While browsing lingerie at Eden Fantasys recently, Jill and I decided to visit SexIs, their newsmagazine covering a wide variety of sex-related topics, from sexual health to politics. We came across this article, from April 29, 2011, written by Rayne Millaray.
In the article, Millaray writes about Judy Buranich, an English teacher at a public high school in Middleburg, Pennsylvania. Though popular with her students and former students, and despite the fact that she has been a presumably valued member of the Midd-West School District for more than thirty years, Ms. Buranich came under fire when it was discovered that she wrote erotic romance on the side.
In the article, Wendy Apple, both a former student taught by Ms. Buranich and the parent of a current student, calls her once-secret second career "unethical [and] totally unacceptable." Having done a little research, I found a number of articles on the story from various news agencies, many of which elaborate on the negative reaction parents had upon learning that their children's teacher was an accomplished erotica writer.
Huffington Post's article, for example, quotes one Kelly Hornberger: "It's unbeliveable... I can't even imagine someone would write such stuff... And I don't want my son sitting in her class thinking, is she looking at him in a certain way..."
Seriously? Look, I know we live in sex-negative, socially conservative times, but this is ridiculous. Is the average person so ignorant and ass-backward that he or she believes that someone who writes dirty stories intended for and marketed to adults actually contemplates sex with children? Are people that hopelessly out of touch with human sexuality?
Or, as I suspect is frequently the case, are people so instinctively worried about being viewed by others as sexually open-minded that they make boneheaded blanket judgments like the one made by Kelly Hornberger? Incidentally "Hornberger" sounds like something you might call a person who is preoccupied with sex. Not that I advocate making fun of people's names or anything.
According to The Daily Item, parents aren't questioning Ms. Buranich's abilities as either an English teacher or as a novelist. According to parent Deanna Stepp, "What we're [suggesting] is that the two jobs are not compatible with one another." I might be persuaded to concede that "high school English teacher" and "erotica writer" are in fact not compatible professions; fortunately, as former student Matthew Hile told WNEP, "She wrote under a pen name. She didn't try to make herself famous in the town. She didn't try to sell her books to kids. She didn't try to push her belief on to the students."
While the manner in which Ms. Buranich's supplemental career became public knowledge isn't made clear in any of the articles I read, I'm sure that her detractors will point out that, regardless of how, the truth did in fact come out. As a result, teenagers in Middleburg now know that the self-professed mild-mannered English teacher writes erotica on the side. These teenagers will not need therapy to deal with this discovery. They will not develop an unhealthy interest in sex as a result - as teenagers, they have likely already developed a healthy interest in it - nor will they become potential victims of a predatory sex offender as suggested by Kelly Hornberger. Like most individuals who encounter human sexuality in the wild, they will shrug it off and continue to live their lives. Perhaps knowledge of their teacher's side profession will spark their interest and they will pay more attention in her class.
If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know that Jill and I are very sex-positive people. We are socially liberal on a lot of issues, especially those that concern sexuality. Recall the story of One Million Moms.com and their petition to force three major drugstore chains to stop selling sex toys on their website. As parents ourselves, we understand the desire to protect one's children from harm, but we can't help but get a Chicken Little vibe from Ms. Buranich and her story.
Over the last decade especially, it seems that sex-related hysteria amongst suburban American parents is at an all-time high. Does anyone remember the moral panic over those cheap bracelets that could be traded for sexual favors? How about the mass freakout over Rainbow Parties, which gained notoriety after they were discussed by Oprah?
As no evidence ever emerged that either of these phenomena truly existed, the only explanation that I have is that such urban legends were created as a means of regulating teenage sexuality (and presumably adult sexuality in some fashion). By whipping well-meaning but frightened Middle American parents into a paranoid frenzy, the conservative element in this country has forced parents to be involved in their children's lives. I am in no way saying that getting parents involved in their children's after-school activities is in and of itself a bad thing, but I am most definitely saying that fear of sex is at least partially responsible for the type of shocking social dysfunction at which Americans seem to excel.
We have a personal interest in this story; Like Ms. Buranich, Jill is a public school teacher. She's not just any public school teacher; she's a kindergarten teacher. Specifically, Jill is a kindergarten teacher who writes erotic stories; witness her Open Box, a piece of short fiction that she wrote for this blog, and which was recently read by the inimitable Lady Grinning Soul as part of her excellent Christmas podcast.
Any consideration that Ms. Buranich may have been given because her students are teenagers and likely already have their own thoughts on sex and sexuality would not apply to Jill, whose students are five years old and unable to protect themselves from a teacher who is at the mercy of her wanton sexuality - or at least, that is how I imagine my wife would be perceived were her non-vanilla, erotica-writing side made public.
At the end of the day, what a teacher chooses to do in his or her private life, i.e. when he or she is not actively working with impressionable children, should not influence perception of his or her day job. Public school teachers make so little money as it is, and the thought that they should be forced to choose between the job they love and the job that actually puts food on the table, is the latest in a long line of indignities with which our educators are forced to deal.
Now that that's out of the way, we're going to do a little more browsing, and hopefully order something naughty from Eden Fantasys.
This post was sponsored by EdenFantasys.com.