When Yes Is Not Consent

In a recent news story: “A Montana judge is under fire for sentencing a 54-year-old former teacher to just 30 days in jail for raping a 14-year-old girl who later committed suicide.”

The judge made statements about how this wasn’t rape-rape (or, as he puts it, “forcible beat-up rape“) and how the teenager was old for her age and as much in control of the situation as the man. The judge has said his statements were “stupid” but the sentence stands. The Billings Gazette has complete coverage.

In response to this, in a news article I won’t link to because it seems click bait, someone argued that “I don’t believe that all sexual conduct between underage students and teachers should necessarily be classified as rape, and I believe that absent extenuating circumstances, consensual sexual activity between teachers and students should not be criminalized.”

I was going to write up something about how a teenager is, well, a teenager, and an adult is an adult. Luckily, I found a post that explains it so much better than I ever could: The Myth of the Teenage Temptress: Or Why A Young Girl Can Not Consent to Sex With an Adult Man: “The fact is, a 14-year-old girl may be capable of agreeing to sex with a 49-year-old man, but she doesn’t have the emotional and mental maturity to consent.

And “It never occurred to me as a young sexually active teen that the adult men I had relationships with may have been manipulating me, that they had designs and motives I couldn’t see from my limited child’s perspective.

And “What I needed, and what she needed, were strong male role models in my life who knew how the f*** to say “No thanks” to a little girl’s come-ons. Because it doesn’t matter if a young girl is saying yes, it’s an adult man’s job to say no.”

Edited to add: Acting Older Isn’t Being Older, which includes the following: “when young girls are raped—especially young girls of color—they’re frequently blamed for “enticing” adult men or painted as complicit in the attack because of their supposed sexual maturity

And “no matter how grown teens act, it’s the responsibility of teachers and adults to remind us that we’re not adults, not to lasciviously bolster a myth that says otherwise or worsen it with blame.”

As you may remember, one reason I liked Sara Zarr’s The Lucy Variations is that the teacher there was fully aware of that.

And one of the reasons I like Boy Toy by Barry Lyga is it shows how a young teen is manipulated by an adult and doesn’t realize it. Yes, it’s also an adult woman’s job to say no.

What other books out there address this?



14 thoughts on “When Yes Is Not Consent

  1. On the adult side, there’s TAMPA by Alissa Nutting, which is a horrifying story about a teacher who knowingly seduces adolescent boys for her own pleasure. It’s disturbing, it’s disgusting, and it’s all within the mind of a teacher who knows she does this and does it because it’s what she LIKES to do. She’s fully aware of the impact it’ll make, of how vile an act it is, but her desires are greater than the consequences.


  2. The XOJane article was really good, I thought. I was glad she said all that. It seems so obvious it shouldn’t need saying that we invented statutory rape exactly because children cannot give meaningful sexual consent; but this case makes it clear that not everyone understands that. Ugh. Makes me feel ill.


  3. Hi, Liz. I have a review of an eighties YA that took the teacher crush a bit far. The post is two years old, but I think it still stands: http://bitchesboysbenetton.com/post/8074199622/my-love-for-you-is-way-out-of-line

    There were quite a few hot-for-teacher books in the 80s–I think I have at least six in my collection, and I’m sure there are more out there. The one in this review is pretty horrible, especially because the teacher knowingly strings the student along (although there’s no sex between them, there are plenty of other boundaries crossed). I’ll look into what I can do to re-open the Disqus thread on that old post in case anyone wants to chime in.

    The “teenage temptress” article is so illuminating. Thanks for writing this up.


    1. thanks for the links! there are cute teachers — and teachers sometimes barely five years older than the teens they teach — but “no.” No no no. The teacher is the adult. In a position of power and authority.


  4. While it doesn’t deal with rape, Diana Wynne Jones Fire and Hemlock has an adult male grooming a young girl to fill his needs. In the end, she calls him on it, but it is there.


      1. It’s one of my favorite books, but the relationship is definitely disconcerting. If it weren’t for the end when she does confront him about it, I would have issues with it.

        Have you read ‘The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls’? It includes a sexual relationship between a 15 year old girl and a headmaster and it’s portrayed as her pursuing him. While I enjoyed the book, those passages made me uneasy. Perhaps they were supposed to, but the tone felt more like that of a coming of age story that didn’t include sex between a girl and her headmaster.


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