Every time a media outlet reports on a woman raping a boy, someone comments about how it is every boy’s fantasy. Usually it is not just someone. There are often hundreds of comments like that, many of them from women but mostly from men. They all say the same thing: where was this teacher when I was growing up?
The idea that every boy wants to have sex with his hot teacher is fairly common. One could argue that plenty of teen boys do fantasize about their female (and male) teachers. This is only natural. These are often the only adults outside of family members that the teens regularly see. One would expect teen boys (and girls) to develop crushes on some of them. John Salmon of The Libertarian Republic shared his own story:
When I was about 14, I realised I was attracted to older women. I don’t simply mean those who were a couple of years above me at school; I mean 10-15 years older than me. […] While other boys my age were actually hooking up with girls, I was fantasising about my science teacher. She was only in her early twenties at that point but, as a 14-year-old, early twenties may as well have been early forties. It was nothing out of the ordinary; I used to fantasise about being kept behind for some random indiscretion and then being seduced by this older woman.
I don’t remember every specific detail of each fantasy but I do remember one thing – we never had sex. My fantasies were not about me wanting to have sex with her; it never got to that point. My fantasies were more about being seduced and the feeling that what we were doing was taboo. I fantasised about her naked and the kind of soft porn touching that you’d find on Channel 5 in the late 90s.
The key word to note in the above paragraph is what this article is about – fantasy. I never acted on my fantasies and, as far as I was aware, the teacher in question barely even knew I existed. The important thing to remember is that these scenarios were all in my head. I never once thought they would come true. In fact, if there was even the slightest hint that one of them may come true, my general social awkwardness would have put that to bed fairly quickly (no pun intended).
It is also possible that Salmon’s teacher, if so inclined, might have exploited his social awkwardness to continue the abuse. Someone who has difficulty connecting with others will likely try to maintain whatever connections they manage to make. Anyone interested in controlling them can use that to their advantage. This is one of the reasons why so many victims of abuse fit a similar personality profile. It is easier to manipulate someone who is shy, isolated, or awkward because they crave attention.
Getting back to Salmon’s point, the issue here is not that he did not fantasize about his teacher; it is that he never intended to act on it. It is normal for teenagers to fantasize about the adults around them. Some of those fantasies may even involve people they are related to, which brings in an extra level of taboo.
The point is that they are just fantasies. These are not things most teens actually want to do, let alone understand how to deal with should they happen. We seem to understand this on a social level when it comes to girls. We understand that men may exploit them, manipulate them, use them, and then toss them aside. Yet we ignore this element when it comes to boys. Instead of protecting boys from abuse or even acknowledging that they can be abused, we treat female-on-male rape as a rite of passage. It is something boys should enjoy.
But as Salmon states:
When we start minimising a teenager’s experiences with sex and older women we run the risk of telling them they are somehow wrong to object to what happened to them. When the first thing we do is recount our own jealousies over these scenarios not happening to us, we somehow tell these victims that they should feel bad for feeling bad; that they are somehow special for going through what they went through. “Why are you so unhappy? There are a million people who would love to go through what you went through!” If that is the first, and sometimes only, response that these boys see, it tells them that their feelings are somehow misplaced.
This is often as far as it needs to go before most boys abused by women learn to keep the abuse to themselves. The message is clear: the teacher did not do anything wrong; you did. Adding the emotional turmoil of abuse to it only worsens the situation.
As Salmon notes:
If we continue to tell young boys that they should somehow be happy at their ‘sexual awakening’ at the hands of an older woman, we run the risk of damaging them almost beyond repair. We run the risk of damaging their approach to sex, to sexual thoughts, and to healthy sexual relationships with others.
It is not that we run the risk of doing this; we actually cause it to happen. It is common for boys abused by women to experience more problems than those abused by men precisely because of this narrative around female abusers. Male victims of female abusers tend to have more relationship problems, greater difficulty trusting others, a greater likelihood of mental illness, a greater likelihood of turning to drugs or alcohol, and a greater likelihood of engaging in risky behavior.
There is also what happens to the women who commit the abuse:
When we treat female offenders leniently and place some amount of blame with the victims we tell them that their experiences aren’t really that bad, that they should be able to live with them. When we take it upon ourselves to tell young and teenage boys when they’ve been raped, rather than actually listening to the victims, we run the risk of condoning and, to some degree, encouraging this kind of behaviour. When we treat female offenders leniently and make excuses for their actions, we tell boys that their victimisation isn’t important, that their wellbeing isn’t as important as that of girls.
