Monday, 1 October 2012

Safe From Harm

According to Mail Online's Liz Jones, teenage girls are dangerous and adult men need to be kept safe from them. In response to the story of teacher Jeremy Forrest absconding to France with his 15-year-old pupil Megan Stammer, Ms. Jones wrote an article in which she said male teachers need protection because the lengths that a teenage girl will go to when she fancies a man are superhuman.

Ms. Jones goes on to say, if you’d been, as I was, at White City for a David Cassidy concert, you would have seen that the teenage – and much younger – girl can bring down walls, policemen, any barrier to get at the object of her affection. Safety, sense and reality do not come into the equation. Love at this age is like a fever, and although the young woman is not to blame, she is dangerous, too.

Right. Maybe we should have a proper look at and an actual think about what Ms. Jones is saying. That would be fun, wouldn't it! Ms. Jones is in bold italics.

Of course an adult in a position of trust should never take advantage of his position – but I don’t think anyone who has not been a teenage girl realises the extent of their sexuality, the extraordinary longing, the passion. Yeah. Or, maybe this instead: Of course an adult in a position of power should never take advantage of his position. End of sentence. Teachers, especially young, male ones, know that teenage girls will have crushes on them. If they don't, they're cretins. It's the teacher's responsibility to not go there. And, more to the point, why would he want to go there unless he had a really fucked up view of women? And Ms. Jones, what do you mean when you talk about the 'extent of [girls'] sexuality' and this thing about 'extraordinary longing'? You're just talking about feeling horny which is a completely normal feeling. Stop talking about teenage girls' sexuality in such predatory terms. Don't be such a misogynist.

Ms. Jones talks about her own, personal experience of having a man for a teacher: Mr Smith seemed to pay me special attention, entering me for writing competitions. But he was too far away and grown-up for me to ever think of him as a love interest, or boyfriend material, and he smelled like an old man – tobacco, and sock. I couldn’t fantasise about him although, trust me, I tried. Right. So, you're saying that you had a male teacher who noticed that you were good at writing and that you didn't fancy him. But that you tried to fancy him. Why did you do that? You're weird. Oh! But you didn't  do that, did you? You're just saying that you tried to fantasise about him to give your argument (which, btw, is  ALL OVER THE PLACE) some weight. Clever clogs! And the reason this is obvious is because trying to fantasise about someone isn't how fantasising about someone works; you basically just said that yourself in the bit you wrote about feeling horny.

I had to fantasise instead about David Cassidy, and David Essex, who were luckily too far away from my ink-stained grip to be harmed. You had to? Who made you? And what, prey tell, would you have done to harm them had they been nearer to you? Are you actually saying that when a teenage girl fancies an adult male, he needs to be kept safe? From what? Accidentally groping her because of her extraordinary longing and passion? Poor The Men! It must be terrifying for them that they're penises run their lives. But, the thing is, we all know that this is bullshit, don't we? How? Because we've all met men who don't behave like that and the reason they don't isn't because they're being kept safe from the clutches of demonic, teenage whores. No. It's because they're nice, un-fucked up people who want to be in relationships and have sex with people they respect and have stuff in common with.

Male teachers need protection, and to be given strict guidelines and protocol. I wonder if Jeremy – the subject of so much bile and whose life and career are over – was told by his superiors how to dress, speak and behave. All teachers need protection, Ms. Jones; like employment rights and good working conditions and fair pay and stuff like that. Male teachers do not need to be protected from teenage girls who have crushes on them. All they need to do is be the kind of men who have healthy relationships with themselves and, therefore, the kind of men who make appropriate choices when it comes to women. And Mr. Forrest probably was told how to behave. The conversation might have gone a bit like this: we don't really need to tell you not to run off with a 15-year-old student because that kind of goes without saying. Happy teaching, Jeremy.

But the problem now is that today’s male teachers look like boy band members so, of course, the affection is directed much closer to home. Oh, fuck off. All people age. And when this happens, they all say things like, 'you know, I went to the hospital the other day to get my leg amputated and the consultant looked about twelve years old! The consultant!!!! TWELVE!!!!' Men who look young are not the problem here; men who are not healthy people are the problem here.

At 18, I wore brown loons, had greasy hair and spots. I wonder if he’d have reacted differently if I’d shopped tastefully at Topshop and learned make-up skills from Cheryl Cole. In other words, 'ugly girls don't need to worry because men only want to fuck teenagers who know how to dress properly. And girls who dress up and wear make-up are asking for it.' Nice. Really nice.

Yes, Megan seemed to wear a uniform, but look at her eyes – caked in mascara – and the pale-pink lip gloss. This is the crucial difference between girls now and girls when I was growing up. I looked like a child, so it was easier for a teacher not to become deluded. Yeah, Megan is EVIL. Just look at her eyes; they're EVIL. She made Jeremy take her to France by putting a spell on him with her mascara and lip gloss. What a predatory, calculating witch.

There have been a lot of conversations about this story, some of which have been kind of worrying. People have proclaimed that the age difference between Megan and her teacher isn't that big; that they really are in love; that the boundaries are 'blurry'. Hmmmm. Maybe they are; maybe they've got loads in common; maybe she's really mature for her age, whatever that actually means. It's doubtful though. Yes, age differences happen. But there's a huge difference between a 15 year age gap of people in their 30s and 40s and that of a 15-year-old and her 30-year-old teacher. And yes, we're all hearing the beautiful 'love stories' about two people who were in a similar situation to Megan and Jeremy and who are still 'incredibly happy together'. But, there's money on these people probably not really being OK and not really functioning in a healthy way. No offence.

In the midst of rebellion, challenging their own personal boundaries and trying to impress their peers15-year-old girls do a lot of stuff they're not sure they want to do and, even when they're pretty sure they don't want to do it, they can be crap at saying so. They'll boast about stuff that they actually feel like shit about, pretend that they can handle themselves when, in fact, they're terrified. Everything is hugely confusing. They'll make mistakes. Sometimes they'll learn from them. The odds are, patronising or not, that Megan Stammer hasn't really got a clue what she wants even if she is insisting otherwise right now.

Teenage girls can engage in risky behaviour with men and often enter into situations that they have neither the wit nor the experience to exit. Any 30-year-old male teacher who claims not to know this is not OK. And if he really thinks that he wants to be in an actual relationship with a 15-year-old then he is, at worst, really unwell and needs much help or, at best, a narcissist. 

Oh, and just to be clear, it's not the men who need protecting in these situations. Teenage girls need to be kept safe and the adults around them need to do their absolute best to help them make friends with themselves.