Sexing the Teacher

School Sex Scandals and Queer Pedagogies

Sheila L. Cavanagh

  • Published: 2007. Paperback 2008
  • Subject Listing: Anthropology
  • Bibliographic information: 240 pp.
  • Territorial rights: US rights only
  • Distributed for: UBC Press
  • Contents

Honorable Mention for the Canadian Women's Studies Association Book Prize

Sexing the Teacher is a provocative study of public and professional responses to female teacher sex scandals in Canada, the United States and Britain. Sheila Cavanagh examines the moral and professional panic over sexual transgressions in the educational milieu by analyzing several sensationalized legal cases, including Mary Kay Letourneau, Amy Gehring, and Heather Ingram.

Deploying queer theory, psychoanalysis, postcolonial theory, and feminist film theory, Cavanagh analyses deep-seated anxieties about white female teacher sexualities and offers a critique of the damage that gets done in the name of child protectionism. Arguing that foundational assumptions about race, gender, class, sexuality, and family are all central to the panic, Cavanagh questions the conventional wisdom and politics governing our conceptualization of sex scandals in education. She also demonstrates that public upset over female teacher sexual transgressions, ostensibly about child welfare, is also about the regulation of gender, heteronormative, and white reproductive futures: a hidden curriculum in Western educational systems.

Timely, original, and controversial, Sexing the Teacher will appeal to scholars and students in education, sociology, gender, sexuality, and cultural studies, as well as to general readers interested in the sensationalism over school sex scandals that has dominated recent headlines.

"Cavanaugh's insightful analysis is thought-provoking and intellectually exciting. Readers should find themselves questioning the media coverage of school sex scandals, seeking to look past the moral panic and indignation these engender to an interrogation of how and why female teachers are presented as seductresses or villains."
-Valda Leightheizer, Mount Saint Vincent University

"This book makes the kind of 'trouble' for the moral panic around female teacher-student sex scandals that Judith's Butler's Gender Trouble made for gender."
-Kate Krug, Cape Breton University

"Sexing the Teacher is extremely provocative, original, and insightful . . . It is edgy, timely, and intellectually muscular. Cavanagh mines very fertile ground in a topical, theoretically rich fashion. ."
-Becki Ross, author of The House That Jill Built


1. Introduction: Queer Pedagogy and Sex Scandals in Education
2. Teacher's Pet: Mary Kay Letourneau and Her Fall from Grace in White America
3. Upsetting Desires in the Classroom: Annie Markson and the Queer Pedagogy of the Femme Fatale
4. Sexing the Teacher: Voyeuristic Pleasure in the Amy Gehring Sex Panic
5. Erotic Discipline: Eros, Aggression, and Maternal Pedagogies in the Heather Ingram Case
6. Sex in the Lesbian Teacher's Closet: The Hybrid Proliferation of Queers in the Jean Robertson Scandal
7. Conclusion: Troubling Methodological Memoirs and Queer Pedagogies of Pederasty