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Friday, January 22, 2010
School Sex Viewed Via the Gender Lens
By Joline Gutierrez Krueger
Journal Staff Writer
As word spread about illicit sexual dalliances alleged to have occurred between Albuquerque middle school teacher Kristy Sanchez-Trujillo and her 13-year-old male student last October, more adolescent boys than you would like to believe were entertaining two thoughts:
Was she hot?
Wasn't he a lucky dude?
But here, let one of my own adolescent sons explain:
"It's rare when a teacher is hot enough and agreeable to doing that," he told me, trampling on 16 years of parental wisdom with his every word. "It's like a fantasy. It's like, way to go, well done, yeah."
And then he added:
"All my middle school teachers were not like that. They were too old."
Well, thank heavens for that.
So there you have it. While most of us are justifiably horrified and disgusted by teacher-pupil sexcapades, it is easy for others, especially those in the MySpace set, to blur the lines between victim and victor, pedophile and Penthouse reverie.
Which makes it all the more curious to note the reaction last week to similar allegations made against yet another Albuquerque Public Schools teacher this time, a male, Patrick Matthews, now formerly of Volcano Vista High School, and involving a 16-year-old female student.
(So as not to suggest that APS is the only district where teacher sex scandals occur, it should be noted that similar allegations against a staff member at Christian Life Academy in Santa Fe, a coach at Tularosa Middle School and a substitute teacher at Santa Teresa High School also surfaced within the past week.)
Certainly, an overwhelming majority were disgusted with the accusations involving Matthews and the girl. But the adolescent viewpoint this time veered more toward slut than swagger.
While the boy in the Sanchez-Trujillo case was seen by some of his peers (and small-brained men) as a sexual victor, the girl in the Matthews case was seen as a sexual vixen or a liar hell bent on retaliation for a bad grade or a rebuffed crush.
The gender-specific stereotyping is evident, but what is more troubling is the notion that some teens believe both the boy and the girl were consenting participants in what may or may not have transpired between them and their teachers.
But let's be clear here. This is no rite of passage, no acceptable January-December romance. Those who subscribe to the notion that teenagers are already masters of their universe fail to consider that the teenage brain is far from mature, a fact clearly illustrated by my son's statement.
Adult sex with a teenager heck, teenage sex with a teenager cannot be consensual because a child is not at the age or mental capacity of consent.
Adults, both men and women, know this, and yet shows like "To Catch a Predator" never seem to run out of grown-ups trolling for young prey.
Call me crazy, but I can't fathom being turned on by a punky kid smelling of Doritos and dirty socks who was still in diapers when I was in college.
Which would be about the age spread between Matthews and Sanchez-Trujillo and their teenage, um, companions.
So how does this happen?
In her book, "Protecting Your Children from Sexual Predators," Dr. Leigh Baker suggests there are four types of sexual predators: the inadequate, the narcissist, the anti-social rule breakers and the pedophiles.
Women, Baker believes, tend to fall in the first two categories. They either see themselves as victimized or as having low self-esteem. Or they crave attention and affection no matter what lines they must cross to get it.
Other studies indicate women predators more than their male counterparts have lives in turmoil.
Sanchez-Trujillo, we know from court records, had been divorced from her military husband in July.
But we know very little of Matthews' life other than students thought he was friendly, especially with girls.
No matter whether a court of law eventually finds Matthews or Sanchez-Trujillo guilty or not guilty of the charges (Sanchez-Trujillo's case is expected to go to the grand jury any day now), it's safe to say both teachers have tossed away their careers and their lives as they knew them.
It will take years to learn what kind of price has been paid by their young accusers.
It would be nice to think lessons have been learned here, but until everybody, including teens, realize that "Hot for Teacher" couplings are crimes and not consensual, there's still a lot of teaching to be done.
UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. You can reach Joline at 823-3603, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg.