Male or female, sexual exploitation is never a romp – as Chris Brown's victimisation as a child proves

A male teacher has “seedy, sordid sex” with a girl, while A female teacher has “sex romps” with a boy

Related Topics

Compared to much of the sexual exploitation meted out to children and minors in our society, the horrific daily revelations of current and historic rape, molestation and violence, it would be safe to consider drama teacher Lindsay Black as a minor offender.

The 28-year-old from Newport conducted sexually suggestive exercises with her class of teenagers and, more seriously, made sexual overtures to a 17 year old pupil over Facebook, text and email. Her invitations were declined and there was no physical or sexual contact. The General Teaching Council struck her off but police took no further action. Both of those decisions look broadly reasonable under the circumstances.  

The incident may look insignificant, but not to editors at the Sun, who opted to splash the story on their front page under the banner headline MISS MUCKY and the teaser line: “Teacher asked lad for romp and urged pupils to mime sex.”

The slavering, salacious tone is not unique to this story, of course. An unscientific but revealing search on Google News archives produces hundreds of returns for the phrase “Sex romp teacher” and of the first dozen different stories, eleven referred to a female teacher with a male pupil, only once were the genders reversed. As a broad rule of thumb for tabloid terminology, a male teacher has “seedy, sordid sex” with a girl, but “abuses” a boy. A female teacher has “an illicit lesbian affair” with a girl, and “sex romps” with a boy.  It goes without saying that the extent of verbal salivation in stories featuring a female offender directly correlates with her youth and conventional prettiness. 

It would be tempting to dismiss this as just another manifestation of our exploitative, sexist, tabloid culture, but it speaks to a deeper and more worrying tendency for our culture to trivialise the sexual exploitation of boys by women. Relationships between teachers and young adults happen within the hazy boundaries of consent and coercion. They may not always be experienced as exploitative or traumatising for the juvenile, but they are rightly forbidden by both teachers’ ethics and the law - such relationships are always an abuse of position, an abuse of trust and have enormous potential to be psychologically harmful. That is true irrespective of the genders involved. And yet with a female perpetrator and male victim, they are described with the playful, jokey word “romp” – a journalistic cliché normally reserved for gossipy intrusions into the lives of adulterous footballers and strippers.

Similar attitudes are revealed even when the boys involved are not strapping, physically mature 17-year-olds, but small children. Last month the Guardian ran an interview with R&B star and convicted domestic abuser Chris Brown, in which he described “losing his virginity” to a 15-year-old girl at the age of eight. By then he had already been exposed to so much pornography that he considered himself ready to be sexually active. By any rational reading, he was prematurely sexualised, then raped. Very typically of male sexual abuse victims, Brown rationalised the incident into a tale of his own macho prowess and laughed it off. Interviewer Decca Aitkenhead let the revelation pass without mention, and in the following days Gawker, and even nominally feminist magazine Jezebel ran appalling comment pieces effectively vilifying Brown as having been a sexual predator from the age of eight.  

It took African-American bloggers to point out not only that was Brown a victim of sexual abuse, but that coverage of his revelation fits perfectly with common racist narratives of hypersexualised black men, and that Brown was just the latest in a succession of black male music stars and celebrities to have admitted that their first sexual experiences were as children, instigated by much older or adult women.

Agencies and professionals who work with male victims of sexual abuse by women report that the biggest obstacles to change are attitudes that say either that such abuse doesn’t happen at all, or that if it does, it doesn’t really count as abuse. The prevailing myth is that boys, even from a prepubescent age, are insatiably sexually voracious or curious, that any heterosexual activity will be welcomed and enjoyed.  Those myths are of course internalised by boys themselves, who can then find it extremely difficult to reconcile those beliefs with the feelings of anger, betrayal, loss and violation that are often the consequences of child sexual abuse.  

Reinventing our cultural responses to the sexual abuse of boys will take time and persistence. Many of the problems are tied up in broader conceptions of male sexuality and patriarchal gender roles, such as the pressures on boys to be a prolific stud as a badge of masculine honour. Healing the wounds will take time, but demanding a bit more responsibility from newspaper editors would be a very good place to start.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The traditional Boxing Day hunt in Lacock  

For foxes' sake: Don't let the bloody tradition of the Boxing Day hunt return

Mimi Bekhechi

Letter from the Deputy Editor: i’s Review of the Year

Andrew Webster
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all