Can Educators Write Erotica?

Thanks to Wikimedia for the image.

A high school English teacher has been outed as a romance novelist, leading parents to question whether she’s fit to teach their children. The teacher writes under a pen name, and had not received complaints about the appropriateness of her teaching before someone recognized her from her writing publicity photos.

This raises the question: is it appropriate for an educator to also be involved in a profession that involves thinking and writing about sex? One parent complained: “Now my son knows so how is he thinking when he’s sitting in her class knowing what she does on the side.” This isn’t the first situation of its kind: in an earlier MSP post on sex work and academia, I discussed standards of appropriateness specific to the educational workplace. It seems like there are no easy answers, however: parents are often protective of their children, which can unfortunately curtail the personal liberties of educators who might choose anything other than a standard sex life.

I believe that it is unrealistic to expect educators to act like asexual beings. For one thing, most people are sexual at some point in their lives, and it’s senseless to put constraints on their sexuality. Who is to be the judge of whether it’s appropriate for an educator to mention that they’re getting married or having kids (implying that sex can/has/will take place)? How much detail is allowed when discussing aspects of human life that are sexual and social and utterly important to the people whose lives are at stake? For another thing, it’s impossible to prove that educators who engage with sex–either as sex workers or by writing erotica–are any worse at their jobs than educators who don’t do anything of the sort. Finally, it’s absurd to think that students are traumatized or distracted by knowing something about their educators’ engagement with sexuality. Are children traumatized by knowing that their parents had sex to conceive them? Do we think so little of kids that we assume they freak out every time someone implies that someone once had or thought about sex?

Placing unrealistic constraints on what educators are allowed to write or do or think about not only impinges on the human rights of educators, but also infantilizes children by implying that they are unable to interact with sexuality at all. If an educator is good at educating, and does not inappropriately bring sexual materials into the classroom, why would writing erotica on the side matter?

Follow us on Twitter @mysexprofessor. Follow Jeana, the author of this post, @foxyfolklorist.

About Jeana

Jeana

Jeana Jorgensen, PhD recently completed her doctoral degree in folklore and gender studies at Indiana University. She studies fairy tales and other narratives, dance, body art, feminist theory, digital humanities, and gender identity.

  • http://bloketoys.co.uk Mens Sex Toys

    When parents expect the state to educate their children instead of taking the time to do it themselves (as I believe should be the case) they have ZERO right to dictate what that free individual does outside of the classroom.
    The teacher has a life, and they have the same rights to freedom as the rest of us.
    If a parent doesn’t like a tutor teaching their kids, they should take them out of school, quit wining, and do the job themselves.

    I believe that these are the same types of parents who scream about “protecting children” from the dangers of the Internet, while completely failing to take any responsibility themselves. They believe that the rest of the world should suit their specific beliefs, and that is never going to happen.

    They should put up or shut up. Leave the poor teacher to live her life as she wants, and if they don’t like it, they need to quit relying on the nation for their child’s education.

  • http://twitter.com/foxyfolklorist Jeana Jorgensen

    I agree: parents should be proactive about their children’s education, ranging from literacy to sex and so on. If anything, parents should acknowledge that their kids will encounter unexpected topics and things in the outside world, and teach their children to think for themselves, so that they can evaluate new situations for themselves.

  • http://twitter.com/foxyfolklorist Jeana Jorgensen

    I agree: parents should be proactive about their children’s education, ranging from literacy to sex and so on. If anything, parents should acknowledge that their kids will encounter unexpected topics and things in the outside world, and teach their children to think for themselves, so that they can evaluate new situations for themselves.

  • Anonymoose

    What happens to humans in that short period of time where they go from being a wild and crazy teenager who wants to explore sex … to having a giant stick up their ass about sex.  That time period is only about 10 to 20 years from being age 18 to 38.  Yet, somehow they went from being thrilled about ‘accidently’ finding a novel in highschool that has dirty parts in it … to being horrified and indignant if their own child / teen should run into anything that involves sexual development whatsoever.  It make adults look like the boring, grumpy, old ‘squares’ that teens say we are.

  • http://twitter.com/foxyfolklorist Jeana Jorgensen

     I think you raise a good point, that adults have forgotten how thrilling event the slightest hint of sex was when they were younger, and hence are acting hypocritically when they try to censor their teens’ exposure to sexual materials. I mean, I’d rather have my hypothetical teenager thinking or reading about sex than engaging in it! (not that such a dichotomy necessarily exists, nor can you control your kids’ behavior) Sure, sexual behavior comes with its own risks, but how are teens to know that if nobody tells them about it?!