Again, we do not risk this risk; we do it. Women receive far lesser sentences than men for the same crimes. When both women and men abuse the same child together, the women often receive the lesser sentence even when they are the primary abusers. Even in situations where everyone admits what the woman did was predatory and vile, the woman tends to get a slap on the wrist, most often probation.
Of course, that assumes the law in the state or country allows for women to be prosecuted for the crimes at all. Many countries, such as the UK, do not allow women to be charged with rape. In those cases, the women are charged with sexual assault, which tends to carry a lesser sentence.
When we rightly react with outrage to lenient treatment of male offenders yet fail to react with the same behaviour to female offenders, when we tell boys that their suffering is not the same as girls, when we celebrate female sex offenders and create a film that treats their plight as comedy, we tell boys that their sexual wellbeing is less important than the sexual needs of women. When we congratulate boys who outright state that they did not enjoy what happened to them we tell them their suffering is not really warranted. We tell them that they are weaker than the average man for not enjoying it, and we tell them to suppress their feelings because they are destroying the fantasy of somebody else.
Yet this is what we do. We tell male victims of female abusers that they do not matter. Their pain does not matter. Their feelings do not matter. Their demand for equal treatment and justice do not matter.
Worse, we have a political movement that frames sexual violence as something only men do to only women. That movement reinforces the idea that if boys complain about the abuse, they are essentially making something out of nothing. It does not help that this movement is quick to attack anyone, particularly male victims, daring to challenge that narrative. This is part of the reason why “we celebrate when abusive, manipulative males are sent to prison, yet we complain when abusive, manipulative females are simply arrested for similar crimes.”
We not only have an existing tradition of holding males accountable for protecting themselves, but also a modern tradition of excusing women’s behavior by blaming it on men. Those two elements combine to create the current situation. Our society in general does not want to take female-on-male sexual violence seriously and the support community is so indoctrinated by an anti-male ideology that it will not acknowledge male victimization.
None of this is irrevocable. We can change this attitude if we want, but we have to want it to change and we have to want to change it. Plenty of people do desire those changes, yet many more do not care or are invested in keeping the status quo.
The irony is the oddity of that status quo:
When it comes to fantasies, we all have them, no matter how disturbing, controversial, or seemingly contradictory to everything we may believe, but we know there is a line that we don’t cross. If a woman has a rape fantasy we are, as functioning adults, able to see the divide between fantasy and reality. We are able to see the divide between a fully consensual enacting of a non-consensual act. We do not react to women being raped (for the most part) with wistful expressions of disappointment that, for some reason, we have not been the target of said rapist.
So, when it comes to teenage boys, why are we so willing to see that line broken? Why are we so willing to not only see that line broken, but to justify it by removing the boy from the situation and expressing disappointment that that scenario didn’t happen to us?
Why are we so unwilling to put our own feelings above those of boys who have been manipulated, exploited, and abused? Why are we so unwilling to treat boys the same way we treat girls?
Why are we so unwilling to let boys develop sexually when they are ready? Simply put, why are we so unwilling to allow boys to be boys?
I think the answer lies in the last question: we have convinced ourselves that adult women having sex with teen boys is allowing boys to be boys. We convinced ourselves that boys are somehow capable of fending for themselves. We ignore that we systematically teach boys from a young age that if they show any pain or fear we will mock or ignore their pleas. We teach them not to show their feelings and then use our own warped teachings as “proof” boys are not harmed by abuse.
This is why so many man express disappointment that they were not abused by their teachers. We taught them to respond that way. We taught them that these are the feelings they should express.
Do many men actually regret that their high school teacher did not have sex with them? Probably not. It is more likely that they are simply saying what they think they ought to say because if they said what they really believe they would be shamed for it. In order to protect themselves from being shamed they shame the boys who dare to speak up.
In any other instance we would call this behavior out for its wrongheadedness. Yet we continue to allow it when it comes to abuse partly because we simply do not want to deal with it, partly because of how we think of boys, but mostly because of one truth we desperately want to avoid: women are just as down and dirty as men, even (perhaps especially) the pretty ones.