Case Narrative

A Consenting Juveniles narrative is a first-hand account reporting the words of the research subject on his or her experience.

David Steinberg

There was a special energy about her.

Source:   Beyond Predators and Victims: The Not-So-Sensational Story of Debra Lafave and her 14-Year-Old Student
by David Steinberg
Comes Naturally, January 16, 2006

David Steinberg is a writer, photographer, and political activist.

When I was in high school, there was one teacher who stood out from all the others in a way that I’m imagining Debra Lafave stood out from the other teachers at Greco Middle School. She was young, attractive, vivacious, full of energy that she expressed with her body as well as with her mind. On top of everything else, she didn’t maintain the professional aura that seemed so much a part of all the other teachers’ personalities. She was down-to-earth, she talked to us students about her personal life, she didn’t create a sense of separation between herself and us.

She was, well, sexy, although I never would have thought of her in that way then. I don’t think any of us would have thought of her in those terms then. But we all knew that there was a special energy about her and we enjoyed being near her so we could feel the radiance of it, share it, reflect it, imitate it to some degree.

She had a boyfriend, I think he was her fiancé, whom she adored. She was quite open in talking to us about their relationship, about their being in love, about places they would go and things they would do together. Through her we got a sense of what it was like to be 25 years old, in love, and excited about life.

I remember one time when Miss Klein (not her real name) was telling a group of us, with much gesturing and excitement, about a restaurant she and her boyfriend had gone to over the weekend. It was an Italian place, she told us, and as you entered there was a big fountain with a statue in the middle of it, a statue of a cherub, and the cherub was holding his penis and the water in the fountain poured out of his penis. She thought the fountain was the coolest thing in the world, and of course we all did too. We laughed. We looked at each other with wide eyes. Miss Klein was talking to us excitedly about outrageous fountains full of peeing cherubs!

We all knew that she enjoyed our company, enjoyed joking with us, enjoyed telling us stories, enjoyed telling us stories about sexy things, enjoyed hearing our stories, enjoyed us. And I knew that, of all the students, I was her favorite. There was something special between us, powerful and unnamed, a vibrant mutual appreciation. It was exciting and it felt good.

Fortunately, it was a time before concern about teenage-adult sex had been raised to the level of mass hysteria. As a result, Miss Klein was able to be personal and real and vibrant and sexy and emotionally expressive to me and to many of the other students in a way that would be professionally dangerous today.

I remember at least one time when Miss Klein came to my house after school. I have no idea how she came to be in my house, but that’s where she was. The one thing I remember about that time is that I took the opportunity to play her the music that I found the most thrilling in all the world – the pure liquid voice of Joan Baez, and the majesty of Handel’s Messiah. Playing that music for Miss Klein was my unconscious, unspoken way of showing her what I had discovered so far about the wonder of ecstatic feeling. Somehow I knew that she would appreciate what this was about for me.

We lay side by side, stretched out on the living room carpet, close in front of the speakers, sharing a feeling that I would later learn to literalize and express explicitly as sex. Miss Klein grinned at my passion for the music and I felt confirmed, felt that she understood and respected my pubescent passion, and could see that my passion was not entirely unrelated to the passion she experienced in her life, in her body, with her fiancé, even though it expressed itself in very different ways.

Miss Klein and I never expressed our appreciation for each other, or our shared appreciation for passionate life, in any kind of directly sexual way. I was very young at 15, had not so much as kissed a girl in a sexual way. It never would have occurred to me that the bond I felt with Miss Klein had anything to do with sexual attraction, although I can clearly see it in retrospect. I certainly never experienced any kind of sexual energy coming from Miss Klein toward me.

But what if she and I had taken our mutual excitement and appreciation into the realm of physical sex? What would have changed for me, in terms of my subsequent sexual development, self esteem, personal identity, and experience? What if I had been more mature sexually, more interested in physically exploring my sexual feelings, as Debra Lafave’s student clearly was? Would the forbidden nature of sexual contact with an older person, with a teacher, have shrouded any sexual activity in guilt and shame, or would the outrageousness of such a connection have been a source of additional excitement and attraction? Would a sexual overture from a teacher have felt like an intrusion, even if she genuinely cared about me and understood the distance between her life situation and mine? Would it have felt like a demand that I could not say no to? Or might I have experienced it as a positive statement about my desirability, a confirmation to hold up against sexual self-doubt as I began to be sexual with other people my own age?

I have heard many stories from people whose first sexual experience was as teenagers with adults, many of whom have said that these experiences taught them things and gave them positive feelings about themselves that served them well throughout their lives. One woman friend talks of a middle-aged man who hung out in the park next to her high school when she was a girl. All the girls at her school knew that this man enjoyed initiating girls into sex. Those girls who wanted to be initiated by him would approach him in the park and see what would develop. My friend had her first sexual experience with this man who, she says, was sensitive, caring, considerate, and knowledgeable. She credits her still vibrant sexual relationship with her longtime husband to this man, who would certainly have been locked up for life if he had ever been discovered.

For better or for worse, Miss Klein and I kept our delight with each other strictly in the non-sexual realm. When I graduated from high school (still not quite 16), Miss Klein wrote in my yearbook: "David, keep enjoying life, people and discoveries always as you do now – life will be great." She was right about that.

Under the yearbook photo of the cheerleader squad, she felt free to add: "I wish you great success here too!"

Limited excerpt reproduced under fair use doctrine for noncommercial, educational purpose.