for additional instances. Why haven’t we heard about any male teachers having sex with their students? I doubt that it’s not happening. My guess is that in their eyes it’s not as sensational or not as much as an oddity; women just aren’t supposed to do those things.

Women aren’t supposed to be violent or attracted to teenaged boys, but ironically the media has been treating these events much differently than if they were perpetrated by men. You’d think that to make it even more sensational they would emphasize the violent act that these women are charged with.

In this ABC article 42-year-old woman is “arrested for having sex” with 16 and 17 year-old male students. The official charges are “rape and endangering the welfare of a child.” If we were talking about a male teacher and a female student, the headline would probably be NY Teacher Charged With Raping Student instead of “NY Teacher Allegedly Had Sex Wth Male Students”. In this ABC article from 2004, the headline is “Queens Teacher Facing Statutory Rape Charges”, although in the article they say “he began a consensual sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl last summer.” They go with the sensational headline – it’s what sells.

Having sex and raping someone are complete opposites. One implies consent while the other is violent. Why aren’t we applying the same standards to the women arrested for the same crime? Is it that women are supposed to be inherently gentler and therefore it couldn’t be rape? Is it that there’s a perception that these boys aren’t being raped? (FYI, unless the New Jersey law has been rewritten since I took my women’s studies class, women cannot be charged for raping a man 18 or older. They are charged with seduction. ). Or is the media just feeding us what we want? Maybe it’s a bit of all of those questions. I don’t have the answers since I don’t have the time or money to research it. But the media needs to be more aware of how they’re approaching these stories. If any reporters or editors read my lowly little blog, perhaps they’ll think twice about the headlines they’re writing and present a more balanced view of what is really going on.

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