Relationships between students and teachers have compelled readers for generations, ever since mediaeval French philosopher Abelard’s letters to his student Heloise.

In fiction these taboo, secretive, relationships can make for an exciting read. In real life, however, these romances are pretty unethical (and obviously illegal if the student is underage). 

Society’s obsession with scandal makes readers forget that this trope romanticises a massive abuse of trust and power. Forget how ‘adorable’ you found Ezra and Aria’s relationship in Pretty Little Liars and use some critical thinking! 

We’ve compiled a list of three books that include this dangerous trope and we’re going to tell you everything that’s wrong with them.

Flanders Point by Jacquie Gordon

Set in Connecticut in 1955, this novel follows the relationship between Charlotte and her English teacher, Brian, at an all-girls’ private school. Yes, they might have a close connection and yes Charlotte is 18 when their relationship crosses a line. That doesn’t change the fact that Brian is a sexual predator who takes advantage of a vulnerable young girl.

Disgrace by J.M Coetzee

When middle-aged professor David Lurie has an affair with a student, the book focuses almost entirely on the impact this has on his life and career. Told entirely from David’s perspective, this Booker Prize winning novel completely ignores the effects this has on the student.

Teach Me by R.A. Nelson

Main character Carolina’s relationship with her teacher, Mr Mann, seems rushed, downplaying how predatory he really is. Much like Flanders Point, the relationship doesn’t become sexual until the student turns 18 – but that doesn’t take away from the power imbalance or the teacher’s responsibility. 


If you liked this post then read Toxic Tropes: Should bad boys be banned? or Cyber love: Romance novels in the digital era next.

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Sophie Olejnik

Sophie Olejnik

Sophie is a trainee journalist at The University of Sheffield who specialises in feature writing. She has a keen passion for books and would love to work in the publishing industry in the future. She’s particularly passionate about how our ever-changing planet is represented in the books we read.

Favourite genres: Thrillers and Contemporary Fiction.