“Elena could be the best student in the department but she gets distracted easily.”
“You mean by Dr. Stewart?” I immediately regretted bringing him up. The last thing I wanted to know about was a sordid departmental affair.
Nina smiled. “She’s not too subtle about it, is she?”
“Does she stand a chance?”
Nina looked at me a moment, as if considering how much to share. “I don’t know.”
The man made me want to throw up. “It doesn’t seem very ethical, getting involved with one of your students.”
“Dr. Stewart never has a relationship with a student he advises.”
“But anyone else is fair game?”
“I think you’re judging him too harshly. He never makes promises or shows favoritism.”
I was surprised by Nina’s naiveté. “Does he pass out his ground rules with the syllabus?” I said. “’Here’s what you can expect when you sleep with me.’”
She offered me an odd little smile, as if I was the naïve one. “He’s always very honest about his feelings, though I’m sure some women still fall in love with him.”
–excerpt from Goddess
When I first created the character of Dr. Ashland Stewart, I knew I wanted him to have a history of dating much younger students. It would make Julia Nelson, a 40-something mother of three, even more incredulous of the evidence that his lust was now directed towards her. But I was concerned that some readers might be turned off by the hunky archeologist’s professional ethics.
None of my beta readers seemed bothered by Dr. Stewart’s past, but a real-life professor–Laura Kipnis from Northwestern University–received a very different reaction when she defended professor/student romances in an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Two students filed a Title IX complaint against her, claiming that her article created a “chilling atmosphere” on reporting sexual assaults.
I’ve certainly had my share of crushes on teachers. A few of them may have had an interest in me, though I was too shy to consider that possibility. Would I have been worse off if I had slept with them? Sometimes yes, when I wasn’t ready to hold my own in a relationship with someone older. But at other times, I could see where taking a relationship from the classroom to the bedroom could have been an opportunity for a lot of fun as well as a great deal of personal growth.
My point is, while some sexual relationships (i.e children and adults) are clearly wrong and imbalanced, it’s unfair to make sweeping indictments when a student and teacher who are both adults want to continue their education between the sheets.