What makes an adult woman want to have sex with a schoolboy?

Another day, another story about a teacher having sex with a teenage student. Strangely though, more and more of these reports are about female teachers and schoolboys. Why is it that we react so differently when the stereotypical gender roles are reversed?

If the phrase ‘teacher student relationship’ makes you immediately recoil with images of male teachers preying on their vulnerable young female students – you’re not alone.

However the picture that we conjure in our own minds doesn’t necessarily match the reality. This week two instances of female teachers in sexual relationships with their young male students have come to light, which begs the question: What makes an adult woman want to have sex with a schoolboy?

Kate Burgess

Kelly Burgess, 26, a drama teacher from Wales has been charged with sexual offences against a teenage boy.

The high school drama teacher is facing four allegations of sexual behaviour with the boy who was in her classes.

At this stage the authorities have not revealed the boy's exact age. But we know that he is under 18 and could possibly be as young as 13.

Burgess reportedly got to know the schoolboy while directing a school musical during the 2013 school year and has been suspended from teaching until she faces court in March.

This comes on top of reports that high school teacher Nikki Scherwitz, also 26, a teacher in the US state of Texas, will escape jail despite having had sex with a 16-year-old male student.

Their sexual relationship began when Scherwitz turned up to the school prom after-party, drunk and wearing a ripped t-shirt. She's been fined $5600 and sentenced to ten years probation. Given that sex with a minor accounts to statutory rape in Texas, the sentence is surprisingly light and appears to have been made so because of the clear remorse Scherwitz showed. She penned this apology letter to the school:


Wow. Okay. One can't help but wonder if Scherwitz had been male and the student she preyed upon, female, would the court (and indeed, the community's) response have been the same?

It seems as if, when a woman is in the position of power in these sexual relations cases, the community view is that these women are somehow 'less criminal' because they're in love. Because they genuinely care for the boys.

Switch the gender of the accused in each incident. Imagine for a moment that they were male teachers having sex with female students.

I suspect the community's train of thought would be more like: "That's disgusting! What a creep! That man needs to go to jail for being a pedophile. How do these men become teachers in the first place. That poor girl..."

We automatically assume a more emotional view of the female teachers. We're subconsciously more sympathetic towards their (illegal!) behaviour and somehow willing to excuse their actions simply because they're women.

So what possesses these attractive, young, educated women to become sexually involved with boys and why do we react more emotionally towards female perpetrators compared to male?

iVillage Australia spoke to Dr Chris Lennings, a clinical and forensic psychologist at LSC Psychology, who provided us with some insight into the minds of these women.

What makes an adult woman want to have sex with a child student?

There are a number of different typology of female sex offenders, and included in most is the "teacher/lover" typology, describing an infrequent but observed relationship between a teacher and a student. This typology refers to female teachers and male students, but is obviously also applicable to same sex and to male teachers/female student combinations.

There is no easy answer to this. In some cases the teacher is immature and the maturity levels of teacher and student are well matched; the teacher forgets or ignores boundaries as they seek to meet their companionship and sexual needs.

Typically such teachers describe their attraction to the student as "love".  In others, the teachers derive a sense of power from engaging in such behaviour, and to some degree represent a predisposition or predatory classification. That is, they chose teaching so as to have access to victims that meet their fantasy and sexual needs.

There are probably multiple other reasons, such as depression reducing judgement, children who remind them of former lovers, and in some cases the attraction may be mutual where a student forms a crush on a  teacher and the teacher loses their sense of boundary about what is acceptable and not acceptable behaviour and opportunistically takes advantage of the situation.

Why do we seem to react far more emotionally to woman who begin sexual relationships with students than men?

I think it may have something to do with sociology, that is we see women as protectors and men as more predators so when a woman acts out of role we judge her more harshly than we judge men who act, in a predatory sense, within their role. To my mind there is no difference.

Do you think community's are more accepting of inappropriate relationships between female teachers and schoolboys, than cases where the genders are reversed?