Looking at the case of Madeleine Martin, the 39-year-old RE (Religious Education) teacher and mother of two, jailed for 32 months and placed on the sex offenders' register for sleeping with a 15-year-old male pupil, do we seriously think that a female teacher sleeping with a male pupil is on a par with a male teacher sleeping with a girl pupil? I don't. And neither, I'd wager, would most 15-year-old boys.
The issue shouldn't be taken lightly. All teachers, male and female, are in a position of trust and should not abuse it, though reading of Martin and the boy having sex in car parks, of her buying him mobile phones and tattoos with her name on "so he wouldn't forget her", of her failing marriage and terminally ill sister, Martin seems more pathetic than predatory.
Certainly, she has been severely punished for her nine-day tryst with the teenager, who, his mother says, has been mocked by peers. If anything, one would have thought they might be jealous. The internet is awash with sites dealing with "older woman teacher-pupil" fantasies. And there lies the rub – should the law be treating male and female pupil victims equally when male and female teenagers are so different? (the Guardian)
Oh, it gets worse. The writer goes on to argue that through her interviews with the youth, she learns that teenage girls want attention whilst teenage boys want sex, as if this is a mitigating factor.
While a large proportion of teenage boys may not have the sense to make the best choices, they are "up for it," none the less. This is why, in my view, a male teacher sleeping with a girl pupil amounts to statutory rape, whereas a female teacher sleeping with a 15-year-old male is a far greyer moral area.
Just because a boy at 15 is up for it doesn't mean he's asking for to be taken advantage of by an adult, FFS. And the law is quite clear in the UK: age of consent is 16. Even if the teenager in this case consented, it was done so in a highly suspect environment - buying a young man a mobile phone and tattoos should sound off alarm bells right away. Happily, many of the commentators on the Guardian site give the writer a right telling off for her appalling article.