I've been monitoring this story from the Toronto Star regarding the Ontario College of Teachers discipline chair Jacques Tremblay resigning over the fact that he co-authored a "soft-porn" book about teenagers and their illicit exploits with teachers and faculty members at an imaginary high school.
From the article:
Tremblay, the longtime chair of discipline at the Ontario College of Teachers, is the co-author of a soft porn book for teens that chronicles the sexy adventures of Grade 9 girls and boys at a mythical Toronto high school.
The Sexteens and the Fake Goddess is a lurid tale of striptease, breast fondling, bum grabbing, orgasms, drugs and blackmail that features a deputy headmaster who sweeps a sex assault under the carpet and tells male students at a pep rally that if he was younger he would have sex with all the girls in the audience. Another teacher gives a boy advice on French kissing and as the plot unfolds we learn that the deputy headmaster and a third teacher once had a threesome with a female student.
It's hard to believe, but the co-author is teacher Jacques Tremblay, one of the most important education officials in Ontario.
My initial reaction was, admittedly, "Ew." Frankly, it didn't help that the Star published a pretty awkward-looking photo of Tremblay. And other media outlets have painted him with various "quirky" brushes, as if the reporters couldn't help but affirm their notions about all those wacky teachers they had back in high school. With that hair, he must be a pervert!</sarcasm>
But then, I had to think about this a little more. The Judy Mays controversy back in April turned my brain on to the fact that romance and erotica authors often have other jobs. They write because they love writing, and they should not be punished or reprimanded because they do something that does not affect their day jobs. As long as they keep it out of the classroom, there really is no issue.
So what did Tremblay do wrong, exactly?
As far as the article and the College is concerned, nothing. Spokesperson Brian Jamieson was quoted:
Tremblay is “a member of council and chair of discipline and his writing does not have an impact on his ability to act in the public interest and there is no evidence of such,” he said.
The issue, it seems, is that people are questioning whether this side venture has somehow affected the man's judgment when it comes to disciplining teachers. As if a book that is clearly a cautionary tale and, frankly, just plain bad has something to do with his moral character and ability to be impartial. (Read the Preamble)
But according to the CBC:
Annie Kidder, executive director of the parents' group People for Education, said she didn't think the revelation about Tremblay's racy novel should call into question the fairness of the Ontario College of Teachers' disciplinary proceedings of the last five years.
"Each time a teacher is being assessed or that somebody's made a complaint against a teacher, it's a board of people who look at them," Kidder said.
The fact is, Tremblay was only listed as a co-author on this book, along with his wife and one other author. It's not clear what his role in the publication of this book is. The Sexteens and the Fake Goddess was self-published by their own company, Glowing Shadows Productions, Inc., and it shows: the cover looks like something a high school student put together with Photoshop and free stock images, complete with the mandatory lens flare. I mean, just read that title. Seriously?
It's too easy for the media and people who don't understand writers and the writing process to demonize people who write "racy" novels, simply because sex is still taboo. If the man had written a heart-thumping murder-mystery featuring a gruesome rape and murder, it's not likely he would have been scrutinized.
The only thing that makes this story more notable is that the man has had a long, established career working with teens in a school environment. The Sexteens is likely not appropriate for the audience they wanted to target...but after a glance at the Preamble on the website, I'm not sure I can say this book is suitable for anyone. It's just a bad, bad book.
So what are we actually winking and laughing and cringing at? The overt sexualization of teenagers and teachers? The taboo and cliched forbidden relationships that have been the basis of thousands of hard-core porn storylines?
Or do we just not like that quirky, funny-looking teacher who wrote about it and didn't shove it in your face?
I'm not advocating bringing this book into the school curriculum--anyone who names the evil, libidinous principal "Harry Dick" deserves fifty lashes with a wet noodle. But a writer must have the freedom to write and explore the issues as he or she deems appropriate. No one was harmed in the writing of this book. It's fiction. And very bad fiction at that.
In my mind, the only reason Tremblay should be punished is for advertising the book on their website as "the first book of a series that truly reflects the life of today’s teens" and "The most controversial teen novel that will change your life forevermore."
That said, I hope they sell lots of copies.