Friday 24 November 2017

Sex encounters with my teacher

For a teacher to have sex with their pupil is an abuse of their position. Illustration by Tom Halliday.
For a teacher to have sex with their pupil is an abuse of their position. Illustration by Tom Halliday.

Mary O'Conor

Q: I always read your weekly column and it's always full of sound advice. I often see court case reports in UK papers about older women (usually school teachers) having affairs with their young male pupils. You know the headlines - "Teacher (45) has sex with 15-year-old pupil".

When I was 14 or 15, living in London, I was seduced by one of my female teachers. It happened over a period of about 6-9 months. That was way back in the early 1960s. She was probably in her 30s at the time. The activity took place in her flat, mostly.

For me, as a 14- or 15-year-old, it was great fun and I cannot describe how enjoyable. Even now, over 50 years on, I still enjoy thinking about her. It didn't have any negative effect on me and I eventually went on to marry and have a stable life, though my first marriage foundered for various reasons.

I would stress that there is a big difference between a female teacher/woman having sex with a teen male, and a male teacher/man taking advantage of a teen girl ­- that is totally wrong.

This older woman who had sex with me taught me everything I needed to know about physical sex and I see nothing wrong with that. I'd be interested to read your views on this.

MARY: Your letter raises so many interesting points, and thank you for writing to me. I can understand just how exciting the whole adventure was for you - your parents probably never had to nag you about going to school, or even doing your homework - and, thankfully, you didn't suffer as a result. I appreciate that you learned a lot about sex from this woman and reaped the benefit for many years. However, she was breaking the law, to say nothing of the trust that both your parents and the school board had put in her by placing you in her care.

There have been many reports of children - both male and female - being the victims of abuse, either sexual or physical, at the hands of teachers. Sometimes this abuse is same-sex, and very often the child has been too ashamed and afraid to tell anybody. It was different in your case, as you were a willing, eager participant. But it is still a form of abuse - abuse of her position and abuse of a minor.

I don't agree that it's fine for a female teacher and a young male whereas it is totally wrong for a male teacher and a young girl. Both can have disastrous results and there is the same degree of culpability in both cases.

I have recently seen at first hand the disastrous results on two separate families as the result of a married teacher having a fully sexual affair with a young student. The teacher's career was brought to an abrupt end, the family was torn apart and the student is now quite devastated that everybody knows what went on. I realise that your teacher was single as you went to her flat, but very often when there is such an age difference the teacher is already attached, and then even more people are affected.

What would have happened if you had experienced problems with regard to sexual performance with this woman? Luckily, this does not appear to have happened with you, but very often young men at the beginning of their sexual lives experience problems such as premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction and it takes a long time for them to build up their confidence and self-esteem in the light of their early problems.

But whatever the rights and wrong are, I feel that 14 or 15 is just too young to start being fully sexual.

No doubt I will get a lot of correspondence as a result of your letter - and thank you to all the readers who wrote to me regarding the 'Lonely with No Friends' letter writer a few weeks ago. She deeply appreciated all those who took the time to write words of encouragement, and felt very much validated as a result.

He cheated and then left me for another

Q: I am hoping you can help me with some advice and insight into my situation, as I'm desperate. I was in a relationship for five years, and I adored him. It was very passionate, but we fought a lot too.  I was always afraid he would leave me for someone else, as he had a lot more female friends through work than male.

I was worried about one girl in particular, and we fought about this. He would call me crazy, psycho and paranoid. When we broke up, he was going out a lot with work friends without me, because he said I would embarrass him with my jealousy. So I gave him space to prove I trusted him.

Then he broke up with me, saying he needed to be single and didn't want to be with anyone for at least a year, and he wanted to go travelling solo.

I was convinced something had happened between himself and that girl. We tried to stay friends, and I foolishly thought I could win him back, but six months later he admitted he was with her but that it had only just happened. I do not believe this.

It's been over two years since we broke up and I still can't get over this hurt and betrayal. I would never have done anything like that to him, and he knows how fragile I was, and he did this to me. It makes me feel worthless and that I never meant anything to him. I feel like those years were a waste of my time and the memories are tainted - I can't even look at the pictures from that time. I have been consumed with anger, hurt, and anxiety that wherever I go that I will bump into them. I haven't spoken to him in a year, but know they are still together and happy and he never did go travelling solo. I'm still alone and miserable.

I have worked on myself a lot the last two years, but how can I accept that the love of my life betrayed and broke my heart, and how can I forgive them and move on when they are not even sorry? I've met guys since who are into me but I feel like I will never be able to love or trust again.

MARY: I can see how upset you still are, but two years is a long time to be holding on to all of this emotion. You cannot allow things to continue like this, because while you are so sad your ex and his girlfriend appear to be very happy. You are the only one suffering .

If what you suspect is true, and he was seeing the girl from work while he was still with you, then that was horrible. He should have told you, and he would have earned your respect in due course when you got over the initial hurt. A clean break, although devastating, doesn't leave in its wake a person feeling betrayed and lied to.

But what if he was telling you the truth and he only started with her after you broke up? Would that make things any better for you? I don't think so, because what really hurts is that he is gone, that you loved him to bits and that it didn't work out. Perhaps part of you even fears that you pushed him into it, that by continually harping on about her he decided he may as well go ahead and have a relationship with her because you believed this is what he was doing anyway. I am assuming here that you instinctively knew that he fancied her.

As you have done work on yourself, you will hopefully have reached an understanding as to why you were so afraid that he would leave you. This understanding will be a very big plus when it comes to future relationships, and, believe me, they will happen when you are ready. Jealousy is a very difficult emotion for anybody to deal with and you don't want a repeat of what happened with your ex. I'm not in any way excusing him for being less than honest with you, if indeed he was. So next time around you will be looking for somebody who is completely trustworthy and whom you can believe. There are lots and lots of decent guys out there but you must be open to meeting them.

I know it will be difficult for you but, little by little, you will be able to build up your trust. It won't happen overnight, but it will be possible. In addition, as a new relationship develops and you get to know each other and reveal more about your past, you will be able to share what happened to you and this will help.

Rather than be anxious about bumping into the couple at some stage, make it your goal that when and if your paths cross, they will see a happy well-adjusted woman who is getting on with her life and exuding confidence and joy. Let him see what he is missing.

This probably does not describe you as you are right now, but it is achievable. You will have to move on, learn from whatever mistakes were made, and start looking ahead to new possibilities.

You speak about not being able to forgive because they are not sorry. How do you know? They may well be sorry for having hurt you. In any case, you do not have to forgive if you don't want to. Forgiveness is optional, but moving on is a must.

This man was the love of your life so far, but it did not have a happy ending. However, before it all went wrong there must have been some wonderful times, and you should treasure those rather than being afraid to think about them.

It's up to you to ensure that the next chapter has a much nicer conclusion, which is what I wish for you also.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at dearmary@independent.ie or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

Sunday Independent

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