So I just received a bit of disturbing news…
But first, a hypothetical situation:
Sixteen year old girl, back in her home town after a year long leave of absence, sneaks into a bar. She looks mature for her age and no one’s seen her around so she gets away with it. In this bar, she meets this young looking guy, very attractive, and clearly interested in her. Now she’s sixteen and he’s old enough to patron a bar so we already know he’s too old for her, but they flirt anyway. They both love poetry and have an intellectual conversation about literature and they’re clearly compatible and attractive and attracted to each other. When they later find out the next day that he’s her high school English teacher, it adds a forbidden element to the whole affair. It becomes more dangerous, more enticing. They continue to see each other, despite it being illegal and they go on to have a relationship and have sex and all that jazz.
I lied, this is not a hypothetical situation, this is the plot for one of the main characters of Pretty Little Liars: Aria Montgomery and Ezra Fitz.
In the pilot episode when Aria and Ezra first met, Lucy Hale (Aria) was actually 21 years old. That meant standing next to 24-year-old Ian Harding wasn’t shocking to the sense like a teacher/student relationship should be.
That looks okay, right? We’re not immediately up in arms about this because they don’t look like teacher and student even though the show told us they are.
This, and the tragic romance of their whole story-arc, created a really creepy perspective in high school girls that dating older men isn’t just forbidden and exciting but desirable. Look at how pretty and acceptable this couple is! Wouldn’t you want the same thing?
Now I don’t know how many young girls this couple actually influenced into dating older men, but considering the popularity of the show, especially in young women of high school age, I can imagine there’s been a spike in age-inappropriate dating.
Now back to my disturbing news from the beginning of the post.
I have a friend who is now dating her high school English teacher.
It’s worth noting that she’s out of high school now: she’s twenty years old. So while the relationship isn’t illegal, it’s still very creepy and very off-putting.
Because here’s the thing about the teacher, let’s call him Mr. Shakespeare: He’s not young, or even young-looking like Ian Harding. He’s mid-forties, at least, and divorced. And guess who his divorcee is… ANOTHER ex-student.
There have been girls in high school who would complain about Mr. Shakespeare. That he would be staring at their chests or down their shirts. That he got too close, touched their arms or whatever when he passed. My brother’s friend literally threatened Mr. Shakespeare to stay away from his girlfriend because he wasn’t comfortable with how close Mr. Shakespeare was getting to her. He likes them young.
As far as I know, he’s never done anything illegal. He waits til they’re out of high school to marry them. But he’s still a predator. That first wife… my theory is she got too old. So he divorced her. Now he’s got another bright-eyed Shakespeare fan just wanting to be his muse. He practices photography. Takes pictures of her. How is this not the grossest thing you’ve ever heard?
To her it’s romantic. They’re both a bit quirky, it makes sense they’d get together. That’s what some of the kids have been saying.
And I don’t want to undermine her choice by saying this – I don’t, she’s an adult and she’s free to go out with whoever she wants – but I have a bad feeling about this. I don’t like the power-dynamic. I don’t like the age difference. I don’t like his history or methods.
This is a predatory relationship. And she’s just repeating what she saw on TV.